Tuesday, 24 April 2007

all together

One question that has rattled me in BOP theory is how on earth you want to do all at once: Protect the environment, end corruption and develop markets & standards of living. In many cases it seems outright contradictory, especially for the first two.
The answer to the first problem is usually technology. Hart in Capitalism at the Crossroads advocates building entirely innovative infrastructures, taking us for instance completely away from a reliance on oil by selling only hydrogen cars in emerging economies, and building a supply chain to match. The sad truth is that development of such infrastructures it peu a peu, and based on the cheapest available technology. Both speak against such innovative solutions. This seems to be the case with TATA's $2000 car. From PSD Blog:

Four wheels at the bottom of the pyramid

Following $3 software and a $100 laptop comes the $2000 car. With the transport market at the BOP estimated at $180 billion, no carmaker can afford to laugh anymore. BusinessWeek writes:

The key is India's low-cost engineers and their prodigious ability to trim needless spending to the bone, a skill developed by years of selling to the bottom of the pyramid. "You have to cut costs on everything—seats, materials, components—the whole package," says Tata Group Chairman Ratan N. Tata.

[…] emerging markets, which held little appeal for the major car brands even 10 years ago, now offer a volume bonanza that can make even cheap cars profit spinners. In India alone, some 1.6 million motorcycle and scooter riders are likely to buy a car over the next five years […]. India's auto market is set to double to 3.3 million cars by 2014, while China's will grow 140% over the same period, to 16.5 million cars, according to J.D. Power Automotive Forecasting. That kind of demand makes dirt-cheap cars viable.

Seems therefore that we can't look to developing countries to come up with solutions. They are probably more likely to benefit from our efforts to manage a transition. There is some truth in the comment made by one of the "Big Global Warming Lie" guys who says that the Environmental protection is in direct opposition to development. Any comments on this point would be welcome.

Its a similar story with corruption, which any attempt to do business in the poorest countries (and the rich too, in many cases) is likely to support. The usual answer to this is that corruption is everywhere. A convenient one-liner Reuben Abraham used on me at Doing Good and Doing Well. True to an extent, but that doesnt excuse the extent of it in some places.

getting scared

I am seeing dangers around more African corners these days. I don't know why. Cant say I'm getting old despite my gray hair. Maybe its the company. Or maybe its just some rational thoughts finally finding their way to my brain. Truth be told, after seeing this in front of the university its not surprising that I feel a little wobbly on the back of Baas' scooter.

Have the same, hypochondriac reaction every time I've got diarrhea. "Malaria" is always the first thought. Must say that I really did think I had it after a trip to Hell the other day. Hell looks like this:
Sunny Sunday. Slight Hangover. Went to the beach to hang out and kitesurf but were let down by the wind. A tip from a "friend" led us to another place (Hann) with wind but also with the most disgusting, smelly collection of dead Algae I have ever seen. There were kids playing football, but I wonder who had broken their nose as the stench unbearable. The water was black with waste, oil in touch. Vultures were picking out dead fish from the "sea" at will. In all my time I've never seen anything like it. Never even got to take a pic, I was so distraught. And that's the spot of the Dakar Sailing club???!
Sick for the rest of the day with the smell stuck in my nose. Squirted fluid essence up it, but to no avail. Still in shock...

the beauty of symmetry

The tribal urgings, the polyrhytmic drums, the traffic, screams and life... and then this? Not exactly what I had been expecting, but beautiful to see.

In truth the story takes a sad ending. Firstly, if you think about it, there's probably a thousand more efficient ways of getting stuff on a roof of a building than using 10 men to ship it up. Also, once the Tubab (Woolof for white man) came along, everybody stopped, shouted for money, and then took a while to get back into the work again.
Nevertheless, it shows energy, coordination, stamina and proves that Africans can very well work together...

early questions

so... I have some catching up to do. Two interesting concepts hit me when I first got here.

One is Distance. Well, actually it was Vonnegut, who's God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater I was reading in my first days here. Reminded me of some other New York rich kid book (can somebody pleae remind me of the name. very famous?) the second time in Kenya, and reading Pakenham's Scramble for Africa just before at Enkosini. So on one hand you have contrast, on the other the opportunity to create a more intensive experience by reading how locals lived, the musical history, or whatever else tickles your fancy. Makes me think why we bother with the former at all? Truth is, I think (remind me to do a rant on the post-modern thing), if you take it beyond the old holiday book (which I am not really capable of anyway), that distance puts a subjective element into the moral evaluation, which you are not really bound to get at home. Of course you are still going to identify with characters etc. but you always do judge in relation to something, and here the contrast is so big that that something becomes like a disney film... totally fictional.

The second thought was, naturally as I dont have one, on Home. My dreamy stroll through Shoreditch (thanks Ems) in search for just the right place to have my things made me realise that I really dont need one. Travelling around as one is at the moment, we can make ourselves at home anywhere, maybe with the help of strangers such as Baas in Senegal momentarily. This raises a few interesting questions. Why do we think we need a home? Where does that urge come from? The comfort we get from security of home/lover/friends&family is a natural answer. But can't you get that another way? I am coming to believe that Home is just an old-age mothers wisdom that doesn't hold in the modern, global world any longer. Lets see how long I stay happy with that...

first timers

Some may say I'm starting early, for some its too late. Though I don't really like the idea of publicising myself, and am a little scared to be laughed at, a Blog does make sense for three reasons.

Firstly, working my way in to the pro-poor enterprise story is at best windy, at worst exhausting. Documenting this journey is the best way to send signals to others doing the same thing.

Secondly, it makes my travel-updates for those at home a lot easier. (Starting rather late, three weeks into this trip.)

Thridly, it will probably make me research some of my ideas... (I want to say "a little more deeply" but in truth its probably "." - Reminds me of Dr. Smiths comment: "Bright kid, if he learns to use his head before opening his mouth")