There are 55 real African countries but Hollywood, and now Trump, keep making more up

Who needs a map when you can just make it up?
Who needs a map when you can just make it up?
Image: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya
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There are more fictional African countries than real states on the continent.

This week US president Donald Trump’s “Nambia” became the 111th made-up African country, according to a list dutifully put together by anonymous Wikipedia contributors. In an address to African leaders on the sides of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 21, Trump mispronounced Namibia not once but twice as Nambia. Once when he greeted the country’s leader, another when he praised its healthcare system.

Twitter users pounced quickly:

However, even though Africa already has 55 countries, the rest of the world, particularly Hollywood, seems to be obsessed with creating new mythical African nations. Most have been deliberately created as new countries for television shows and films for decades. The culprits include writers for children’s animated series, to satirical films, and popular cable TV dramas. Rather than look at a map, they’d just meld to countries together, like Kenyopia or Ligeria.

Sometimes, like Trump, they’ll leave out a vowel—Gamba—or add a consonant—Botswanga. In other cases, real locations will be lifted from one part of the continent and placed in another. For example, Frederick Forsyth’s Katanga, a country neighboring Sierra Leone in his novel The Dogs of War, which in real life was a province in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has since been split into four smaller provinces.

At times, fictional African countries are a result of gibberish made up to make a point, as The Onion did with Mumbambu. Writers have also been known just to run with it, as Aaron Sorkin did in TV series The West Wing and The Newsroom, creating and recreating Equatorial Kundu. More often than not, it smacks of laziness, like adding a cardinal point to a real country the way Shonda Rhimes’ writers did on Scandal with West Angola.

Some become endearing favorites like Eddie Murphy’s Zamunda from Coming to America  and inspire real life imitations. But it can all get rather confusing for some , as British Airways’ inflight magazine found when they thought actress Lupita Nyong’o really was from Wakanda, the mythical land in the Black Panther series, in which the Kenyan actress stars. With so many made-up African countries, who can blame Trump?