Why Is Africa Called The Dark Continent?

Africa has long been known as the “Dark Continent” due to its long history of poverty and underdevelopment, with some of the worst human rights records in the world. Although the 54 countries that make up the African continent are rich in natural resources and in potential, the continent is still significantly behind other parts of the world in terms of development.

According to the World Bank, nearly 40% of people in sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty, while more than 10% of the population remains unemployed. Despite numerous attempts to spur economic growth, there are still a number of significant challenges faced by the African continent. So why is Africa still called the “Dark Continent”?

In this article, we will explore the history, politics and environment of Africa that has led to it being referred to as the “Dark Continent”.

Why Is Africa Called The Dark Continent?

Africa is the second-largest continent and the birthplace of humanity.

It is a land of great biodiversity, culture, and history. Yet, Africa is still known as the “dark continent” a term which carries with it certain preconceptions and implications. So why is Africa called the Dark Continent, and what do these implications mean?

The Origins Of The Term

The phrase “the dark continent” was popularised in 1878 by British journalist, George Scott-Elliot. Writing in a magazine, Scott-Elliot described his travels across Africa as an adventurous exploration in ‘the dark continent’. He and other writers often equated the continent with darkness, given its lack of western exploration, development, and civilisation.

The Implications Of The Term

When the phrase was first used, it held a negative connotation, often related to stories of poverty, famine, war, and lack of development. In many parts of the continent, these concepts are still prevalent.

This is why today, the term is often seen as derogatory. It implies a lack of progress, civilisation and opportunities.

For example, many Africans have found it challenging to access safe healthcare, quality education and economic growth due to a lack of investment and initiative.

Transformation In Recent Years

However, in more recent times, Africa has experienced huge transformation. In the past two decades, seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies have been in sub-Saharan Africa.

Furthermore, efforts to provide African people with better access to healthcare, education and other resources are now in the works. There also initiatives such as the African Union that are advancing African unity and development.


Today, the phrase ‘Dark Continent’ is outdated and offensive – representative of a past filled with misconceptions and ignorance. African nations are experiencing huge growth and advancement, and the term has become an antonym for the progress and achievements being made. While there is still much work to be done, addressing the challenges that Africa faces begins with changing this discriminatory terminology. Citations:https://globalslaveryindex. org/2018/findings/regional-findings/africa/https://www. globalcitizen. org/en/content/why-is-africa-called-the-dark-continent/https://www. investopedia. com/articles/investing/062415/fastest-growing-economies-africa. asphttps://www. africanunion. org/about-au/au-at-a-glance

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