The magnitude of the area any continent comprises is staggering, but what I got from the guy's remarks was how that kid of prejudicial assumption's like presuming the Americas before colonization were also culturally monolithic.
A place - any place - becomes 'news' mainly when something truly horrible happens. Genocide is sure-fire: Rwanda; Terrorism: Egypt. But the reality is much less polarizing: populations of people who, like us, are getting on with their lives, living without violence where interracial life, tolerance, is a matter of survival; where ordinary people meeting ordinary people in townships and cities recognize that there is a need for civic virtue.
Africa is a continent with many natural resources, colonized many times by many cultures. It still suffers from the effects of colonization.
It has that in common with the West, but where else in the world is ongoing re-colonization so epidemic? On average, Africans earn far less than their Western counterparts but there, like here, the real problem is distribution of wealth, not the actual GDP. Seeing, all over Africa, super-affluence living side by side with third world impoverishment should make western travelers feel right at home - unless s/he hasn't yet ever taken a really good close look at the homeland's true conditions.
The reason millions die of diseases in Africa speaks of a shortage of childhood immunizations, a lack of basic health care. With normal vaccines, anti-malarials, standard hygienic precautions - condoms included - people can be generally safe and not fear contracting disease. Ask yourself why measles is still a scourge, practically a death sentence, in Africa? Ask why 50% of the children in central Africa are either HIV positive, have full-blow AIDS or have been orphaned by parents who died of it?
The wild animals of Africa are much more in danger from humans than humans are by them. Africa's becoming increasingly urbanized and populated, demands on the once-abundant natural resources has led to decimation of the animal population. Africa today has more history than animals: it is, after all, where human history begins.
So said the guy who was going on about Africa. I wonder how many of us in North America are able to take Africa seriously?