African culture is a combination of several, with the continent as the umbrella. The idea that there is an “African culture” that is entirely separate from the Arab cultures north of Africa is exaggerated. Arabs and Muslims in Africa share the land with the rest of the continent and their culture or religion is just as “African” as any other.
The issue of an identity crises facing Arabic nations in Africa only exists because of the mainstream understanding of “African Culture”. When you mention the latter is mentioned, it is immediately associated with tribal practices common mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. This excludes most of our northern counterparts, making people more inclined to see a distinction where there shouldn’t..
This discourse begs the question; do the nations north of Africa want to be considered African? They look different, and speak different languages. In addition, being African undoubtedly carries a stigma based in the roots of slavery and racism. Having lighter skin and soft curly hair plays into their identity and the great, vast Sahara desert divide enforces this separation. It is human nature to identify more with those who share one’s beliefs and customs. As such, northern Africans gravitate towards their middle eastern neighbors than they do with those south of the Sahara.
So, how do you include someone who seemingly wishes to be excluded?
Yes they look different, talk different and act different. That should be embraced. The Saharan-divide between north and south is a unifier and not a divider. We can help each other and learn from each other.
North + Sahara + South = 1 Africa. The future of a unified and thriving Africa depends on this concept.