Attending these trade shows, farmer’s markets and craft shows seem to have a running theme to them…African Art. I am noticing a huge trend in African artistry from jewelry, pottery, shea butter and fashions. And surprise, they are not at all hideous, 70′s style dashiki’s, Africa medallions, and burning incense while we are all waiting, ever so patiently, for the revolution to be televised.
My bad, did I go there?
Lets be real for a moment..People, even myself, have tended in the past to shy away from these events and the state of the African plight in general because they all seem too self righteous, too militant, and straight up wack. Some dude named Brother Yusef Abdul Mohammed – Jenkins with natty and unkempt locs will preach the gospel to his fellow brethren about the dangers of everything in the world, from what we eat, what we drive, who we choose to sleep with(even though it’s OK for him to dip his chocolate in the milk bowl), and any made up government conspiracy meant to keep US down. As I have written before here, I despise conspiracy theorists because they don’t live in reality where, OMFG,….sh*t happens. Moon landing? Faked. 9/11, It had to be a hit job by the Bush Administration to send us to war for oil right? Osama Bin Laden? Not dead until I see the receipts dammit!!! You get my point.
So in the past, that’s been my experience of these events. Funny thing is, the Africans I’ve known don’t act like this. Sure they rep their hood(Naija!!??? Ghana???) And they seem more like they are trying to assimilate into American culture. I was watching a new episode of House Hunters International where they featured buyers buying a home in Gaborone, Botswana. That’s in the southern part of the continent of Africa, just north of South Africa. Of course the climate there is hot, but the homes were gorgeous. My ignorant American mind thought that I would see a bunch of zebras, straw huts, clay houses, and lions running along the African Savannah with Mkembi playing drums in the background, a la Lion King. Instead, they looked liked spacious, typical American housing with high ceilings, a pool, large bedrooms, and even large bathrooms. Each home they saw was gorgeous and House Hunters always features an over the budget home, under the budget, or just barely meeting the budget home. They got the cheap, and spacious home. If it weren’t for the heat, I’d actually consider making a home in Africa as well as a number of locations around the world. But it just goes to show that the African economy is growing and attracting a lot of investors, ex-pats, and a growing middle-upper class.
While the rest of the world was/is still reeling from the recession, the African economy has grown. Countries from Morocco, South Africa, and Tunisia have seen growth over the recent years with an annual growth rate of about 5% from 2000 to 2008. South Africa even hosted the World Cup in 2010 which has shown to be a boon to their economy. Part of the growth is due to it’s natural resources, namely petroleum that countries ship to European nations due to its close proximity. China and India have also taken an interest investing its resources in Africa and tap into the oil market. China, in particular have even added African governments with military aid, health, cultural and educational assistance. I’d like to throw something else out there as well. Shea Butter. OK, this may not significantly affect the African economy, but think about it, most of the shea butter that we use and make in our products comes from the Motherland. It comes from the karite’ tree and is roasted, shelled, boiled, and processed into what we know as shea butter with it’s wide uses such as for hair care, skin care, and even cooking oil. How many pounds of this stuf do you buy on the regular and see sold at markets across the country? A lot. How many of the big name beauty companies are now investing in Fair Trade shea butter and marketing it in their products? And let’s bring up the fact that we are seeing more African inspired fashions and accessories, such as wooden and woven earrings, dresses, handmade straw hats, and bags.
So where one see economic growth, someone’s bound to move on up. Yes, there is an emerging, black middle and upper class in Africa. They are well educated, trendy, and desire an urban lifestyle. Think of annoying hipsters and transplants in Adams Morgan. According to the Boston Consulting Group, a number of key factors to economic growth are political stability, public investments in health, education, and social services, rule of law, property rights, and access to capital. It’s the same thing that happened once apartheid ended in South Africa and they have become known to be Africa’s powerhouse. I do want to add that investors from all over the world, do play a major role in Africa’s economic boost. So lets’ have a toast for Africa for finally being able to grow and given the respect it deserves.