Tag Archives: poor


African Buffalo

Image by Lukas Vermeer via Flickr

Some institutions are redefining poverty to increase their middle class.

It is simple, assuming the poor spend US $2 to $4 per day to sustain a life at the border of disaster then an analyst comes and make the wise judgment that with these US $2 to $4 dollars they are no longer poor but middle class.

Not high middle class but the low middle class or “floating class”.  The high middle class makes US $3,900 per year according to the African Development Bank (AfDB) and creators of the floating class.

Well, it is what AfDB says. Do not take the bank too serious considering it was once clogged with fraud, corruption and politic. I don’t think too much has changed.

Without knowing, people leading the same miserable lives have suddenly been catapulted in the enviable position of middle class. Nothing has changed except the label.

This change of label has not made much ruckus in Africa. In India it did when the India Planning Commission set the urban poverty lines at $12.75 per person a month and at $9.93 for rural India. Indian activists, with good reasons, went on a rampage of actions against these changes.

African activists have not budged at AfDB new poverty threshold but they still die in protest in the streets due the high cost of food and fuel.
I don’t understand why they are using the poor to fight the battle of the new middle class.

Income, consumption, calorie index and others are some of the values used to calculate poverty line. Of course, poverty line is not the same in all countries and may even be tabulated on different criteria. However, according to the World Bank the global poverty line is US $1.25 per day. Make anything under and you fall into the National Geographic category.

Imagine a global poverty line of US $3 per day or US $90 per month and devise how to apportion it to buy food, clothing, shelter, water, transport, education and health.
Notice, I do not mention electricity, entertainment or even rest. Yes, poor cannot afford to take time off; they need to make money to survive.

In the USA or Europe it is unthinkable to sustain life with an income of US $90 per month. The Vatican should consider anyone living on such little money a Saint routinely performing miracles. You need faith when you are poor.

The ten poorest countries in the world are in Africa but AfDB with innovative statistic has changed the status of a lot from poor to floating middle class. They are floating on a busted canoe, scooping out the water in order not to sink.  The canoe is the asset.

The Nigerian High commissioner to Kenya has allegedly beaten up his wife to a pulp.  He said that her bloody bruises are ketchup. You see, in Africa it is the way people in power treat bad situation to their benefit,same as AfDB.

I am so impressed with this Nigerian that I have decided to give you his full name and title:
Chief Dr. Chijioke Wilcox Wigwe, Nigeria High Commissioner to Kenya and the Seychelles. Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations Environmental Programme and the UN Habitat in Nairobi.
I want to mention that in 2008 he received, in Kenya, the title of Ambassador for Peace and in 2010 Best Ambassador of the Year 2010 by the Vision Africa Magazine.
I cannot help but Wigwe makes me think of a small version of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Somehow, I do find a parallel among the actions of the Nigerian High commissioner in Kenya and the AfDB.
Both twist realities to their convenience.

These two deserve the Buffalo Dung Award.





Nairobi Billboards


Nairobi is billboard city, they are all over and some are huge. The advertising companies are making money by polluting the city with posters which no one reads. And the one reading them cannot afford the product advertised, so who cares!
It gives egos to the clients and hides constructions sites.

Most women on billboards are light-skinned, if not, they don’t look too Kenyan. To look too Kenyan on billboards is not good unless you advertise for banks and insurance companies. Yep, some do show the people they rip off.
The female models are light. Just like greed being lighter must be gooood! They have long hair, smooth light skin and a stainless teeth smile. They’re slim with no big butt.

The men look good too with Johnny Bravo’s type bodies shaped by gym machines. Because, bodies emaciated by hunger require too much retouching. Publicists want you to believe that you’re healthy even on a meal-a-day. Don’t have too much facial bumps or ingrown hair either, it’s un-African. Their skin is so smooooth!

White Kenyan cow-boys and girls, lets not forget the Indian, need not to apply for modeling jobs. Your hair too good and you too white for that market. Natural look is bad but lightening cream is gooood! Furthermore you don’t buy wig so you no good for the economy.

By now, you know that lots of ads in Kenya piss me off. They don’t represent Kenyans at large and they promote products for a mass who buy second hands cloth, not for style but, because they’re cheap. Billboards showing the latest four wheels drive to people trekking kilometers to work. Poor people don’t get the picture perfect cooked food, not even the aroma, a picture must do while the cost of maize goes up.
The advertised products are only for the rich to afford. Advertisements are for the cocky rich to make the poor drool.

“I am confident when my skin glows” Ok! But parents have more confidence when they have money to buy school books so Vaseline will do for the time being.
“Smart people read” Correction, looking at the ads, only light-skinned smart people read and the rest watch TV on non-existent sidewalks outside bars.

Not too many ads on AIDS prevention, the goodness of mosquito net, livestock belongs in pastures and not on roads and that albino are people too. Plenty billboards all over the place and few directional signs on roads and forget about working traffic light they’re for decoration only.

Do you know where the money collected from these humongous billboards goes?
Your guess is as good as mine and you’re probably right.
Hush! Don’t say anything; in Kenya you can’t kiss-and-tell, but steal a chicken and you go to jail.
Steal big money then, at the least, the reward is a reshuffling from a fat-cat post after a small vacation giving time to complain about all the malicious people wanting to spoil a good name or a political (sorry) career.
The reward, besides going scot-free, is the big money awarded for libel suit.




Chicken crossing the road


In Westlands they are putting up, probably, the most beautiful hotel to landscape Nairobi. Peeking from the outside the décor is a duplicate of what is seen on the covers of glossy European magazines. It is not yet finished, but already smells of elegance and has a “tutti frutti” star appeal.
The road leading to the entrance is paved, courtesy of the hotel, with light gray blocks. A little bit of sidewalks decorate each side of the entrance.

It is odd, but Nairobi, a capital, has a phobia about sidewalks. They are too narrow, uneven or non-existent.
Rhapta road, yes with an H between the R and the A, in Westlands has almost a dozen residential hotels and no real sidewalks on either side from beginning to end.
Pedestrian walking, for ease, at the edge of the road are like matadors curving bodies left or right in order to avoid cars zooming inches from them. Missing is a crowd, for each successful zoom, cheering ……… Oléééééé.
Crossing a road is a challenge; you have to play chicken run with speeding vehicles. Climbing the stairs of an overpass is a health risk for disabled, smokers and people suffering from acrophobia.

There is such a phobia about having sidewalks that in more affluent neighborhood they get rid of them altogether. I have been to a place called Kaputei Gardens in Kilileshwa. The gentry on the road reserve, in front of their plot, plant grass and trees and booby trap it with barb wire or metal posts, ensuring that soles of unknown pedestrian never vilifies the ground facing their great address. They even put up a fence on the main road to enforce the mental idea that “peasants are not welcome”.

I have seen sidewalks so narrow that walking on them make you feel like a funambulist balancing on a tightrope.
Some remind me to loose weight crossing path with another earthling. I usually suck up my stomach, make eye contact with a cheeky grin then with unknown eartlings rotate my steps in the purest tango style.

Paved sidewalks, except for rare find, are uneven in Nairobi. The dirt paths provide your feet with roller coaster emotions using ankles as shock absorbers.
Tripping on these terrain irregularities is not an exception but the rule. So don’t waste your time looking for what made you trip, move on!
On rainy days these sidewalks are like skate rinks with mud providing unpleasant gliding experiences. The familiar users take off their shoes to cross the small pools which magically appear.
Some sidewalk pools are like Russian roulette cocked with live wire. Cross it and you turn into an instant Christmas tree.

Sidewalks and roads in Nairobi are a representation of the arrogance the rich have over the poor. The elite do not understand why pedestrians, walking on “their” roads, are not giving way by using non-existent sidewalks.

Yuk! Gag me with a spoon.