Nothing is neutral and Africa as we know it is a creation of the Western imagination.
The Greeks and Romans of the classical period showed an awareness of the continent, meanwhile the 17th and 18th centuries saw limited exploration of the region. Yet, it was not until the 19th century, that the "Dark Continent" of Africa was born.
During the 1800s, the Western powers took to colonization and initiated what is now known as "The Scramble for Africa." During these decades of invasion, explorers entered the space with a Eurocentric mental framework, in other words, they evaluated Africa based on what the West was, thus Africa became not its own region, but a shadow of what the West was not. This perception of deficit (among other factors) triggered the desire to "civilize" the continent's peoples through ideas of technology, political systems, and religion. Because Africa was seen as empty or lacking, the Africans who "belonged" to the land were subsequently seen as inferior. These ideas of inferiority also reinforced the West's reverse feeling's of superiority and tossed more wood into the fire that was the colonial project.