As we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an ungoverned preacher, Paul Kagame moves to govern Rwanda’s churches

A regulated church modulated by a political military autocrat -- or even a majoritarian elective republic -- would not have allowed a prophetic, challenging voice like that of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to be heard. It was hard…

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Always “steady progress” – COMESA “elders” to observe COMESA member elections in Kenya and Rwanda

From a COMESA Press Release yesterday: COMESA believes that elections play a pivotal role in societal transformation in the region and provide a footstall for entrenching democratic principles. Premised on this critical role, Member States have continued holding periodic elections…

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“Look, no hands” — Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Uganda declines to offer support for electoral reforms (updated)

In an interview in today's edition of Uganda's state owned New Vision, retiring U.S. Ambassador Scott DeLisi addressed the current Ugandan campaign for the 2016 elections. In response to a question about civil society concerns about narrowing of the democratic space…

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Western storytelling, the East African “middle class” and how to account for “politics”

Here we have an interesting paradigmatic story from Der Spiegel, translated from German for their English version, “Up and Coming in Kampala; Africa’s Growing Middle Class Drives Development” by Horand Knaup and Jan Puhl:

Three good anecdotal stories here of successful start-up African businesses generating local jobs and wealth through import substitution with domestic production. They help to grow a domestic consumer market and ultimately look to export as well. One of the two in Uganda got significant assistance from the national government and the Kenyan business got financing from a German international development arm.

She earned her starting capital by importing clothes from the West, but then she began designing her own collections, and soon “Sylvia Owori” was the most popular label among women in East Africa.

Owori has her collection produced by seamstresses in villages. She has trained 200 women and sponsors the purchase of their sewing machines. “When I receive a big order, I can deliver quickly and flexibly,” she says. On the other hand, she says, the women can stand on their own feet when she doesn’t happen to have any work for them.

Her latest creation is a denim laptop bag shaped like the map of Africa. “This bag was once a pair of jeans,” she says. “You threw it into a container for old clothing and sent it to Africa. We made something new out of it and will sell it back to you.” Swedish fashion giant H&M is interested in the bag, and two other Western fashion chains have asked Owori to meet with them in London.

It’s a question of finding new ways to stimulate economic growth. The corrupt oligarchies in many African countries have made money from the export of commodities, but only a fraction of the population has benefited from the proceeds. The growth being generated by Africa’s middle class is more sustainable, say development experts. Much of it is based on the processing of African fabrics, wood and fruits, and it creates jobs.

Good examples of what is going right and working, from two of Africa’s 50+ plus countries. Well done as such.

“She is the epitome of a success story. And success stories are no longer a rarity in Africa, despite its reputation as a continent of poverty and suffering.” Right and important.

But then we get into the broad assertions and big selective extrapolations. “This growth is producing a middle class that’s growing from year to year. According to the African Development Bank, this middle class already includes 313 million people, or 34 percent of the total population.” To say that “this middle class” includes roughly a third of the population of the entire continent is to me quite misleading in the context of this story,

(more…)

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