September 3, 2013
I want to explain further why food is so expensive in South Sudan. It is an issue of food insecurity and a lack of infrastructure.
People do not want to grow crops because chances are that someone will come along and steal the fruits of their labor. This includes the military and police forces because they still need to come to an understanding that their function is to protect people and not to benefit from people.
There are also very few miles of road in South Sudan and during the rainy season most of those miles are impassable because of the muddy road conditions. Therefore crops that are grown, if there is excess that might have gone to market to help feed other people, rot where they are.
Food must be imported from Kenya, Ethiopia or Uganda. It is brought up the Nile River or, sometimes, flown into Malakal. This makes is very expensive.
I am seeing the imprint of what has become known as Toxic Charity on Africa. One manifestation of that in Ethiopia is that local Ethiopian people literally beg from white people school tuition fees for their children. The school system in Ethiopia, as in most African countries, is very poor. People want to send their children to private schools in order to obtain a good education for them and launch them into their lives with the ability to make a good living. One of the problems I see with education being financed by foreigners in this way is that the Ethiopian, or the South Sudanese, or the South African, people are not rising up and demanding that the governments provide a good education within the public schooling system.
Well meaning people are helping to keep a broken system in place.
September 2, 2013
I sat with a Chinese man at the South Sudan Embassy office last week when we were both applying for visas into South Sudan. We were going into the country for very different reasons and at the same time we had a very enjoyable conversation. His English was excellent and I have lived in Nanjing so there was a good basis for that conversation.
One of the many things that we discussed was colonialization. He felt that first the Dutch, then the English and then the United States had conquered the world. Both of us agreed with the assessment that many of the world’s problems can be laid at the doorstep of the British.
He said something from his unique Chinese perspective that I found intriguing. I also admired him for saying it as in my time in China, Chinese people are very rarely critical of their own history or their country. He said that in two thousand years that his own people had been a part of the blood thirst and murdering that comes with colonialization. Chinese civilization began as a very small area of land and over the course of that two thousand years people groups were conquered and absorbed and China grew into the country that it is today.
Moving on from that particular conversation one of the things I gave thought to this week was the costs of imported goods. I had found cheap and sweet, ripe Golden Delicious apples in Pretoria. I found GD apples here in Addis Ababa for about twice the cost. I was told that they are imported and that accounts for the cost. That gave rise to the realization that apples must be grown in South Africa and although I was told that Ethiopia does grow some apples, the particular ones that I was eyeing were apparently not home grown.
Now, I thought about the fact that we have imported food in the United States. I know that this is true because say in the Seattle area, we will have food that is “out of season”. Often times these foods will come from a Latin America country and what I have noticed is that usually they are fairly cheap. This gave rise to the thought that probably the difference in the costs of the imported goods in Africa and in the United States has to do with treaties. I have often heard it said in social justice circles that Fair Trade agreements are not so fair to the people who are pawns in the government games of tariffs and subsidized food goods, etc., going across international borders. I am also aware that most food in South Sudan is imported and it is very, very expensive.
There is also the problem of foods that are subsidized by governments that can be sold very cheaply going into countries where the indigenous people are trying to earn a living by selling their home grown crops. When they cannot compete with the prices of the cheap imports there is another initiative towards independence that is thwarted.