Lokichoggio in the modern economy?

4 Apr

Loki from the airLoki mapBreugel field Denver city

So we are just back from a week in Lokichoggio, Northern Kenya – one of Kenya’s semi-arid areas. It’s part of Turkana County, which on most measures is one of the poorest areas in Kenya, and is basically a border town between Kenya and South Sudan – with its own airstrip, and an interesting collection of planes that didn’t quite make it.

There is lots to blog about (watch this space) but here is my first and abiding impression. We are running a seminar for some of the local community leaders on the Saturday. We put up the two pictures – the Breugel image of Europe in the 1500s and the modern US city at night, and ask everybody to tell us the differences. They are pretty sharp – Europe 500 years ago has no tall buildings, no roads, lots of manual work, people working outside, and a lack of market access. They see the modern economy as about railways, urbanisation, cities, power and electricity, good roads, working inside, lots of cars and transport links – nowhere is remote.

Then comes the interesting bit: is Lokichoggio part of the “old”economy or part of the modern economy? People are not sure – and after some discussion vote for it to be “in the middle”

“Stuck in the middle” is a good summary of many areas like Lokichoggio. The modern economy is going on all around them, but they are not quite part of it. The roads are crap – the A1, apparently about to be improved, is the main arterial road from Nairobi to South Sudan, but at present is full of potholes and liable to flooding. Power is a bit hit and miss – there was much rejoicing when we arrived that the dispute about payment for the new substation had been resolved, so power was back on again (it had been off for several weeks). Minimal education means a lack of training in basic skills like welding and plumbing. Meanwhile, wifi access was really rather good……

Of course, diagnosis is easier than cure – but Tony Blair’s old cry of “education, education, education” has got to be part of the answer.

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