Founder of Visiter L’Afrique, Diane Audrey Ngako, is a young Cameroonian living in Paris. By day, she’s a journalist at Monde Afrique, the African edition of Monde.fr. By night, she is an activist dedicated to changer the image of Africa across the world. Ayiba’s Akinyi Ochieng spoke to Diane about her website and Africa’s hidden gems.
Why did you decide to start Visiter L’Afrique?
In my opinion, Africa is mostly represented by non-Africans and via the media. I am not saying anything new, like always they show us as a sordid Africa, where only famine, wars and other evils reign. I wanted to create a platform that would present an Africa without filters. Thus, “Visiter l’Afrique” shows my intentions: I wanted to show Africa as it really is, far from stereotypes. It is not to deny its problems, but rather to highlight its strengths and opportunities.
Why do you think that the continent has been under-promoted as a travel destination?
Tourism in Africa is an unexploited sector. I think that to maximize the tourism potential on the continent, our states must invest or think about partnerships with the private sector in providing the basic infrastructures like transportations, power supply, water and telecommunication. Countries such as Morocco, South Africa, or Kenya are already in this mindset. Our states need to communicate more in order to reassure the security status in their countries. As I explained above, Africa still suffers from an image of being unsafe.
What are your favorite travel destinations on the continent and why?
Cameroon, simply because it is the miniature version of Africa. On a personal level, my country has a landscape that portrays many parts of the continent such as its mountains, plains and plateaus. Whenever I travel within Cameroon, the beautiful scenery always marvels me. It is very hot in Cameroon but we adapt to the heat by wearing sunglasses and hats. In addition to that, the food at home is excellent because the women know how to flavor the local dishes especially the braised fish dish.
What’s one “hidden gem” on the continent?
For years, I have been attracted to and interested in The Mosque of Djenne in Mali. This is the biggest building in the world that is made out of mud. Many architects consider it as the major achievements of the Sudano-Sahelian Architectural style, which also reflects the influences of Islam. Since 1988, it has been enlisted in the UNESCO list of world heritage.
In your opinion, what are the major challenges to intra-African tourism?
Nothing more than the price of flights between our countries is very excessive. The cost of Visa also, but things are now changing, particularly in parts of the continent. About 2 months ago, the CEMAC decided to open its borders to all its citizens. In East Africa, countries like Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have created a common tourist visa for a period of six months. Thus, during the period of this visa, any traveler can go through these three countries without additional visa.
Do you think that problems with the perception of Africa are unique to the Western world or are also common among Africans themselves?
In fact the problem is quite simple: there are non-Africans who paint Africa in the worst image (war, disease, …) and they do so, in front of Africans who keep silent and do not speak about their Africa. There is a real gap in our story. We continue to let others tell our story while we are the ones experiencing it. I think it is very dangerous when we let others take our place in telling our stories. Today, it is thus important and necessary to rethink our imaginations about the continent and transmit everything acquired to the next generation.
How do you think we can encourage more linkages between Africans on the continent and in the diaspora?
Just by creating no difference between ourselves. We are Africans, full stop!