22 August 2009

Ok Washington Post

With the lack of well researched news stories in global news sources when it comes to Kenya, the Washington Post has shown what real reporting looks like.  By no means a perfect article, but one that discusses the current drought in Kenya and the effects that it is already causing and what outside actions (inaction) are making it worse.  So far, it is the best summary of what is going on in the majority of the country.  For some reason, Malava is a blessed town.  We have been getting consistent rain for the past few months.  Lately, it has rained daily in the afternoons. 

With so much of the country relying on sustenance farming, a shortage of rains can be disastrous.  What is revealed through this drought is three fold: a non-responsive government, poor infrastructure and lousy economy. 

The government has known about this problem for months (since at least January) and have done little.  It is a bit like the financial situation in the US this past fall.  The signs were there, some were crying out that something need to be done to prevent a full collapse and nothing was done.  Of course that is an oversimplification of the two problems, but it is not as if either came as a major surprise.

Infrastructure does not exist.  The wealthy are the only people with real running water.  Power does not reach many parts and the roads are both non-existent and terrible.  With no infrastructure, Kenya lacks the ability to grow in any significant manner.  It is this that drives me to side with the Mayo’s of the world.  Maybe aid needs to be removed and loans become the way money enters the third world.  There cannot be IMF controls, but the nations need to be more responsive and responsible to the people.  With so much aid money coming to Kenya, there is little evidence of an investment into the country by the government.

The economy here is essentially not.  Most farm for a living and make enough to farm more and buy a few things in terms of food.  Some make a bit more, but the quick rewards of sugar cane lead to poor spending and less money.  Banks exist for the purpose of the wealthy saving and the poor taking out small loans.  Significant loans are impossible to get and government jobs require a bribe.  From what I understand, you apply and when given an interview, arrange to pay a bribe with a connection through a friend of a friend in the ministry that appoints your job.  60,000/- (~$750) will take care of most jobs.  Some require more.  With no real economy, the opportunity for growth is next to nil.  Although it is here, a traditional industrial revolution is needed.  There must be a movement towards cities and growth within.  Jobs must exist and industry must grow.  I know nothing about how that can happen, but I know that it is necessary.  I will not get into a long tangent, but that is why I believe aid can be harmful.  With little incentive to move in an industrialized direction, Kenyans maintain the status quo.  There is a chance if the aid is removed.  Cruel? Yes, but seemingly necessary.  I also think that aid is pushed forth by the more powerful nations to keep the third world in the same place.  Is the EU willing to allow open trade and reduce tariffs so that Africa can grow?  Will the United States or China or Russia do it?  I doubt it.  There is nothing to gain.