I apologize if you were deceived by the title of this blog and are expecting shocking revelations that your Converse are fuelling war and corruption in Africa.
But wait! There’s a link.
We also need a new economics of fractured societies. Accepted economic theories work well enough in western societies; these theories are usually painted on one large canvas. But when the canvas is rent into pieces, as it is in many African states, the theories fail or work strangely.
I made these two wonderfully different purhases in Juba on Saturday last week.
That’s right. All SRAGs.
What does srag even mean?!!
Without really looking at the shoes, I gasped in wonder when a vendor at Juba City (Customs) Market told me I could get a brand new pair of All Stars at SSP35 ($7). I believed him and bought them.
Yes, I am that stupid.
Juba feels much like Kampala, but with networks and norms far more complex than anything I have experienced in an eastern African city. Everything is acceptable, but little is permissible. So bring in your fake Chinese shoes, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and chocolate. Import everything, anything, you can gather from the streets of Kampala and Nairobi (South Sudan has no real industry), but be ready to pay. On time. In full. To pay not the tax man, not the government. To pay to a system so obscure, so illegal, but so open and acceptable.
Import everything! Sell everything! But books …
There are two major bookstores in Juba. The first, Paulines Book and Media Center (opposite Juba Teaching Hospital), is a Catholic-based outlet, with a small assortment of mainly religious texts and scholastic materials.
The one I am excited about and plan to visit again is Leaves Bookstore, a project of the Roots Centre in Nimra Talata. Most of the books are used, donated to the Roots Centre. The small, but growing collection is very rich. Special attention is given to children’s books that are highly subsidized in order to encourage more young people to read.
In this strange, intriguing, frustrating city, I was able to buy a pair of comfortably fake shoes and one my most satisfactory reads of the year so far.
Shaxson frames the African oil problem compellingly. Using stories from the western coast of Africa, he traces the unholy mix of oil and politics and its enduring legacy of conflict on the continent. It is narrative journalism at its best, providing a good reader for anyone interested in the political economics of oil and big business in Africa.
It is a cautionary tale, one that Ugandans would do well to read in view of our own developments in this area.
I wasn’t entirely satisfied with Poisoned Wells, but my reasons are superficial. I really, really wanted a chapter on Sudan to help shed more light on Heglig, Abyei and the fragile future of South Sudan.
For now, I’ll have to make do with my Scrags.