Africa seems to be the only continent today that is regularly referred to as a “country.” It bristles me every time I hear it said. It’s reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s chatter with the press aboard Air Force One in late 1982 on his way back to the U.S. from a presidential visit to Latin America: “I learned a lot down there… You’d be surprised, because, you know, they’re all individual countries.”
As a relatively freshly minted PhD in international business economics at the time, I thought a statement like that coming from the president of the United States was more than odd. Just as such an utterance was, of course, grossly naïve, if not insulting, to Latin Americans, so too is the expression of the same sort to Africans.
Critically, from a business perspective, Africa is not a monolith, African countries are not homogeneous, and focusing on “Africa” as a unit of analysis is, simply put, not terribly meaningful.