The secret of our future riches is in China and in selling New Age love
Posted Wednesday, May 23 2012 at 20:00
Two events in the last few days have led us to peek into the future. One was the launch of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) with a razzmatazz that, according to wags who know their politics, has never been seen before in Kenya.
The second event was remarkably dull. I was in Mombasa and, for the first time, I comprehensively studied the information manual in my hotel room. It made a passionate appeal for economical use of water because, it said, Mombasa is plagued by perennial water shortages.
Though, of course, Indian Ocean is so salty it could kill you if you took several glasses of it, the irony of a Mombasa sitting by the ocean and not having water was still quite ironical.
In these two events, I could see a future.
•Coastal areas are usually richer than the hinterland. However, Mombasa, the tourists’ delights it offers notwithstanding, is still a largely primitive region.
Its wealth, therefore, is still to come. But it will never be a world-class economy until it sorts out the issue of water.
So, one of the richest companies in Kenya of all time in the years to come, will be the one that figures out how to desalinate ocean water cheaply and pump it into Mombasa homes, hotels, and factories of the future.
•The launch of the TNA might not have told much about how much Kenyan politics has changed. What it revealed, though, is that the economy of politics has radically altered.
I have this sense that African political consultants are really quacks who shake down politicians too eager to win.
That said, I see that “political marketers” offering events to better the TNA launch and harnessing the growing Kenyan multitudes on social media, will just have money falling out of their ears.
And there are a more.
•Traffic in Nairobi has become a nightmare. People blame poor roads – and lack of roads. I disagree. The main cause is housing prices.
The new roads have allowed people to move further out of Nairobi where homes are affordable – but public transport is poor, and crime makes it risky to use public transport where it exists in the evening.
Your best bet is to buy a small car (one reason why the price of the tiny fuel-economical Vitz has risen faster than the one for the Range Rover).
This has opened new opportunities in pool transport, and in the way school busing should be done.
For now, though, we are thinking of housing. Last week in China, a fancy office brick was built out of pre-assembled parts in less than a week using a new method the Chinese have developed!
The absolute game-changer in Africa, one that will also radically fashion the size of the continent’s middle class, is going to be smart housing.
The richest jackpot, perhaps even more than oil in Africa of the future, is going to be struck by the businesses that will find a way to deliver good affordable housing which are not your old-style prefab.
If the Chinese really want to make hay in Africa, they should bring that little miracle they pulled off last week to our shores.