The powder kegs of unmet expectations in our midst
- Jay Naidoo
- 04 Nov 2011 05:36 (South Africa)
Kibera sits like a huge sprawling mushroom of shacks on the outskirts of Nairobi. No-one knows how many people live there and not many want to be counted in official statistics, but unofficially many claim it is more than a million. It is a teeming bustling place which is now part of a familiar sight on the African landscape.
It is an inevitable fact of life that nothing is going to stop this massive migration to cities in Africa. It’s driven by young people who believe cities hold the magical aspirational goals of jobs, wealth and success.
Kibera shows little evidence of public investment. The streets are crowded with little children scrambling over the running drains and uncollected refuse.
Yet in the midst of the poverty and squalor beats a vibrant heart of entrepreneurialism. Everyone seems to be making and selling something. From cow dung fuel bullets to buckets of coal, from rocks that are calcium rich for pregnant mothers to tailors, micro-hammer mills, vegetable stalls, electronic shops and even Internet cafes. This is a thriving eco-system.
MPesa is a widespread and visible system of electronic money banking which allows money to be transferred by mobile phone. This is the poor at the bottom of the pyramid often living on less than $1.25 a day harnessing the most cutting edge technologies. It’s estimated that close to 10% of country's GDP is held at any one point in the MPesa, with a maximum at $2,000. Today the poor can pay many of their purchases on the MPesa platform. They are not powerless anymore.
We visited a clinic for children. It was crowded with mothers and infants. The health care volunteers and nutritionist spoke about the challenges facing Kibera. Close to 43% of children are stunted and close to 15% are wasted.
They do a simple test of the circumference of a child's arm to determine nutrition status. A fortified flour is distributed to mothers to feed the malnourished children.
Often this food in a settlement with high levels of unemployment is shared by the whole family. So in many cases, nutrition status does not improve. Health workers are trying to improve breast feeding rates, which stand at only 6%, but they are stretched too thin to be effective.
It is estimated that in a decade 60% of Kenyan people will live in cities. An integrated strategy is needed to combine public investment in water, sanitation, roads, boosting the entrepreneurialism that is so evident today and combining with access to health, education and nutrition services.
Africa's future success is going to be measured by how its cities are transformed into dynamic powerhouses of development. Bold decisions are needed to blend public, private and donor capital investment with the social capital of such communities to accelerate densification of housing, opportunities and basic services.
Otherwise these informal settlements will become a powder keg of unmet expectations that will ignite social instability and threaten our social fabric.
The choices African leaders will make will determine our future trajectory and ability to deliver on the hopes of our people.
There is much that SA can learn from Kenya and the rest of Africa.
Hopefully we can summon the political will to invest in our Diepsloots, Khayelitshas and Mthathas to improve governance and accountability, and to ensure that we encourage dynamic grassroots civil society again that drove our struggle for freedom in the eighties.
It will threaten the unquestioning loyalty and obedience that local political leaders demand from citizens. But it will disrupt the strong patronage networks that strangle the hopes of people.
To tolerate corruption, mediocrity and demand blind party loyalty will factionalise our political structures and communities. Ultimately ownership of delivery by local people is our guarantee of democracy. We should never forget that simple fact. DM
- That Lula Moment: A question of leadership and integrity
- Following the money: Work with citizens to make our money work for all
- Checkmate: The rise of radicalism
- Lords of the Niger Delta: The Shell legacy of profit before people
- Protests, police and cowardice – our State of the Nation
- New stones for my Madiba rosary
- The final journey and the legacy that will always live in our hearts
- After the tears, the hard work of building the world that Mandela believed in
- Mandela's gone. But he will be with us, forever.
- Bekkersdal: The turning point in SA municipal politics – time for a line in the ground
- Africa Rising? Whose Africa?
- The scramble for the Arctic and the dangers of Russia’s race for oil
- Africa's future is clear: Youth, Technology & Broadband
- Child mortality is our human rights failure of the 21st century
- Technology can wipe out the cancer of corruption
- My open letter to South Africa
- Amputating the soul of our children
- The vision of the Invisible Children
- A humble billionaire, asking tough questions
- Cry, the beloved country; cry, the beloved federation
- Humanity at a crossroads: Fighting for climate justice
- Wanted: Ancient wisdoms to heal our planet
- The taste of power: its sanctity and its perversion
- When the town I loved burned down, or, when Heaven was visited by Hell
- As our Constitution lives, so does Mandela
- Bangladesh: Losing some battles, but winning the war
- Rana Square – the Ground Zero of workers’ rights
- Small-scale farming: simple, successful, sustainable
- A global debate needs local voices
- When will Africa be led by the needs of its people?
- The faultlines in our society: Why are we so angry?
- Nigeria: Africa's best hopes and worst fears
- Our ancient African heritage holds the key to our future
- To build a better world for all, we need a new narrative, new energy, new commitment
- A culture of service and tolerance: Lessons from Chris Hani
- Open data platforms: a tool to revolutionise governance
- Aluta continua: Why the fight for quality healthcare can’t be over
- ‘I raped her because she belongs to me’
- Would Hani and Slovo today be accused of Neo-liberalism and Counter-revolution?
- An open letter to my fellow South Africans: I am ready. Are you?
- A trip to Limpopo: The Forgotten Land
- 'I have a right to a toilet - it's human dignity'
- Matric pass rate: On the road to Nobody
- The challenges of today are South Africa's opportunities of tomorrow
- India: The ongoing tyranny of the caste system
- To my generation: Listen. Listen very carefully.
- The Lula moment and this country of ours, South Africa
- African youth: Fulfilling the potential
- Africa’s 'leadership crisis' - we have more agency than we think
- Think climate change isn't your problem? It will be when you can't eat
- The wuthering heights of disenchantment
- An open letter to Cosatu
- Democracy for all: Marikana signals our second chance
- Can't you hear the thunder?
- A new age, a new role for foundations: redefine development
- Video series - great women of SA: Emma Mashinini (I)
- Mother love: Time to add decency and respect to women's hard-won rights
- GAINing ground: The beauty of one good idea
- Education: a morass of mediocrity
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part V
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part IV
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part III
- Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us, part II
- Celebrating Madiba week: The lessons his sacrifice taught us
- Mandela day: time for the next generation to take control
- The school of sexual predation
- Rio+20: We're not colonies anymore
- Prayers to the rain gods
- Our foreign policy gets more foreign as time goes by
- Not a moment to Spear: Why, in a time of crisis, that painting is irrelevant
- Ma Emma: The true spear of the nation
- Araku - the truth, the inspiration
- An infinite vision - The story of the Aravind eye hospital
- Get up, stand up South Africa!
- Our future lies in the mothers of nature
- There's a Light in the Get Kony Campaign
- Empowerment lies in women in Indian villages talking to those in African villages
- Dear President Zuma
- Adequate food is essential component of social justice
- Durban to Rio could be our Road to Damascus
- The Grinch who stole hope
- The Grinch who stole hope
- iMaverick, Monday 28 November
- Africa at the crossroads: Let's talk Brazil
- The secrecy bill: Welcome back, Magnus Malan & Adriaan Vlok
- The powder kegs of unmet expectations in our midst
- iMaverick, Wednesday 19 October
- Finding one's humanity where little else remains
- Food security: A matter of war and peace