Waw! Impressive! Kenya economy is improving
Local TV news show Stock Market graphs with numbers and coloured arrows going up and downs next to acronyms of big cement company, communication giants, banks and other financial institutions.
Then flash excerpts of conferences, meetings in plush hotels with close up of sheepish bored journalists and smiling big wheels.
Well dress speakers, flanked by sweating officials, in front of podiums boastfully read ominous script full of superlatives telling the economy is recovering and all is honky-dory.
In Africa, financial analyses are an index on how well the rich are doing. You know, the finances of the 10% of people holding more than half of the country’s wealth or the well-known families where at least one member is or was in the government.
Some even write books on “How to become rich in Africa” while the money donated by “Western” government to buy school books is stolen.
In Kenya the average family income is $250 per month and that’s generous taking into consideration the “unofficial” unemployment rate of 30%.
A mere $250 per month for rent, food, transport and other necessities required for basic dying living.
The average monthly rental of a 3 bedrooms flat in a nice average neighborhood of Nairobi is $1,000. I wish I was kidding but I am not in the mood.
So, business is really improving. The rich expatriat their children to fancy expensive universities abroad. While the poor has to sweat to buy uniforms to send their offsprings to government free schools.
The rich, when sick, fly off to hospitals in Europe while the poor must do with medicine suggested by pharmacists or be admitted in public medical facilities with not enough beds and where drugs are in short supply or not available.
The house, of 50% of Kenyans living below poverty line, is a one room wooden frame roofed by corrugated iron sheets and permeated by the smell of kerosene used for cooking; the walls are plasters with old newspapers.
The dining, living, sleeping quarters and the kitchen are all there, squeezed in that one room. The water, if available, is from a communal tap in the center of the compound. That’s home!
Don’t forget that Kenya is the “inventor” of the flying toilet.
You poop in a plastic bag, the toilet, tie it up when you done and throw it as far as you can and that’s the flying part. I think it is ingenious in time of adversity.
Construction is booming and new roads are built to ease traffic jams for the executives going to offices in chauffeur driven Hummer, Mercedes or big fancy 4X4 while the poor walk kilometers or cram matatus (public transport) to their destination.
When the economy goes up one notch so does the cost of the poor’s basic needs, eating more into a monthly salary which remains static. They eat fewer calories as not to inconvenience the rich building up their economy.
Bwana’s (Mr. in Swahili) second-hand suit shines its ten years anniversary, the shirt collar is worn off from too much washing and the fake leather shoes of yesterday’s fashion are to hide the holes on the socks.
Bibi (Mrs.) wraps a scarf on her head to hide hairs maintained by seasons; her dress has flowers which no longer exist and the everyday faded canvas shoes painfully hold the rubber soles.
The watoto’s (children) best are hand-me-down from a kind employer. They are too small or big but beautiful and the best are kept away for the special weddings or funerals.
The Kenyan politicians are among the best paid in the world, their salary is comparable to the one received by the leaders of the 10 most powerful economies.
Look, look towards the bottom of the economic totem pole. You see! Kenya’s economy ranks somewhere there.
The rich Kenyans, the 10%, will surely reach, if not done already, the economic development vision for 2030. Congrats!
- Kenyan power sector workers call off strike (reuters.com)
- Pace of change speeding up in Kenya (bbc.co.uk)
- Kenya: Chance of a new start (guardian.co.uk)