Walk around a weekend market in any European city, like I just did, and you’ll be struck by how wealthy, orderly, neat and pleasant it is. It made me realise that most Europeans witness no poverty in their day-to-day lives: for many of them the world’s major problems are abstracts that exist only in the media.
It’s an enviable situation, and most Africans would, rightly, agree that we can’t get our continent to a European style of living quickly enough.
Why then would most of us choose the mayhem, noise and vibrancy of an African market over the first world equivalent? Even though ours are messy and chaotic places where poverty and hardship are ever-present.
I guess it’s got something to do with the feeling that, in Africa, our little actions can make a big difference. The First World has got it right: they’ve all but beaten poverty and unemployment, but sometimes life here seems to lack purpose. You could say that where they have order, we have meaning.
There are a couple more contrasts like this we noticed on our 15-month trip from Cape Town to London:
Infrastructure VS The Environment
We all know that Africa has a huge lack of infrastructure. This is the main coastal highway in the DRC:
For sure, it’s probably one of the worst roads in the world, but take a look at the surrounding scenery. The lack of infrastructure has preserved one of the most beautiful places on earth. With tarmac will come the shopping centres.
Technology VS Ingenuity
How about this ferry in Gabon:
Yes, that’s right, 9 outboard motors! Talk about built in redundancy. Africa may lack technology, but we make up for it with ingenuity.
Wealth VS Fellowship
Or take this Cameroonian taxi:
This guy gets paid per passenger. We got to town, he sat on the fuel tank and got paid 3 fares. Now, most western taxis are faster and more comfortable, but can you imagine any better or more sociable way to arrive in central Kiribi on a Firday night?
Productivity VS Freedom
And lastly, this shot of Stone somewhere near the mouth of the Congo River, on a Tuesday morning, in June:
Africa doesn’t have the work ethic of China or the financial clout of the City of London, but I think most of us would agree with Stone here that freedom is pretty nice sometimes too.7 Comments