The future of the global Muslim population (Pew)

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a new study on the future of global Muslim populations.

The full study can be downloaded PDF (11 MB)

Executive Summary:

…The world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by about 35% in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030, according to new population projections by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades — an average annual growth rate of 1.5% for Muslims, compared with 0.7% for non-Muslims. If current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030, up from 23.4% of the estimated 2010 world population of 6.9 billion.

Sub-Saharan Africa

• The Muslim population in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow by nearly 60% in the next 20 years, from 242.5 million in 2010 to 385.9 million in 2030. Because the region’s non- Muslim population also is growing at a rapid pace, Muslims are expected to make up only a slightly larger share of the region’s population in 2030 (31.0%) than they do in 2010 (29.6%).

• Various surveys give differing figures for the size of religious groups in Nigeria, which appears to have roughly equal numbers of Muslims and Christians in 2010. By 2030, Nigeria is expected to have a slight Muslim majority (51.5%).

Read the whole summary at

Full Report – PDF (11 MB)

Enjoying Africa, football, art, and beauty

I know this is an ad, but I enjoyed watching it, and I thought some of you with West Africa in your blood might enjoy watching it and feeling nostalgic too: 6:43mins./34.8MB (so only a privilege for those with enough bandwidth). Special thanks to Emeka Okafor, Africa Unchained for alerting me to it. I also enjoyed hearing American artist Kehinde Wiley describe his encounter with Africa. As far as football goes, I prefer playing the game for exercise to watching (mostly due to time constraints), but now I find myself chasing guys half my age in informal half-field games with chipped stone blocks as mini goal posts.

Before I embed the video, I want to mention that every day I get to enjoy a special treat of beautiful (and professional) images of everyday African life from Africa Knows. I subscribe to their RSS feed in my Google Reader, and always enjoy clicking through.

Land and ethnic tension

I haven’t flown over the Ituri forest in Congo since I was a child over thirty years ago; Google Earth tells me that it is still there but shrinking.  In my recent travels to the US, I couldn’t help feeling like I was seeing far more trees and forests than I see in fertile Kenya (I have the same recollection of my time in more densly populated Europe—though Africa is supposed to surpass Europe in population density this year.). In my recent flight from Lilongwe and over Tanzania to Nairobi, I looked out over a vast patchwork of farms. Boundaries of a national forests and game parks were clearly demarcated;  they are practically the only uncultivated land anywhere.

In several conversations with my Kenyan friends about the ethnic violence they experience after the last election, I’ve taken out a napkin and sketched out a big square: “This was your grandfather’s plot of land. Let’s say he had eight sons. [“twelve,”—or more—I’m occasionally corrected. I divide the plot up into equal subplots]. Now lets say that each of your uncles had four sons. [I further sub-divide each subplot.] Given the serious Kenyan cultural value of owning your own plot of land (contrasted with West African communal ownership), how do you think you and your cousins are going to feel about each other—not to mention the people from a different ethnic group that arrived generations ago when there was plenty of land to go around?” The imagery is striking.  At independence, Kenya had approximately six million citizens; today (less than 50 years later) it’s pushing forty million! (We are still awaiting the results of last year’s census.)

The following article describes some of the complexities of land, population growth, and ethnicity throughout Africa.

Africa’s continental divide: land disputes

Christian Science Monitor, January 30, 2010

…Land, at the very heart of security and survival, looms behind most of the African conflicts we’ve all heard of and dozens of others we have not. The Rwandan genocide, some argue, was as much about the dwindling land availability in Africa’s most densely populated country as it was about enmity between ethnic groups. The wars recounted in the movie “Blood Diamond” in Sierra Leone and Liberia saw land grabs by warlords eager to exploit commodities like diamonds and timber. The violence following Kenya’s 2007 election reflected generations of dissatisfaction with land policy that favored different ethnic groups over time. Beneath the genocide in Darfur is a broken land tenure system, full of fights over soil that climate change is making increasingly unproductive. Somalia’s infamous pirates gain cover for plundering from political chaos in the country, whose warring clans fight not only for power but primacy on disputed lands, full of resources to fuel ongoing violence. And beneath last week’s Muslim-Christian riots, which killed at least 260 people in Jos, Nigeria, are decades-old grievances about political rights and the land they are tied to.

Africa’s most famous disasters, many argue, could have been prevented with changes in national land laws or better local conflict resolution but for one problem: Prevention doesn’t sell.

What does sell – what gets airtime, aid dollars, and military or other attention – is the violent chaos the world fails to prevent [this last phrase made me uncomfortable; local solutions would probably be better]. By the time land conflict gets an international audience, land is an afterthought; talk turns to tribe and ethnicity or local politics and corruption. News coverage and nonprofits focus on the worst symptoms – refugees, rapes, massacres. Distracted by suffering, they miss the structural problem that can, it turns out, be solved.

Fixing the land problem may lay the foundation for fixing so many others, from poverty to famine to ethnic conflict. If farmers feel their claims to plots are sound, if social groups feel land policies are impartial and just, and if women and men have equal rights to the soil, experts say Africa’s other ills will be easier to treat.

In communities across the continent, that hypothesis is bearing out…

The end of land conflict might just mark the ascent of Africa.

It’s too much to say that land is the cause of all of Africa’s wars. But…

…The stubborn fact, says Brady, is that something must give. Liberia, and the rest of Africa, can acknowledge the importance of custom, or admit that previous power structures have given some groups unfair economic privilege, or argue that everyone with a piece of paper has a right to his plot, even when the papers conflict. But none of that helps solve the problem.

“Some people must make sacrifices. …

Read more.

For Christian leaders, this might highlight how attention to these root (economic) causes (systemic justice) might be far more effective than focusing on individual attitudes about ethnicity—though these are important too.

Thanks for the heads-up: Texas in Africa. Her regular “this & that” posts are probably my best source of good articles on Africa.

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Our collective amnesia about Kenyan (and African) histories (Eve)

On her nacent blog, Quill-Squeak, Eve writes about African history.

…As i think about the stories i have heard from my father and grandfather, it surprises me that someone would think that Africans have no history. Although these “savages” roamed around naked with no seeming sense of rational organisation as some have said, it is the observer that looked but did not see. In these stories i have found a goldmine of history. My family history. Now anyone who hears me speak (read butchering) my venacular, would be surprised that i have a sense of history at all. After all, i am a “mkosa mila” (one without culture) having had a lot of western influence. I have found that this history tells me where my family has been and how i got here.It gives me an identity. However, it does not make me want to go back to the past. Rather, i learn from it and move forward to embrace the future…

…My appreciation for family history has opened my eyes to the loss of history. While the west had the quill and ink bottle, we had story, proverbs, songs and other mnemonic aids. The introduction of literacy has slowly but surely choked these though culture change. I do not think that the past was ideal but i mourn the loss of history. I listen to my father’s tales of growing up in colonial kenya and i think how many are dying with their memories; history. The US project Storycorps captures my desire for this country. Oral history from the older generation (indian,african and european) is being lost and i would like to salvage it. How? I dont know. All i know is that the old men in the village can only tell stories and i want to give them a quill…[read more]

and on our collective amnesia about that history.

..The reference to the brutality of the colonialist on their labour force is consistent with the stories that my father has told me…Although others like Ngugi wa Thion’go have written about this period, the bitterness of colonial rule that paints all settlers black is evident. That I cannot stand. The political twist in the narratives, though part of the period, do not interest me. I want to hear personal experiences of Africans and the settlers in that period of time, good or bad in relation to each other…

Why the interest? The phenomenon I call collective amnesia…Apparently, when Kenyatta took power, he said two things. To the settlers; stay and shut up or get out. To the rest of us; let us forget the past and move on together. And forget we did. The history I learnt was stripped of humanity. All we ever learnt about is dry boring political manoeuvring and posturing that is no different from what we read in the papers today.

While at the time re-examining the things that had happened may have been painful and even counter productive, it is interesting that we have buried history and are determined to forget it. Instead of historical knowledge on the colonial times, I have been fed caricatures that may hang on some evidence but I have had no freedom to decide what I think. For example, were all settlers bad by virtue of the fact that they were colonizers/missionaries and the black good by virtue of being the oppressed?

…I think its time we stopped ignoring the elephant in the room. So what if there are skeletons? And there are. Ignoring them will not make them disappear.

I think its time we talked.

more of this post

I know you are buried in books right now, Eve, but keep writing! The world awaits.

Appreciating African values in the American rat-race

Recently, the Daily Nation had an interesting story about Peninah Njuguna, a Kenyan-American Kiswahili and culture lecturer at South Carolina University, who left the job she had held for six years to become a kindergarten teacher. She has a master’s degree in adult education and agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin, a doctorate in curriculum and institution development from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in early childhood education from the same institution.

“When I quit my university job in 2001 to teach in a kindergarten, many people thought I was crazy. Some professors felt I was wasting my education,” Njuguna says…

…“The American system does not meet the needs of the black community. Parents work very long hours and leave their children at daycare centres. They have very little time for their children. We have no house-helps because we simply cannot afford such a luxury,” says Njuguna, a graduate of business education from the University of Nairobi.

Although she and her husband, Dr Njuguna Nagi, a marriage counsellor and therapist, acquired US citizenship after settling there in 1986, they decided to put their children through the Kenyan secondary education system before they settled in the US. They say this helped the children — Zawadi, Tumaini and Baraka — get a sense of community, “which is lacking in the US”.

“Zawadi”, Njuguna explains, “symbolises the many gifts God has given us Africans. We should exploit these gifts. We should not look so much to the West for help.

“Tumaini,” she continues, “means there is no hopeless situation in mankind, while Baraka represents people’s capability to help one another. Each one of us deserves to be successful. We all deserve to make it in life. Every person can give hope and encourage others to give. Giving is not just about money. We need to restore hope to our people, one person at a time.”

Says Njuguna, a trustee of the Kenya Christian Fellowship in the US, whose aim includes strengthening social culture and race among Kenyans in the US: “Many children in the US are left to video games and television. In fact, they are left to bring themselves up. Fathers have little time for their sons. But they are good dads working to earn a living for their families.”

…migrating to the US or any other developed country is not reason enough for one to discard one’s African values and cultures.

“We have to understand ourselves and our culture. Even the “modern” African woman needs to become an innovator rather than a consumer of Western culture. Usually, women adopt Western culture much faster than men. We have become consumers of Western culture, and this has really messed up families. We have lost our identity. We should not adopt the Western culture so blindly. We cannot raise our daughters when we have lost our identity,” says Njuguna.

Read the whole story here. We’ve had our kids in both places, and I’m happy mine are growing up here.  Let me add a few observations based on a couple things she says—almost in passing. 1.) One of the things I appreciate about Western culture is the increased equality for women; there’s a good reason African “women adopt Western culture faster than men.” 2.) Kids can be just as neglected here, but the community infrastructure compensates for it. My kids can run out our front door at any time of day, have tons of friends to play with, and have enough adults around who can intervene if anyone gets hurt. The irony is, I probably pay less overall attention to my kids here than I might in the states, but their lives our fuller, and our time together is more focused on them 3.) One of the big things that makes raising kids here easier is the ability to hire relatively inexpensive “house help”—someone who can help cook, clean, and watch your kids. This “luxury” depends on significant economic disparity—a workforce desperate enough to work for 25 cents an hour or less. I would hope that our sense of economic justice is working toward eventually creating more equal opportunity—even if it means having to pay more for help or even having to do without that luxury.

Ideally, we would have a good mix of the best of both worlds. Right now, I can’t tell you how often we thank God for being able to raise our children in this multi-cultural African environment; I’m really happy to have them learning African core values. Even in better Western environments, raising young kids can be a lot more of a stressful, individualistic enterprise where you have to do things like schedule “play dates”. I know first hand, I was an at-home dad for four years in Washington, D.C. and in Paris.

African population density to surpass Europe’s next year (graph)

A graph from Ryan Briggs (using UN data found here). HT: Aid Thoughts

Population Density tumblr_kps850PrZK1qz80k2o1_r1_400

Briggs also posts this wonderful heat map of population density in Africa that he got from Lee at Roving Bandit (probably the best economics blog in Southern Sudan).

Africa Population Density 2000 heat map

Click the picture to see maps from other decades going back to 1960.

Briggs says, “Charles Kenny has a good  explanation of the African population explosion and how it could happen without large amounts of economic growth.” Kenny summarizes his upcoming book on The Success of Development.


  1. Introduction: Abandon Hope?
  2. The Bad News: Diverging Incomes
  3. The Worse News: It’s Hard To Raise Growth Rates
  4. The Good News: The End Of The Malthusian Trap
  5. The Better News: The Great Convergence In Quality Of Life
  6. The Great News: The Best Things In Life Are Cheap
  7. Drivers Of The Better Life: Innovation, Ideas And Institutions
  8. Policies For The Quality Of Life
  9. The Global Agenda
  10. Conclusion: Realistic Optimism

…and concludes:

Realistic optimism is the right attitude with which to face the issue of development. This is based on a recognition of the challenges still facing the world –significant progress to be made, limits to the likely speed of that progress, and concerns with sustainability. But we should also acknowledge that the rapid and unprecedented improvement in global quality of life over the past fifty years provides some significant grounds for hope about the future. Understanding the causes of this success, and building on existing progress, is a vital part of ensuring that it is sustained.

African theology’s window of opportunity

Like the theology of the early church fathers, genuine African (Christian) theological reflection arises out of the dialog between cultural ways of thinking and the Biblical story. African theologians today have a unique opportunity to enrich Christian theology in many of the same ways that the early church fathers did by authentically engaging and translating the gospel into new cultural frameworks (Kwame Bediako—Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and in Modern Africa (Regnum, 1992). During the era of independence, there seemed to be an explosion of energy for African theologies, but current efforts seem not to be getting the attention they could be.

Unfortunately, this unique window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

The very old African Christians who understand and appreciate their traditional cultures are dying off. Many of of the youngsters today either don’t know or don’t appreciate their traditional cultures. In some parts of Africa, it is already almost too late. Where we find third and fourth generation Christians, believers tend to be more conservative and Western in their Christianity—they grew up in schools of older missionary thought that condemned almost every component of the traditional cultures. The younger generation, which could be more open to incorporating African cultural values into their theology, has become so thoroughly secularized or westernized that most of them never learned their own traditions—some don’t even speak the mother tongues of their parents. There are still some older Africans who are in touch with their traditional roots and we should take advantage of their presence while we can. Some of these elders have thought deeply about how the Gospel speaks—or could have spoken—in ways that resonated better with the African worldview. (Some of their analysis has been generated by watching Westerners do inculturation of the Gospel badly.)

The sobering conclusion is that we may have a narrow window of opportunity within which to take advantage of some of the rich African cultural heritages to enrich global theology before the chance slips away forever (in some places 20-30 years before this older generation dies with their rich cultural knowledge). African theologians will continue to gain prominence, and the legacy of older traditions will always endure is many respects, but maybe not with the richness with which they are lived, understood, and remembered today.

The realization that certain theological insights from African cultures were slipping away hit me two years ago when I was interviewing a seventy-year-old Christian couple on the shores of Lake Victoria about eschatology. This couple clearly loved Jesus, loved the church, and had some incredibly rich reflections on how the good news of Jesus’ resurrection and power over death could have meaningfully transformed Luo burial rituals (while maintaining some of the core elements). The church of Western modernity had tried to scrap every aspect of the cultural practices wholesale. As this elderly couple talked, their fifty-year-old son entered the room. He was already a generation too late, and wasn’t aware of half of the things they were telling me; these things simply weren’t a part of his world of experience. That day, I left with an fuller understanding of the hope of the resurrection. I also left with a sense of urgency—that our generation might be missing out on an incredibly wonderful ideas.

During a PhD seminar here, a recognized scholar of the Pentateuch was talking about Leviticus and casually asked for some experiences with sacrifice from the various African cultures represented in the room. As the stories started flowing, he had to ask for pen and paper so he could take notes. It was clear to him that these students had a lot more first-hand information about ritual and sacrifice generally than he had been able to uncover in his extensive library research.

When we finally grasp the potential contributions of African cultures to theological reflection, will it be too little too late?

Coming up:  Institutional barriers to doing genuine African theology and quotes from African theologians.

Note: I had been saving this topic for a time when I could give it some extra attention, but some of my friends have urged me to post it “as is” in hopes that others (from my very limited sphere of influence) might help encourage the conversation.

Binyavanga Wainaina on Westerners and Africa

Last month, Binyavanga Wainaina had some interesting thoughts on Westerners ideas of Africa in this interview on Speaking of Faith.

SOF OnDemand: » Download (mp3, 52:34) ¦  » Listen Now (RealAudio, 52:34)

…A lot of people arrive in Africa to assume that it’s a blank empty space and their goodwill and desire and guilt will fix it. And that to me is not any different from the first people who arrived and colonized us. This power, this power to help, is just about as dangerous as hard power, because very often it arrives with a kind of zeal that is assuming ‘I will do it. I will solve it for you. I will fix it for you,’ and it rides roughshod over your own best efforts.

From How To Write About Africa (Granta 92 2005)

Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘Zanzibar’, ‘Masai’, ‘Zulu’, ‘Zambezi’, ‘Congo’, ‘Nile’, ‘Big’, ‘Sky’, ‘Shadow’, ‘Drum’, ‘Sun’ or ‘Bygone’. Also useful are words such as ‘Guerrillas’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Primordial’ and ‘Tribal’. Note that ‘People’ means Africans who are not black, while ‘The People’ means black Africans.

Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.

In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country…

Broad brushstrokes throughout are good. Avoid having the African characters laugh or struggle to educate their kids or just make do in mundane circumstances. Have them illuminate something about Europe or America in Africa. Describe in detail dead bodies. Or better, naked dead bodies. And especially, rotting naked dead bodies. Remember, any work you submit in which people look filthy and miserable will be referred to as ‘the real Africa,’ and you want that on your dust jacket. Do not feel queasy about this. You are trying to help them to get aid from the West.

Animals, on the other hand, must be treated as well-rounded complex characters. They speak (or grunt while tossing their manes proudly) and have names, ambitions, and desires. They also have family values. Elephants are caring and are good feminists or dignified patriarchs. So are gorillas. Any short Africans who live in the jungle or desert may be portrayed with good humor (unless they are in conflict with an elephant or gorilla, in which case they are pure evil)."

…Always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. Because you care.

Back to the interview:

…that precisely is the problem. That you need this kind of weird shock appeal so someone is like, ‘I’ve got to do something.’…there will be someone with a child just like that looking at you and telling you, ‘Click here and send a dollar.’ So you pay some guilt money. But then after a while, you’ve paid some guilt money, and next year you’ll need something more horrific to notice, because you get more and more numb the more and more horror you witness. So you have this campaign that’s going, you know. I don’t even know how much our GDP has fallen because of just the ubiquitous photographs of us looking like that. I don’t know for every dollar given in that way how many dollars of somebody wanted to invest in a business in Nairobi have gone away.

…And so the ethics of those pictures to me, I mean, really, I can’t tell you how much they are upsetting, because someone just keeps telling you the urgency of the situation. People in Darfur are dying. I’m like if you have to dehumanize people to that degree, for them to die, if it is that the Western audience is so inattentive to a possible genocide that that is what you have to do, don’t do anything. Leave us alone…

…if you want to talk about grassroots organizations that work and change a country, you go to India, because they pretty much do them themselves. And because they have really no shrift for the usual nonsense. And the thing about Africa is it may be that we are poorer or weaker somehow so people with the craziest ideas, I mean, things that they tell their cousins they want to do they’ll be like, "You’re crazy… you can do it and you can get money.’

Lots of other great stuff in this interview. (Click here for the full transcript.)

I think Utube has a couple of interviews of him too, but I haven’t watched them yet.

Just keeping myself honest.

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Africa’s population growth (Economist)

The Economist has an article on population growth in sub-Saharan Africa: The Baby Bonanza and The Lesson from Sodom and Gomorrah

African v. Europe population growth - Economist Aug 2009….Africa is still something of a demographic outlier compared with the rest of the developing world. Long berated (or loved) as the sleepiest continent, it has now become the fastest-growing and fastest-urbanising one. Its population has grown from 110m in 1850 to 1 billion today. Its fertility rate is still high: the average woman born today can expect to have five children in her child-bearing years, compared with just 1.7 in East Asia. Barring catastrophe, Africa’s population will reach 2 billion by 2050. To get a sense of this kind of increase, consider that in 1950 there were two Europeans for every African; by 2050, on present trends, there will be two Africans for every European (see chart 1).

…One African in two is a child. The numbers are such that traditional ways of caring for children in extended families and communities are breaking down…

…Africa’s rate of urbanisation is the fastest the world has ever seen, says Anna Tibaijuka, the head of Habitat, the UN agency responsible for urban development. In 1950 only Alexandria and Cairo exceeded 1m people. When the city rush is done, Africa may have 80 cities with more than 1m people, plus a cluster of megacities headed by Kinshasa, Lagos and Cairo—none of which show signs of mass starvation. Intermediary towns of 50,000-100,000 people will soak up most of those coming from the countryside. Urbanisation is part of the solution to Africa’s demographic problems, not a manifestation of them.

Will the next generation be better off?

Indeed, it is an open question whether demography should really be considered an African problem—or one of its advantages. Over the past year, the continent has had the fastest economic growth per person in the world, partly because it has been somewhat less affected by the collapse of world trade, but partly because of the small increases countries are seeing in the number of people of working age…

For one of the best weekly roundups of links on Africa, check out Texas in Africa. For example, here are a few of her links from this week:

Read more.

Africa is in better shape than experts think (Foreign Policy)

Foreign Policy: Think Again, Africa’s Crisis

"Conditions in Africa Are Medieval."

Not in the slightest. It’s true that some countries in the region are as poor as England under William the Conqueror, but that doesn’t mean Africa’s on the verge of doomsday. How many serfs had a cellphone? More than 63 million Nigerians do. Millions travel on buses and trucks across the continent each year, even if the average African road is still fairly bumpy. The list of modern technologies now ubiquitous in the region also includes cement, corrugated iron, steel wire, piping, plastic sheeting and containers, synthetic and cheap cotton clothing, rubber-soled shoes, bicycles, butane, paraffin candles, pens, paper, books, radios, televisions, vaccines, antibiotics, and bed nets.

The spread of these technologies has helped expand economies, improve quality of life, and extend health. About 10 percent of infants die in their first year of life in Africa — still shockingly high, but considerably lower than the European average less than 100 years ago, let alone 800 years past. And about two thirds of Africans are literate — a level achieved in Spain only in the 1920s.

"Africa Is Stuck in a Malthusian Trap."

Hardly. Malthus’s world was one of stagnant economies where population growth was cut short by declining health, famine, or war. Thanks to the spread of technologies and new ideas, African economies are expanding fast and population growth has been accompanied by better health.

The continent of Africa has seen output expand 6½ times between 1950 and 2001. Of course, the population has grown nearly fourfold, so GDP per capita has only increased 67 percent. But that’s hardly stagnation. Indeed, only one country in the region (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) has seen GDP growth rates average below 0.5 percent up to this year — the run-of-the-mill growth rate when Malthus was writing in early 19th-century Britain. And though there have been all too many humanitarian disasters in the region, the great majority of Africa’s population has been unaffected. The percentage of Africans south of the Sahara who died in wars each year over the last third of the 20th century was about a hundredth of a percent. The average percentage affected by famine over the last 15 years was less than three tenths of a percent. Africa has seen child mortality fall from 26.5 to 15 percent since 1960 and life expectancy increase by 10 years.

Other myths addressed in the Think Again, Africa’s Crisis:

  • "Good Health and Education Are Too Expensive for African Countries."
  • "Adding More Schools and Clinics Is the Key to Education and Healthcare."
  • "TV Is the New Opiate of the Masses."
  • "Development Means Economic Growth."
  • “Aid doesn’t work.’
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Africa from a marketing perspective (Vijay Mahajan, Africa Rising)

Vijay Mahajan, author of Africa Rising: How 900 Million Consumers Offer More Than You Think (Wharton School Publishing, ) is interviewed in Knowledge @Wharton (pdf; mp3):

…the population of Africa — at about 950 million — is comparable in size to the population of India. And if you look at growth rates, the population could be equal in size in a few years to the population of even China.

The next point is about market opportunity. Are there consumers in Africa who have the resources to buy products like consumers in India and China do? The fact is that the GDP of Africa — that is, looking at the continent as if it were a sort of United States of Africa — is actually higher than India’s. If all the countries in Africa combined forces, they would be the 10th largest economy in the world, one notch above India, and ahead of the other big emerging economies, Brazil and Russia…

…Why has Africa been ignored? That has puzzled me. When I travelled from Southern Africa to Northern Africa, I was surprised that I didn’t see more U.S. or Western European companies than I did. One U.S. multinational with an exceptionally big presence is Coca-Cola. It has been there more than 90 years. Another company with a big presence there is Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods producer. So while there are some multinationals, it’s not to the same extent as what I saw in India and China when I was researching my previous book, The 86% Solution.

The other thing is that here in the United States and in other developed countries, we get nothing but bad news about Africa in the press. Not to criticize CNN, but you know how badly the Africa that is portrayed in the media like CNN is. The CEOs I was interviewing were so happy that, for the first time, a professor from America was interested in learning about what they were doing.

But it could just be a matter of time. When I started working on The 86 Percent Solution 15 years ago, I used to hear the same stories from many Indian and Chinese entrepreneurs…

…The market is not different from any other developing country. After speaking with a lot of advertising agencies, multinationals and local entrepreneurs, I decided that there are three major groups in Africa, which I refer to in the book as Africa 1, Africa 2 and Africa 3. The terminology is actually taken from an Indian entrepreneur mentioned in the book.

Africa 1 comprises between 5% and 15% of the population of each country. These people could be from anywhere in the world. They may be senior government officials, expats, people working for [non-government organizations], people working for large, international banks. This segment was not as interesting to me as the others.

The segment that really was interesting is what I call Africa 2. People in this segment are neither poor nor rich; this segment comprises average people living from month to month. They may have some savings. And you can guess that these people are civil servants — hardworking nurses, hardworking teachers and so on — or work in the hospitality industry.

This segment has very high aspirations. These people believe Africa is going somewhere, and they are upbeat. I spend a lot of time in the book on what a big opportunity Africa 2 is. The size of this group is between 35% and 50% of a country’s population, the equivalent of between 350 million and 500 million people. Divide that number by 5, which is the average size of a family in Africa (in the U.S., it is 3; in India it is 4)…. So there is a very viable Africa 2, which is really going to drive the economy and the consumer markets.

Now, Africa 3 — the remaining 35% to 60% of an African country’s population — is the one that is struggling. These are the stories that you typically hear about. But that number is not any different from other developing countries. After all, there are 700 million people in India and 750 million people in China who do not have access to a toilet. What’s interesting about Africa 3 is that many of them work for Africa 2 and Africa 1, as maids and the like, and they aspire to perhaps one day be part of Africa 2…

…Another thing to keep in mind there is that Africa has a young population. A little more than 40% of the population is younger than 15, compared with about 30% in India…

…diaspora is involved in Africa. According to estimates based on formal and informal remittances, Africa gets about $40 billion a year, the same amount that India gets…There are an estimated 100 million Africans living away from home. But the immigrants who are still connected to their homes — like the immigrants from India and China — are sometimes very innovative. I’ve been seeing some very clever ways that the diaspora is involved in talent, in helping their families to start businesses back home…

…if you really want to understand Africa, you have to go on "consumer safari". You have to go and see with your own eyes what is going on…If the top management is not there, they do not really understand the market themselves, and they do not get involved with the local institution. So the good advice that I was given was to "walk the market"…

The situation in Africa is not any different from India and China. You have to really get to know that continent and see for yourself what opportunities exist there.

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Read or listen to the whole interview in Knowledge@Wharton (pdf; mp3):

American hypocrisy, exploitation, and the future of African economic thought (Stiglitz and Texas in Africa)

For the lay person like myself—someone who has never taken a course in economics, Nobel laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz provides a great metanarrative of the past and future of global economic thought in light of the recent crisis: Wall Street’s Toxic Message (Vanity Fair). (BTW, this was my introduction to Stiglitz, so don’t feel bad if his name doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe I should feel bad ;-). Before getting to Stiglitz, I need to quote Texas in Africaobama goes to ghana (where I originally got the Stiglitz link):


…a dispassionate analysis makes it virtually indisputable to claim that Western policies hurt African economies. [Obama’s] speech earlier this week came at the summit of the G-8, an organization whose trade policies have done far more to hurt African economies than to help them. Through the G-8, the WTO, and the Bretton Woods institutions, the United States and other Western countries engage in horribly unfair trade practices against most African states. My government’s subsidies to American farmers makes it virtually impossible for African farmers to compete in American markets; the insistence by World Bank that African states not subsidize domestic industry is a double standard of the worst kind… What’s more, African states often have no say in the economic policies they are forced to adapt …Economic neo-colonialism is alive and well…

…watching the U.S. refuse to use the same sorts of measures it forces on other countries during their economic crises on itself may push some of those elites towards other economic systems that will lead to human suffering. Obama would do a much greater service to the continent’s people by acknowledging how deeply unfair my country’s trade practices are and by committing to moving toward negotiations that treat African states not as children to be disciplined, but as mature countries with educated elites who know how to run an economy.

[I (Ben) think that politics in the US would probably make this a form of political suicide for Obama—business interests (legalized corruption), and politics in Africa (more traditional corruption) keeps African economists from being able to shape their own economies.]

[Back to Texas] Obama claimed in his speech earlier this week that he probably knows more about Africa than any previous president. That’s true, but it’s also not saying much. American policy makers have a long tradition of almost willful ignorance about what really happens on the continent and how the U.S. should – or should not – be involved there. I am not hopeful about this administration’s policies towards the continent; sending weapons to Somalia and suggesting that noticing the effects of neo-colonial and paternalistic policies amounts to excuse-making suggests that Obama is headed in the same direction as his predecessors.

Bill Easterly grades Obama’s speech; Chris Blattman grades and then collects other graders of Obama’s speech:  Michael Kevane, Mark Goldberg (part II), Elizabeth Dickenson, Sean Jacobs, and Gregg Zachary

Now to Stiglitz Wall Street’s Toxic Message

…no crisis, especially one of this severity, recedes without leaving a legacy. And among this one’s legacies will be a worldwide battle over ideas—over what kind of economic system is likely to deliver the greatest benefit to the most people. Nowhere is that battle raging more hotly than in the Third World, among the 80 percent of the world’s population that lives in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, 1.4 billion of whom subsist on less than $1.25 a day…The fall of the Berlin Wall, in 1989, marked the end of Communism as a viable idea…

…In truth, historians will mark the 20 years since 1989 as the short period of American triumphalism. With the collapse of great banks and financial houses, and the ensuing economic turmoil and chaotic attempts at rescue, that period is over. So, too, is the debate over “market fundamentalism,” the notion that unfettered markets, all by themselves, can ensure economic prosperity and growth. Today only the deluded would argue that markets are self-correcting or that we can rely on the self-interested behavior of market participants to guarantee that everything works honestly and properly…

…The World Bank and the I.M.F. said they were doing all this for the benefit of the developing world…Not surprisingly, people in developing countries became less and less convinced that Western help was motivated by altruism. They suspected that the free-market rhetoric—“the Washington consensus,” as it is known in shorthand—was just a cover for the old commercial interests. Suspicions were reinforced by

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Poverty tourism (Christian Science Monitor) & short term missions?

I’ve written about a similar topic before in relation to short-term missions (missionary tourism and the poor). Here is an article that I think anyone planning short-term missions might want to read.

Jina Moore (Christian Science Monitor) – June 29, 2009: Does peeking at how the other five-sixths live preserve culture—or comodify it?

. . . From the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the townships of Cape Town, well-to-do Western tourists are plunking down serious dollars to see how the other five-sixths live. Like all tourism, this experiential off-roading can be a mixed bag for the local people, damaging the environment and threatening the authenticity of culture.

The bad kind has earned a seedy-sounding nickname – “poorism” – that means to suggest what experts say can be little more than a voyeuristic excursion to see just how poor the poor really are.

But there’s a more compassionate kind of poverty tourism, known by a spectrum of labels, that delivers more money to the countries tourists visit and puts more of their cash in impoverished locals’ pockets. The best of these programs take foreigners into local communities and expose them to authentic, indigenous ways of life, while taking heed of the cultural and environmental costs of tourism. . .

. . . “Often, rich Western tourists are interested to see people who have a strong cultural and social ethic – which they often don’t have themselves,” he says. “One thing that’s clear is … that the economic poor are often culturally rich.”. .  [or faith]

[Keep reading]

Thanks for the tip: Scarlett Lion who writes: “The debate about “poverty tourism” rages on the blogosphere on the pages of the HuffPo, Bill Eastery’s blog, and elsewhere. But, as Jina Moore (previous Context Africa feature), who wrote a great, nuanced piece about this for Christian Science Monitor, says,

If it’s that easy to be flip, you’re probably missing something.

Gordon then features the work of photographer Samantha Reinders, who is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her take on Township Tourism shows that nothing is as straightforward as it might seem and even something as divisive as “poverty tourism” can be looked at with nuance. [Great interview and photos as part of the Context Africa series!!]

Township Tourism, especially when it just became popular in the mid 90s, got really bad press in South Africa. And admittedly I was swept up in that. I thought the concept was horrible. A Brazilian friend in town was determined to do one of these tours and I went along with him and had a surprisingly good experience. So I decided to do a story on it and investigate the industry in a little more depth. As time went on I changed my mind about Township Tourism. Whilst there are definitely negative impacts on the communities involved when tours are run badly and mismanaged, I saw the positive impacts out way these in many cases. I left the project with a more 50/50 view of the industry. . .

See previous Context Africa posts:

Wrong’s advice to white men about writing on Africa

Michela Wrong: A bumptious guide to book writing:

. . . What gives a spoilt bourgeois, who didn’t even grow up there, the right to interpret the continent for the world?

The only answer can be: I have devoted years on the continent to listening and learning; I have done my homework as conscientiously as I know how; and it’s just possible, because I have spent so much time learning to write accessibly about foreign cultures, that I may be able to serve as a bridge between two cultural viewpoints.

My caller saw no need for any of this. With the chutzpah of the privileged young male, he believed he could bypass it all and still produce something for which the public would be duly grateful. In fact, there’s only one way of writing a book in these circumstances: you deliver a manuscript that is all about you, with Africa as a picturesque backdrop to your macho derring-do.

HT: Chris Blattman, Why women make better foreign correspondents