Archive for May 4th, 2012

May 4, 2012

Converse All Stars and the Dirty Politics of African Oil

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.

From Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil by Nicholas Shaxson

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 …

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