Is your latte too hot? Mine was this morning. I was at the bustling Oasis shopping center in Kampala, Uganda, and I took one sip and then spilt it all over me. You know who else has these problems? The local Ugandans that frequent this shop, and make up the majority of it’s clientele.
As Africa stabilizes across the continent, Westerners forget that average daily problems in Europe or North America are not that far off from that of the African middle class. Our smart phones sometimes freeze up. That’s annoying. The DJ is playing shit, so we leave the club.
Which is not to say that there aren’t problems. It’s not to pretend that all of Kampala or Nairobi or Kigali is a paradise of African wealth where the biggest problem is a warm beer. There is real, stark, damaging poverty here. But there is similar poverty in Clichy Sous Bois in Paris. There is similar poverty in Brooklyn. In Chicago. The outskirts of Amsterdam.
The idea that an African can’t have similar issues to those living in London is a mistake. It is a mistake rooted in the idea that Europe is somehow superior or has vast amounts of wealth. In reality, the East African GDP has been steadily on the rise for years, whereas the economic outlook in both North America and Europe have been steadily declining. Angola just gave a loan to their former colonialists, Portugal. Our cities now have thumping clubs, eclectic cuisine and most of these places are owned and invested in by locals.
Stop feeling bad for Africa. It doesn’t need your pity.
If you want to do something to help those who survive on very little, try investing in it. Instead of buying Tom’s shoes which give away free shoes (and therefore remove jobs from hardworking Africans making shoes) invest in Sole Rebels. A woman-owned Ethiopian based shoe company that pays their workers a livable wage.
Tonight I am going with Ugandan friends and some expats to watch the Poland vs. England match, live on DSTV at my local pub. I will eat grilled tilapia and drink some beer. This is not an extraordinary life here. This is the new Kampala average. This continent is far from perfect. Uganda is far from perfect. But it is getting there, and if you think for one minute Africans do not experience massages, cupcake shops, foam on our coffee, car trouble, banking woes and hangovers after too much fun, you are dead wrong.
It’s not all flies on babies. Welcome to the real Africa.