It is painfully clear that Americans don't know, and probably don't really care to learn much about Africa. We enjoy our financial privilege here in the United States, and we assume that others want to be more like us. So, in our on-top-of-the-world status, we don't know much about the rest of the world or what's going on in it, except for what we learn through media and the movies which are often loaded with misconceptions and falsehoods. In my experience, our perceived ignorance of the world is backed up by a significant set of data of not just Africa, but the rest of the world as well.
To be sure, some of us are interested or may have a personal connection to continental Africa, so we are a bit more familiar. However, when I told friends and family that I was going to Senegal, the resounding majority of questions were: "Africa? Is it safe there?" usually followed up by, "Now where exactly is Senegal?"
To be clear, I don't expect everyone to be able to know were Senegal is. In fact, I think that Americans are put into a tough position, as every other country in the world knows about the US (and follows our news), but then expects that the US will know about their country. This is, of course, impossible. In my travels, I have talked with students in China, Costa Rica, Senegal, and Europe that knew California (and several other states). But ask a typical American student (or adult) to name a single province in any other country , and you will likely be met with wide eyes and a shrug. They may know one from Canada. Maybe.
Upon my return from Senegal, I am inevitably greeted with "How was Africa?". This would be like going to Russia, then asking someone "How was Asia?" Or going to Alaska and saying "How was North America?". Africa is HUGE! You can fit All of the the United States, China and all of Europe, and still have room left over. But, I forgive them, because I know that they know that Africa is not just one country. Realistically, they probably forgot where I was going, because (see above) they are just not familiar with the countries.
So how was Senegal you say? Well, I'm glad you asked . . .