Meet the TikToker using humour to break down stereotypes of Africa

"How do you have internet when you live in huts?" "Do you have clean water?" African TikTokers deal with these questions and stereotypes every day in the comments on their videos. In order to fight back against these cliches, many of them have decided to respond with humour. Our Observer, Charity Ekezie, is a Nigerian woman with more than 400,000 followers on the app. She told the FRANCE 24 Observers team how she was breaking down misconceptions about Africa in her videos.

One of Charity Ekezie's videos has surpassed 17 million views on TikTok.
One of Charity Ekezie's videos has surpassed 17 million views on TikTok. © Charity Ekezie

Some people online have an almost prehistoric view of Africa as a place with no running water, internet access, refrigerators or beds. These people have no reservations about sending these questions to the TikTokers in Africa, whose videos are shared all over the world, thanks to the app's algorithm. Ekezie said that many of the comments, coming often from Americans or Europeans, are jokes or racist insults, but others are serious.

Last January, the 30-year-old Nigerian woman began responding to these inquiries on her TikTok with humour. 

@charityekezie We don't have Water, pls send us some 😪😭 with my sisters @oge_smallie and @nameisbeee #charityekezie #kissmyacegoodbye #african ♬ Title - Meghan Trainor

I decided to just try another approach, by responding in a funny way to someone who asked me if we had water. So, one day I was with my cousins at my house in the village. And I was like, "Let's make a TikTok. Let’s do something sarcastic. Let’s dress up like maidens and go to our village river and make a video." And I thought, "Wait, we should write on that video: 'When they say Africans have no water.'" And the reaction was crazy.  

The video quickly reached 17 million views and garnered 2.7 million likes. More people commented with other questions about Africa, to which Charity was happy to respond.

Everyone didn't understand the sarcasm in the video: I just meant that we literally had water. People were saying: "The water is so dirty, how can you drink that?" But the truth is that it's just a river.

@charityekezie Reply to @vkng.wmn OK 🙂 please send us clean water Ma.🥲 anyways, have you seen a pretty African maiden today 🥰#charityekezie #achoo ♬ Trigger - Dj Karri

The most absurd comment I got was someone who said, “Do they have iPhones and internet in Africa?” and I was like, “I shot these videos on a phone and I posted it with internet so...”

There are so many ignorant comments in my viral videos. In fact, for one video, I had to turn off the comments. There was too much racism.

@charityekezie Reply to @ellxz9648 We just swing on trees like Tarzan sweetie.🥺 infact the Super rich Africans ride on Zebras 😩.#charityekezie #sacarsm #africa ♬ original sound - sucrepea

'Humour is the best way to teach' 

Humour is the best way to teach because I notice people refuse to learn when you’re serious. Even if they learn, they try to forget it, but when you use humour they would never forget it.

Like Charity, other TikTokers prefer to respond to this type of comment with sarcasm and a sense of humour. Ugandan model Angella Summer Namubiru, who has 4 million followers, is often confronted with this type of comment and prefers to play on it. In one of her videos, she drinks water from a large leaf, explaining that that is how Africans get water. In another, she says she sleeps in trees. 

Misunderstanding of Africa fuels cliches

Ever since she began posting these kinds of videos, Ekezie has received positive responses from people around the world, motivating her to keep going. She says that people from the UK, US, Europe and even parts of Africa have told her they've learned a lot from her videos. Ekezie says she likes speaking with them and sharing knowledge – like the fact that Africa is a continent, not a country.

@charityekezie Reply to @s1ck30 Sweetie google was created by you guys but it seems we use it more than you do 😭 #charityekezie #sacarsm #africa #wakandaforever ♬ original sound - sucrepea

I think people abroad have this misconception about Africa because they don’t know better. So yeah, I think it’s just them being ignorant and choosing to not even try.

This is 2022, so they shouldn’t stick to their old mentality that Africans are poor and live in huts. I’m actually glad that many millions of people are viewing my content on TikTok, especially this particular one that has to do with Africa, because that way, the people I'm trying to reach are getting the message. 

@charityekezie Reply to @0.b0n3s.0 Please tell her to send us money, we are all starving sweetie.😭 #sacarsm #charityekezie #africa ♬ original sound - sucrepea