Why South Africa is considered Africa-light.

South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa that carries Africa in its name, yet in many ways a case can be made that South Africa still remains disconnected from the rest of the African continent.

South Africa is without a doubt, the most developed country in Africa. Located on the southernmost part of the African continent, South Africa is three times bigger than Texas, and five times bigger than Japan and in the aspect of technology and infrustructural development, the country is a leader and clearly stands out among other African nations. This is part of the reasons westerners at times regard South Africa as a country that is completely outside of Africa or a continent with many other countries. In a setting like this, it would be worthwhile to know what other African countries (especially other relatively large economies in Sub-Saharan Africa) think of South Africa, how they feel about its people and what goes through their thoughts at the mention of South Africa.

To be able to ascertain this, it required that questions be asked to a selection of Africans who were not South Africans. Brand South Africa (BSA) therefore decided to conduct a pilot study in Nigeria located on the Gulf of Guinea and Kenya, located in East Africa with the aim of assessing the perceptions of South Africa and its citizens in these countries.

BSA interviews a varying range of respondents which included professionals, diplomats, businessmen and woman, citizens, policymakers and artists and the following are some of the results obtained.

  1. One of the strongest outcomes was that Kenyans and Nigerians believe South Africans should have a stronger awareness that they are part of Africa.
  2. Respondents in these countries equally view themselves as having contributed to South Africa’s freedom due to the material donations from the citizens of both Nigeria and Kenya duding the struggle against aparteid. 

There seems to be a general consensus amongst Africans that while it is acceptable to compare countries on the continent with one another (and occasionally group them together), South Africa stands alone as it is “not really African”.

How Nigerians view South Africans

To many Nigerians, South Africa is the closest to the West that you can find on the African continent. The country’s shops could be mistaken for those found on Oxford Street in London. Its roads are smooth and wide. And its climate gives your complexion that peculiar glow which lets everyone back home know, without your having to boast, that you have just returned from abroad.

All this makes South Africa the holiday destination of choice for many Nigerians whenever an American or British visa is proving too hard to get. And so, it is with sadness that Nigeria watches as South Africa regresses in ways that were previously associated with other African countries, such as frequent electricity outages. If they succeed in ruining their country, where else in Africa shall we seek a similar haven whenever the West doesn’t want us? Although, to be honest, our sadness is tinged with a good dose of schadenfreude. Nigerians feel that South Africans hate us, even if their hatred is of a paradoxical kind.

They hate us for our “swagger”, our ability to command instant attention by hook or crook.

They hate us for being the walking, living proof that colour of skin is not a sufficient deterrent to economic success in post-apartheid South Africa.

They hate us for our smartness and sharpness, which sometimes leads to the swiping of a few hundred thousand rand. On the other hand, they love our musicians and Nollywood actresses and pastors. And their women keep getting swept off their feet by our men.

Nigerians feel that many South Africans would rather we were tipped off the edge of the continent, leaving them to take the stage as Africa’s one and only beautiful bride.

But, like wise co-wives in polygamous arrangements all over the world, Nigerians know that we must learn to live with them.

After all, there is more than enough space in Africa for the two countries and their peoples to shine.

Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani, Abuja

As much as South African’s have not for a long time considered themselves as “African’s” we cannot ignore the fact that South Africans and many other African countries have realized that it is time for Africa to rise.

We see this with ample brand campaigns going back to Africa and its fashion, beauty and consumer relations. Africa itself has rebranded bring out their new slogan “Africanacity” – we might not all think it is authentic but it is a step in the right direction. It is TIME for Africa to rise in all possible ways… South Africa might have more work to do than other African countries but we all should know that it is a privilage to be African, and tsand proud in that fact.


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