An African answer

One of the most frustrating things about travelling in this part of the world is the belief that, because of the colour of your skin, you have money.

Look at things like-for-like – using the Economist’s well-known McDonald’s scale, a form of Purchasing Power Parity – and this is probably true. However, looking at things on a rather more realistic basis, it is not hard to see that I am not quite as wealthy as I might appear whilst travelling through Africa.

Living in Holland, I spend just about every single penny that I earn. I don’t have a house. To in actual fact get a house in the UK, I would need a minimum of £120,000 – and that would net me a reasonably small place. As I was told today, a simlar amount in Uganda would buy me an estate. Probably with one of the most desirable views in the entire country.

So it’s all relative and I feel like screaming almost every minute: I am not rich!

But people here just don’t listen. White = rich. Ergo, I pay for the beers. I pay for the food. I pay for the transport. It is personally extremely frustrating, and possibly the biggest obstacle to Westerners forming strong bonds with ordinary folk from this part of the world.

But not only that. I also fear that it points to a more worrying indication of what is wrong with Africa – the undying mentality that the rest of the world owes this continent and that, by dint of being from a “richer” part of the world, we are expected to pay.

Until Africans get over this way of thinking, they will remain poor. And, looking at the state of things in my travels so far, I fear that they are a long way from overcoming this.

It is probably true that Africa is such a mess because of us Europeans, and in particular the British What the hell were we doing taking a region containing no less than 32 tribes and calling it “Uganda”? We caused the problems, of that there is no doubt. But when will people be able to move past this fundamental fact, and start searching for the solution to Africa’s problems.

The solution lies in Africans realising that only they can now start fixing what we have messed up.

The solution lies in them saying that, since you are visiting our beautiful land – where, unlike England, mangos are positively dripping from the trees – it will be me that offers you a Nile Premium.

This entry, unfortunately, has an adendum. The morning after writing it – I wrote it last night – I discovered my companion going through my belongings, as I returned to my room. So maybe he was just a common thief and I was simply naive for letting him win my trust. Later, I found that much of my Sudanese money was stolen, along with 50 euros, so I wish him, if he did indeed take this money and I fear that he did, to suffer some kind of minor calamity in the next few days. Only minor, of course, for I’d never want any serious harm to befall anyone.


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