There are many reasons why anti-poverty measures are less than successful in Africa. In a recent column, the Ugandan commentator Charles Onyango-Obbo provides one you've never heard before:
...sometimes plans to end poverty fail because of, well, poverty. Take a recent case from western Kenya...A lot of money was pumped into a programme to save poor rural women from walking many kilometres to fetch water. The women, however, didn't collect water from the new modern "wells".

Were the women ignorant? Not at all. With just one harvest a year, the women had a lot of time on their hands. Without electricity, TV, and other distractions at home, they would be bored to death. They preferred to continue walking many kilometres away to collect water, because it helped them kill time.
Beryl Bainbridge on smoking (note her observation on the decline in language ability upon quitting, it's something I can attest to, and something that those who oppose tobacco never mention):
I gave up smoking, without the aid of pills, hypnotism or patches, 17 days ago, having been told that if I didn’t I mightn’t have a leg to stand on. Well-meaning friends hastened to assure me that within 48 hours I would see an improvement in my complexion, my eyes, my hair. Needless to say, I’m still looking. What I have noticed, and deplore, is a return of my sense of smell. I had no idea that the odour of leftover food could pervade a house. Nor had I realised that I would regrow hairs in my nose, causing prolonged fits of sneezing.
I have no urge to take up the habit again, but I now talk to myself — mostly about Winston Churchill — sing hymns out loud while in the queue at the bank, and find it extremely difficult to construct a worthwhile sentence.
Speaking of smoking, Cigarettes in review: Part 2: Imported is now up on the cleverly named but poorly executed Luxurious Misery, a journal of conspicuous consumption and despair.

Do you sometimes find the history of the 20th century confusing? This essay provides the hidden context that allows everything to finally make sense. Which is nice.


  1. Riiiiight. A lot of time on their hands. I recommend "The Ugly American". A good commentary on facile explanations and solutions to problems in developing nations. (The ugly american by the way is the good guy!)


  2. I always get the ugly American confused with the man in the grey flannel suit.


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