Book Reviews Musings Politics

Rich and poor, side by side

Photos courtesy of Peroshni Govender (Reuters)
Alexandra township, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Peroshni Govender (Reuters)

An excerpt from ‘It’s Our Turn To Eat’ (p148), a book by Michela Wrong:

Among the most squalid the continent has to offer, these settlements nuzzle against well-heeled residential areas in provocative intimacy. ‘What’s striking about Nairobi is that each wealthy neighbourhood lies cheek by jowl with a slum,’ remarks former MP Paul Muite. ‘It’s almost like a twinning arrangement. Poverty and wealth stare each other in the face.¬†And that’s simply untenable. Those slum-dwellers know what they’re missing, they’re educated now. I tell my wife: “There’s no way, long term, those guys are going to accept to die of hunger when the smell of your chapattis is wafting over the wall.

Apart from really enjoying the use of language here, it strikes me that this image of stark social contrasts can fit the vast majority of our large African cities quite easily. Remove all references to Kenya (Nairobi, Paul Muite) and you could well be speaking about Lusaka, or Johannesburg or Lagos.

A frightening thought.


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