Is life in Africa as bad as we are lead to believe?
Life and living standards are comparative. Therefore, these theories are as a result of who says them and Where.
Lets start with bad life:
We have slums
Absolutely not. In some countries, there are horrendous conditions of endless war and poverty-food insecurity, hunger, starvation as a result. But one of the things many African nations wish to emphasize is that there are many developing countries. There is much building and entrepreneurship and a very positive progressive outlook of hope and moving forward. Countries there are not only many, but very different.
I recall when I was in Kampala Uganda all sorts of film projects at the university there trying to document the progressive developing side of African countries and the very hopeful attitudes there. The faculty and students wished to get this image out to the world. Driving around you would see all these billboard put up by banks advertising their interest in funding women's businesses in particular. Much change, much industry.
That depends on what you are led to believe.
There is a rising middle class in Africa as elsewhere, that enjoys a Western standard of living, particularly in countries like Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. The supermarkets are full of Oreos and Coke.
For the ruling classes, life is very pleasant, with cheap and abundant labour to serve as housemaids, gardeners, security guards etc.
For the vast majority of people living in the shanty towns surrounding the major conurbations, or in rural areas, is life significantly worse than for the huddled masses of white trash Americans huddled in their trailer parks, or living in drain pipes in California? It could be argued that their lot is better, since the "American dream" is less tangible, further away.
Africa is huuuuuuuuuuge! So this question is just...impossible to answer.
I can tell you some things though.
Witch doctors are still killing in South Africa for medicine. I can't remember the full details but I know the thing I heard was little boys. It think it's their heads. This is just South Africa, where I'm from. Other parts of Africa have other problems.
I grew up hearing gunshots in the neighbourhood and thought it was normal. It was normal to hear about people you knew getting hijacked. My friend was nearly shot. My mother's friend was shot. Our car got broken into. It was normal to hide bags or evidence you had money in the car so you weren't hijacked at the traffic lights.
But as scary as this may sound to somebody from somewhere else, particularly Britain, we grew up with it. We didn't think twice about it. It was just the normal thing that happened and that's what life was. We used to laugh at British newspapers because of the things they considered newsworthy. We'd hear about another murder and here was Scotland with the local school raising money for some cause. It wasn't snobbish. We genuinely found it funny, because that's how safe it was and we couldn't believe it.
Poverty...yes, it is that bad. People who can't afford a house are out on the streets or building their own. Children beg for money or food at your cars. Some parts of SA are ‘better' than others in that respect. Just like everywhere, you get the bad areas. But in a bad area in Joburg, you'd likely get raped. In a good area...your neighbour had their laptops and TV stolen and their dogs poisoned so the people could get in. But it wasn't like it was a frequent occurrence either.
This is a difficult question to answer without going into details. I have had association with several African Countries for more than 11 years. There are some parts of Africa that I would personally not recommend to tourists, while many African Countries are still ok to visit. As a Tourist in Africa or anywhere else, you never really get to see the dark side of a Country since your time there is so limited; whilst Foreign Investors in African Countries might have horrific stories to tell. Sometimes it is wise for people to visit different Countries including some parts of Africa in order to form their own opinion rather than read what the media feeds them.
No, it's not so bad. I was led to believe that there would be accidents on the road all the time and that there was a lot of inflammatory racism. But when I returned to my homeland, Zimbabwe, I found nobody even batted an eye that I was travelling on the mini bus informal taxi system, even though I was the only white. People lived pretty good lives, akin to mine in Australia, or better in some respects, because we are overly morally policed here with landlord inspections and the like. People in Zimbabwe have their problems, which I saw in 2010, but nothing like as bad as I was led to understand.