Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In Africa, a New Middle-Income Consumerism

"Meet Denis Ruharo, an entrepreneur with a master's degree, a man who carries a Blackberry and two Nokia cellphones, buys organic greens at a grocery store and sometimes does business over a cold Nile beer at a club called Silk. 
"I have the mortgage and home improvement," he said, glancing at the budget he and his wife keep on their computer. "The car, carwash and parking tickets. Entertainment -- cable TV, two movies a month. The health club. Then normally we vacation twice a year. Last time it was Nairobi."
"What else," he said, scrolling down on his Mac Powerbook. "Newspapers, charity, clothes, books and CDs..."
In a region more often associated with grinding poverty, Ruharo is part of a modestly growing segment of sub-Saharan Africa -- upwardly mobile, low- to middle-income consumers."

Is it weird that I find this condescending? Doesn't the basis of this article assume that all Africans (again another instance of conflating different identities into one because the economies of the different countries are only decipherable to American readers if they are combined into one that includes the entire continent) were previously only very poor? I would like to think that a lot of us were living like this long before someone came up with terms like Africa 1s/2s/3s. Plus, I might be wrong on this, but I was under the impression that everyone in Kenya at least, regardless of income, ate organic. I didn't think we had other options, non-organic food was something that I first encountered in America.

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