A business magazine based in London, which boasts to be the best selling Pan-African business magazine, has on the cover of its November edition the title: Africa’s Best Brands; Exclusive ranking of Africa’s most admired and valuable brands. You do not need to spend your hard earned KSh300 to buy the magazine to find out what exactly they talking about. The magazine takes the stand that the growing consumption of the “middle class” in Africa is a good sign of good business within the continent.
Sure, we can welcome all sorts of foreign businesses, welcome their goods and consume them with no end. We can improve the business “atmosphere” with good governance, no sudden wars, less bureaucracy and so on. We can do our very best to behave, so that more and more multinationals feel comfortable with dumping their products in Africa or setting camp here, but the fact remains, the results of all this is Africa is going nowhere. The magazine is obviously doing some intensive marketing and that’s great for them, besides I’m sure rent in London must be getting more expensive by the year. However for the “African in Africa”, what is a branded shoe going to mean as we walk through the muddy streets(by the way nothing wrong with mud), or what is a new car going to mean on these roads that are already overloaded with ridiculously over priced import cars?
What are the benefits of just buying? What skills are transferred, which manufacturing industries are developed? Looking at the Kenyan situation comparing the values of our Domestic exports vs. Imports for 2012, one gets to see that, yes we are great at buying and consuming but that’s all we do.
It’s a song that’s has been sung before, an old adage that’s been over used; but lest we forget, the success of one industry results from the weakness of others.
BY Karimi Kimathi.