The Honesty of African Governments

Milly VanilliNo. This headline is not a joke.  Really. It’s not.

I was reading a blog piece by this American expat who moved to Kenya when her husband got a job there with a private company.  Anyway, to make a long story short,  she doesn’t particularly like Kenya and gripes about all the “third-world” living conditions she has to put up with even though she lives in a comfortable house in Runda.

So, as I was flipping through her blog, I came across a very good answer posted under the comments section by someone identifying themselves as “Gavin” and this person basically outlined why for  him, African governments are actually much more honest than western governments and I provide his entire comment below, which I think he outlined beautifully and which I feel also has a very real message for aspiring entrepreneurs who may be thinking about starting businesses in Kenya and the message is this:

Don’t go there with aspirational and idealistic notions about changing the country for the better.  Leave your hope and dreams behind and just make your money and get what you can get because at the end of the day, the government is there to f**k you, not help you and they make no bones about that.  So, do what you gotta do, get your shit and get out!

The comment, extracted from this blog follows:

I’ve just been catching up on the past blogs (and been enjoying them), but I couldn’t help notice just a little first world chauvinism creeping in there at times. Now I know you’re wondering how I picked up on it, but lets just say I’m sometimes amazingly perceptive and leave it at that.

I also appreciated your more recent attempts to find some good in the alien circumstances in which you find yourself and I would like to help you out there. As a native, longstanding, of the ‘third world’, I feel like I might be able to point out a few positives about the ‘third world’ you seem to have missed, but which you may now finally feel belong to you too.

1) Honesty: In the third world, politicians, bureaucrats, police and the military make no pretense about being for sale. By and large, few of them even bother to claim that they are serving the people or making the country a better place to live. Better yet, no one, and I mean NO ONE at all, no matter how grossly ignorant or uneducated, thinks for a moment that they are. This is in stark contrast to the ‘first world’ where these same breeds function in much the same way, but have the temerity to claim moral authority as well.

Worse still, many aspects of the more ‘educated’, i.e. brainwashed, first-world public actually believes that the good people in government are fighting on their behalf; doing their best in an unfortunately flawed world. This while their civil rights are shredded, economic disparities increase and public resources of every kind are robbed and sold to corporate interests. Hell, I hear that in America they still think that if they just elect the ‘right’ president things will change despite all evidence to the contrary. It is fun to find points of comparison and I would recommend it as an interesting game to play in your spare time, e.g. in Kenya, ministers vote their salaries tax exempt, in England ministers bill the public purse to build moats outside their mansions and to buy houses to rent for their personal benefit.

In Kenya, you must be polite to border officials with their big stamps, lest they give you shit about entering their country, in America you must be Very polite to border officials, particularly if you have a big stamp in your passport, lest they strip search you, probe your anus and send you to an immigration prison, or just spirit you away to a secret detention facility. They’re many more delightful comparisons, but I leave those to you to find. Try a few. It’s fun. Really. And I think it will make you feel less alienated and homesick.

2) Honesty Again – I think this one is so good it deserves a second go, particularly as it relates to commercial extortion as, for example, found in Nairobbery. I think you have to appreciate that commercial vendors are willing to extort you directly. They don’t pretend that their job is to do anything other than extract as much from you as they can, or when they do they don’t really expect to be taken seriously. Again, I like to contrast this with the way things work in the first world where massive corporate fleecing is not only tolerated but held as an ideal to be achieved. And there they don’t have the sheer decency to do it to your face. They won’t negotiate, they’ll just buy the rights to fuck you directly from the government and have them make it law. 500$ for dstv is undeniably contemptible, but General Motors stealing billions of dollars from the US taxpayers is just a grand salute to the American way of life. (remember its called the American dream, because if you believe it you must be sleeping.)

3) Greater connection and interdependence of human beings in actual human relationships – in the third world everyone understands that people need help from other people. They understand that the government is there to fuck them (see 1) and that life is hard. They realize that the only help they can hope for will come from the people they know, their friends, families and employers. They are forced therefore to engage in often challenging decisions regarding the role they should play in helping the people around them improve their circumstances and this sometimes even requires that they find non-monetary ways of doing so, you know getting really hands on. And so people do often play that role of caring helper to the people in their lives in one way or another. (And good on you for helping your guys out.)

This is slightly different to the way it works in first worlds where it is assumed that institutions exist to take care of those problems and actually immersing yourself in someone else’s life-difficulties is not your job, particularly if they don’t belong to your immediate family, and anyway you probably wouldn’t have a close relationship with someone who really really needs your help. They are after all beneath you and, as evidenced by the fact that have real problems at all, they obviously deserve to be in the position they’re in.

4) Less responsibility for global catastrophe – I also feel quite proud that we in the third world tend to keep our problems to ourselves. We are the exploited, not the exploiters and, though this is largely a matter of historical happenstance rather than any innate moral superiority, I quite like to know that when we have no electricity we can merely write it off to governmental incompetence or corruption and not have to think that when we do have electricity it is because our government has spent a trillion dollars or so of the money they’ve extorted from us to occupy a foreign country and plunder their energy reserves, I’m sorry, excuse me, to protect their freedom in the face of tyrannical dictators. Just as I like to know when I take a bite of fruit that it didn’t get into my hands because my government installed a tyrannical dictator in some South American country to boost the bottom line of the united fruit company, or some other international conglomerate, by ensuring that the people there remain desperate and willing to accept slave’s wages to survive. I find it comforting that the corporations screwing us are finding innovative ways to do so, rather than merely adopting the traditional route of contract plundering so popular in the first world. I also like that we feel no need to attribute their success to the miraculous benefits of the ‘free’ market. (That term always makes me chuckle.)

5) That last point made me think of another cool thing about the third world. People here understand why the ‘trickle’ down theory is called the ‘trickle’ down theory. They get that a trickle is the few drops that escape from the tap when vast amounts of liquid are piped out in some other direction. (mostly gathered by corrupt politicians. But we get that.)

6) Less delusional – Its kind of a corollary of the whole honesty thing, but no one in the third world thinks that we have it good.

Till then,

You got that peeps? Uta do?


Take this (it’s a free present from the coalition government because that’s the only real thing their going to be giving you, but at least it’s the truth) and have a very merry christmas and happy new year!


8 comments for “The Honesty of African Governments

  1. untonyto
    March 24, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I daresay the “goodness” in this commentary on a comment on another blog is hidden or even so esoteric as to be branded highfalutin. Chiron’s question above is DEEPER that the answer it was afforded!

    We thirdworlders have it rough and it is openly and crudely done, whereas firstworlders are deluded into thinking it’s not so bad… so? There is corruption everywhere, and corruption is bad all the time for all its victims and all its perpetrators are evil.

    We all need to shed our egoistic competition that reduces corruption to a competition between the first world and third worlds as if a prize will be awarded to “the better victim,” if such a thing can be said to exist. Being honest about being obviously corrupt can not be seen as a good thing except in an upside down universe where everything is loco. How insensitive our leaders are, and we say they’re honest!

    Let values determine our principles.

  2. WG
    January 17, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Great post KE and totally agree!

  3. kenyanentrepreneur
    January 3, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    The comment is good because it doesn’t beat around the bush about how African governments conduct themselves and it has outlined this truth in a very funny way.

    I mean, do you believe that African governments are out to help the people and make a difference? The author of the comment is essentially saying that their total incompetence is more honest than western governments, which pretend to be for the people, but are actually for the big corporations (see my comments on Obama’s bail out plan)

  4. Chiron
    January 2, 2010 at 1:09 pm


    Maybe I’m getting a bit daft as the years go by but could you please let me know what’s good about the comment?

  5. Anonymous
    December 27, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    True dat. The first worlders are living in this delusional cultural superiority complex. The don’t know they are also victims of the system. What a wonderful world. I honestly feel compassion for the first worlders!

  6. kenyanentrepreneur
    December 26, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    Obama has become the slickest f**ker of all. Look at all those nice speeches he gave about hope and change and blah, blah, blah, :roll:

    He comes into office and what’s the first thing he does with an economy heading downwards? He prints money like the slick f**ker he is and hands out trillions of dollars to millionaire bankers. Hands them taxpayer money, with zero percent interest!! And look what happens after that? the bankers are now using that money and trading it and making a killing off the spread. i.e. they got the money at 0% interest, then they trade it and make money off the spread where interest rates are running at 3 to 4%. How can they not make money with that kind of deal? even a monkey can make money.

    Then, Geitner and Obama change the accounting rules and allow the banks to “hide” their bad debts. So, the banks, get all this free money from the taxpayers, promptly announce that they are back in business, then pay themselves huge bonuses based on these fake profits. and the reason their profits are fake is because if those accounting rules were not changed for their benefit, all the big u.s. banks would currently be insolvent. It’s like giving me $100 million, when I know I have $300 million dollars in debt. Then, you allow me to “hide” my $300 million dollars of debt and voila! I miraculously declare that I have made $100 million in profits (which you gave me) and I pay myself a bonus based on this fake profit (knowing full well that my debts are still there, but who cares?).

    Then, Obama turns around and tells middle class americans that he is fighting for them. It’s a sick joke because all he is doing is giving taxpayer money to these rich bankers who then turn around and give millions of dollars back to the politicians in the form of campaign contributions, which allow them to win their re-election campaigns.

    In most African countries, this entire circle of intellectual deceit would be avoided. They’d just steal the money outright and ask you….uta do? It’s at this point that the machete’s and AK47′s would come out and as the MP for Embakasi said…you’d receive your instant justice.

  7. Boss Mayor
    December 26, 2009 at 1:26 am


    Hasn’t that always been the truth. I can appreciate her nicely done response. Put together in a simplistic manner reflective of our current environment. Anyone debating that is just blind.

    Only thing about the first world that I can honestly say I totally dislike like Selah mentioned.. “They won’t negotiate, they’ll just buy the rights to fuck you directly from the government and have them make it law.” If that isn’t the biggest cash cow ever!! :shock: :roll:

    Nothing is upfront and everything is written in complete jargon. I think I can appreciate Kenyans lack of sophistication. You just have to be a complete idiot to get royally fucked by the system. At that point, you should probably quit life. :mrgreen:

  8. landlord
    December 25, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    the truth is always funny in a funny way….

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