Kanju solutions! Notes from The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa by Dayo Olopade

The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa by Dayo Olopade

Previous waves of foreign interventions have been deductive—working from the outside in. They have invested time and money to engineer “networks” of “stakeholders” in “the field” who will promote a prescribed message or enact a binary plan. Like Eurocentric cartographers, many have missed the preexisting platforms that are not only more adaptive, but free of charge.166 

Individual Africans waste less food, owe less money, and maintain a regional carbon footprint that is the lowest in the world.  211 practical solutions, and doing much more with far less.  353  

After years studying informality in Nigeria, Dutch architect and planner Rem Koolhaas reached the same conclusion. In the West, he writes, “there’s a sense of infinite choice, but a very conventional set of options from which to choose.” By contrast, “in Lagos there is no choice—but there are countless ways to articulate the condition of no choice.” 355

Beyond an intense and necessary work ethic, I discovered a rich archive of processes, products, and people that are changing the development trajectory in Africa. They do so by combining the basic ingredients of kanju—recycling, resilience, and the pointed irreverence  358

Kanju solutions, I determined, take inventory: What do I have? What do I need? What can I do? What can I do without?  366

Transportation in Africa is an unprecedented running experiment in informal economic activity. The cacophony of engines, the constant pinballing of coins and bills, and the reckless merges into traffic have evolved entirely outside the action of the state. Transit is at once a private-sector activity and a massive public good. With minimalist regulations (save shakedowns from the police), the industry in Kenya has swelled to an estimated fleet of thirty thousand vehicles that move millions annually.  455

mischievous, counterintuitive, and in many cases unprecedented solutions to complex problems born of bad alternatives.  529 state was more of an irritation than an inspiration. “Government in Africa—it doesn’t deliver the goods,” says Aleke Dondo, a tall, no-nonsense economist who works to finance farmers in east Africa. He lamented both administration and execution. “It’s bad, and we see it. We see incomplete projects, all sorts of things. That makes you hate the government. Secondly, a lot of promises are made and nothing happens . . . and nobody tells you where the money is gone.  599 “much of governance can happen without an emphasis on understanding whether results were accomplished.” Ghanaian George Ayittey, who wrote Africa Unchained, says that “leaving aside the democratic requirement that a government must be by the people and for the people, one expects at a minimum a ‘government’ to be responsive to the needs of the people, or at least, to perform some services for its people. But even this most basic requirement for ‘government’ is lacking.” He has called the African state “a mafia-like bazaar, where anyone with an official designation can pillage at will. In effect, it is a ‘state’ that has been hijacked by gangsters, crooks, and scoundrels.  603

Relying on judges to referee contentious power grabs or international trade deals is, per Ugandan law professor Joseph Isanga, “futile and illusory.” Saran Kaba Jones, who develops water projects in Liberia, told me about the disenchantment in her country. “For the person who sees an official driving around in a fifty-, sixty-, seventy-thousand-dollar car and building mansions and palaces—they all know where that money is coming from and are still very, very cynical when it comes to government.”  627 road has been paid for but not paved. Everywhere, it’s the basic understanding that you are on your own.  646

Of course, “fail states” are substantively different from “failed states,” a term that academics apply to the least functional nations on Earth. It’s important to distinguish these everyday aggravations from the wars and total political collapse that have characterized Somalia proper. Likewise, there are many places—south Asia, eastern Europe, Latin America, and fat economies included—where public service suffers, and where the poorest eke out a living in daring, undocumented ways. In his cheekily titled Lawlessness and Economics, Avinash Dixit contends that “in all countries through much of their history, the apparatus of state law was very costly, slow, unreliable, biased, corrupt, weak, or simply absent.” But what’s darkly comic about the failures of modern African states is the longevity of African civilization. The continent is the oldest continuously inhabited landmass in the world. Yet the head start has not translated into a leg up. Part of the problem is the states themselves.

The modern map of Africa hardly reflects the boundaries of tribes and languages that pepper the continent. The famous 1884 Berlin Conference enshrined regional borders that split major tribes and kingdoms and combined others in a mostly arbitrary fashion. Eighty years later, the Organization of African Unity declared that the colonial borders would live forever. The OAU justified the partition by noting “that the borders of African States, on the day of their independence, constitute a tangible reality.” But that doesn’t mean the decision was rational, desirable—or even acknowledged. It was another instance of formality bias failing to map facts on the ground.  647

Seventy-three percent of households in Africa do not speak the official language of their countries (in other developing countries, it’s 28 percent).669

Across Africa, Englebert notes, “rarely . . . had the colonial state borne any relation to the economic systems, political organizations, and networks of social identification of the indigenous peoples.” Arbitrary geographic divisions bankrupted the connection between authority and statehood. It would be one thing if Africa’s new and clumsy states somehow managed to promote progress. But almost everywhere, the project of governing low-legitimacy nations compelled decisions that had nothing to do with economic and social development.* Within its impractical borders, the continent evolved what economists Daron Acemoğlu and James Robinson call “extractive” institutions.694

Joseph Mobutu’s Zaire is a well-known example. To maintain federal loyalty in a country almost too big to rule, he funneled cash directly from the nation’s mines into the pockets of his supporters, sowing the seeds of corruption that persist in the DRC today. To maintain stability, he killed or jailed opposition figures, often in violation of international human rights law. To establish a national identity, he ginned up a cult of the presidency, with white elephant monuments to nationalism, in the form of dams, statues, and palaces. He rebranded the Congo as Zaire and forced the adoption of national dress and a new currency (that he would in short order destroy). In the process, he gutted civic infrastructure and left his people destitute. In far smaller Sierra Leone, President Siaka Stevens nationalized the diamond industry—but in words only. He systematically issued favorable mining contracts to allies who could mobilize voter support. Despite its resource riches, Sierra Leone’s public budget suffered, and smuggling exploded. Reported diamond production (and associated tax revenues) dropped from 595,000 carats to 48,000 carats in eight short years. At one point, Stevens destroyed the main railroad leading from Mendeland to Freetown. Never mind that it helped move coffee, cocoa, and other cash crops to the coast. He was cutting off his leg to spite his foot: because inland political opposition depended on the vital pipeline, it had to go. (Perhaps he was right to be paranoid; just hours after his first stint in office, as prime minister, he fell victim to a coup.) Without revenues, civil servants could not be paid and stopped working. The tax commissioner of the capital, Freetown, abdicated his public office and began wheeling and dealing in the private economy. When Stevens stepped down in 1985, after eighteen years, frustrated rebel groups tore the country apart. The world has watched this story repeat itself throughout the twentieth century. Even if colonial leftovers—say, the British-style schools that educated my parents—persisted in the 1960s and 1970s, they didn’t flourish. National leaders rejected the idea of civic responsibility. Self-interested decisions at the center punished ordinary people at the periphery. 700

Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee have critiqued the GDP approach for ignoring inefficiency and unequal access to resources. What’s more, GDP is fundamentally tied to the state. Per capita figures are calculated at a national level, flattening variations among rural, urban, and peri-urban residents. Yoked into their respective state frameworks, Mali’s populous southern capital appears much worse off than rural Namibia—though arguably the reverse is true. Shanta Devarajan, the chief World Bank economist for Africa, says he has “encountered cases where the minister is not even aware that the statistical office is under his ministry.” In fact, after decades of miscalculations, Ghanaian bean counters “discovered” $13 billion worth of economic activity left out of the GDP. Nigeria is also scrambling to recalibrate its figures for, among other reasons, more realistic lending terms at the World Bank. Macroeconomic statistics may help countries assess consumption, but African GDP data does not account for the distribution of resources, and the damning inequalities that prevail in Africa’s jigsaw economies. Like the bias for Somalia over Somaliland, Western preference for political and economic formalism has allowed fail states to pantomime liberal democracy without necessarily achieving progress. Politics have paralyzed too many nominal democracies.  737  

Progress on political promises is often deferred until the next election. This may sound rather like democracy in modern America—or any other country with a sagging political tent. But the African instance is unique. Other lean economies (particularly those with a socialist history) have built troubled but more mature governments. Even the American “Tea Party” expects municipal trash collection and working electricity. Conversely, few states in Africa can boast of a true compact between citizen and government. Fail states have slowed the region’s development progress—the eventual justification for the aid interventions we’ll discuss in the next chapter. Perhaps more importantly, fifty years of disappointments crushed popular expectations of the state.*  750  

All is not lost: for all their defects, fail states play an overlooked role in modern Africa. The crisis of faith in African government has forced dynamic kanju responses from ordinary people. There’s a reason Anas takes such liberties in his reporting, why Gladys and her family are in no hurry to pay property tax, why one wealthy Nigerian friend spends thousands of dollars a month on his own electricity generation. It’s why I wound up carrying my own motorbike helmet around Uganda. “Everywhere,” writes Achille Mbembe, the great Cameroonian academic, “the delinquency of the state produced a culture of débrouillardise and of do-what-you-must, and a decline in the national identity.” When institutions are broken, playing by their rules becomes a laughable proposition. Where political freedom, social protections, and economic opportunities have failed to materialize, ordinary people have taken ownership of their fate—tearing down the assumption that states matter more than their alternative arrangements. In an odd way, the fail state has created millions of libertarians.  761  

It’s a sensible posture: the coming century will be dominated by forms of organization both smaller (think family) and larger (think Facebook) than the state, forging new allegiances on issues ranging from security to epidemics to trade. Dr. Shire agreed that “countries become less strategic as more and more economic communities form, and as more regional integration develops. . . . The boundaries of states become less relevant and important.”  769  

Somaliland is the tip of the iceberg. In Mombasa, Kenya’s coastal metropolis, city residents and entrepreneurs established a hyperlocal “complementary” currency to deal with the scarcity of official Kenyan shillings. In “Bangladesh,”* an informal Mombasa settlement with a large merchant population, the invented neighborhood currency functioned like a promissory note for the barter economy. Traders could use the notes to facilitate everyday commerce—buying eggs or oil or lumber—and redeem them for cash later. In roughly one month of operations, the currency allegedly boosted trade by 20 percent. Of course, there’s a fail state wrinkle: virtually since independence, Kenya has labored to enforce its colonially bequeathed nationalism among an incredibly diverse population. In the past decade, the government has clashed with an outlaw political group known as the Mombasa Republican Council. Like Somaliland, the group points to historic marginalization and calls for an independent nation of ethnic, religious, and linguistic sameness. Sporadic attacks and protests followed by violent state reprisals have sharpened the conflict in recent years. Which is why, when government officials caught wind of the new currency, they mistook it for a secessionist plot. Never mind that the people of “Bangladesh” were more interested in economics than in politics. State police jailed the printers for forgery, too blind to see the ingenuity behind the dreaded insurrection. The prisoners were released after paying stiff fines. But the episode neatly captures the best practices of kanju and the petty instincts of the fail state. Too many politicians, economists, and diplomats overlook the alternative institutions that matter to ordinary people. They discourage the region’s successes while clinging to support for its bad borders, bad leaders, and bad habits.  772  

Unknown to most revelers: the true tragedy of bare feet is not shoelessness, but poverty—the inability to afford shoes, or much else. For many families getting free TOMS shoes, a steady job—making say, shoes—presents a more permanent solution.  816  

As of publication, the company has manufactured the vast majority of its products in China—where, writes Richard Stupart, “it’s presumably cheaper to make two pairs of shoes and give one away than it is to get people in a needier community to make one pair of shoes.”  818  

Like many micro-aid projects targeting Africa, buying shoes or sending gifts in kind privileges Western convenience as much as the intended recipients. It doesn’t get at the larger structural reasons for the supposed problem, or offer flexibility in determining the ultimate solution. Worse, it reinforces the notion that the less fortunate are unable to provide the most basic necessities for themselves. It’s a presumption repeated in the 2010 UN poster, and a corollary to the formality bias that fixates on engineered states. Like bad geographers, amateur philanthropists “aid” an Africa of their own invention.  824  

Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo has written a popular book, Dead Aid, claiming that foreign aid is responsible for the divergence, and that all assistance to Africa should be eliminated. Along with wasted time and wasted funds ($1 trillion, by her estimate), she blames outside-in decision making for the continent’s woes. Her logic—and accounting—has been roundly debated. Defenders of aid point to the great impact of humanitarian assistance in addressing public health crises like HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. It’s true that without donations from abroad, many millions in Africa would suffer. But she’s right about the design flaws. Most forms of aid to Africa come attached to foreign agents. Most international NGOs still depend on a model of external funding that can pervert incentives.* Wealthy nations that deliver foreign assistance to Africa sometimes add an exploding caveat: the appropriation must be spent to purchase goods and services from the donor. In many situations, earmarked aid leaves the recipient country soon afterward, in the form of salaries, per diem allowances, and “hardship pay” for employees of the World Bank, JICA (Japan), DFID (Great Britain), SIDA (Sweden), SNV (the Netherlands), Norad (Norway), or the rest of the alphabet soup. “Tying” aid in this way is estimated to increase the cost of intervention by between 15 and 30 percent. Yet the practice persists: the share of UK aid contracts going to British firms is on the rise, and the United States allocates $3.19 billion a year—nearly a third of its budget—not to the needy abroad, but to ten large domestic corporates. During a flood in Mozambique in 2000, “tied” American aid compelled flood workers to procure, then ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles from outpost to outpost, “like some breed of medical Hell’s Angel,” according to Stupart. “Fascinating to behold, but utterly wasteful.” The evolution of charity from pure good into deadweight didn’t happen overnight. It is the result of centuries of mismapping Africa. In the seventeenth century and continuing through the turn of the twentieth, colonial arrangements conscripted African economies into service of the great powers of Europe. After the Second World War, the same great powers—having discovered the success of the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe—applied the idea of aid to anything else. As the twentieth century progressed, foreign powers divided the continent again, often according to Cold War allegiances. The United States backed despots like Joseph Mobutu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for his anticommunism—but didn’t bother to follow the money once disbursed. The Soviet Union did the same in nations like Ethiopia, Angola, and Mozambique. As we’ve seen, these politically motivated subsidies provoked some of the worst corruption the world has ever seen. In the 1980s, the rot in aid-soaked African economies began to show. Productivity in badly managed national industries sank. In response, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank began a series of painful “structural adjustment” programs to liberalize lean economies. Once the Berlin Wall fell, strategic aid was largely moot, and governance began to take a front seat. Donors introduced conditionality into the same aid flows: Stop starving and jailing and warring and stealing and you can have this bag of money. Hold an election, and win what is behind door number three! For rich governments, dangling assistance in front of a corrupt regime seemed better than the sticks they were weary of wielding. But it didn’t change much. Even as a wave of liberalization and democratization swept over sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s, per capita income decreased. Sundry international development policies turned out to be poorly matched to dynamic circumstances on the ground, and in some cases counterproductive. As Johns Hopkins professor Deborah Bräutigam and others have demonstrated, aid flows are inversely related to government function: for every dollar of foreign assistance…  842  

yet glamorizing foreign mediators fundamentally disrespects the poor. Nigerian author Teju Cole calls this “The White Savior Industrial Complex,” in which “a nobody from America or Europe can go to Africa and become a godlike savior or, at the very least, have his or her emotional needs satisfied.” (The idea, enshrined in the UN poster, has also been called “The White Man’s Burden,” after a Rudyard Kipling poem.) Absent local input, or better, agency, the best-laid plans for development become “stuff we don’t want.”  913  

when the United Nations ratified its ambitious Millennium Development Declaration. Representatives from the 189 member countries gathered in New York to chart a new course to speed human development. Their map is as follows:   Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Achieve universal primary education. Promote gender equality and empower women. Reduce child mortality. Improve maternal health. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases. Ensure environmental sustainability. Develop a global partnership for development.   Leave aside for a moment whether the goals are good (who doesn’t want to improve maternal health?) or whether they are being achieved (in Africa, most are not). The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are designed from the outside in—part of the same monologue that brought us 1 Million Shirts. This has led to some big problems, such as relying on formal indicators to tell a story. Goal 1, for example, measures poverty based on people living on $1.25 a day. But when you work as a traffic vendor, a seamstress, or a farmer, your income is likely so variable as to make the benchmark meaningless. Some days are flush, and others impossibly lean. The formal framework can’t capture that. Goal 2, for another example, focuses on increasing enrollment in primary school. African countries have been sprinting toward this goal; enrollment in central, west, east, and southern Africa jumped from 58 percent to 76 percent between 1999 and 2008. But the new norm has also left millions behind. Poorly paid teachers are frequently absent or unready to teach a curriculum that is both dreary and dated. Many just skip the subjects they don’t know well. Classrooms are bulging, and some students show up too hungry to learn. The focus on primary schooling devalues high school, college, and vocational training. The millions of Africans who have left school “half baked” are out of the loop entirely. The outside-in design has failed to link different goals with one another. The simple connection within goal 1 between reducing hunger and reducing poverty is agriculture, which happens to be the single most common source of income in Africa. Helping the poor grow more and better food is a stellar defense against poverty and against disruptive food shortages on the continent and beyond. Amazingly, however, the MDGs leave out agricultural investment.* The British journal The Lancet published a ten-year, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger analysis of the MDGs, claiming that the specificity of goals 4, 5, and 6 distorts planning in the broader health system. As a result, malaria money is for malaria only, and HIV treatment is just that. In Kigali, I had a long talk with Betty Mutesi, a cheerful, apple-cheeked young woman who works with the Rwandan Ministry of Finance on MDG compliance. She lamented the lack of integration. “If I have retrovirus access, at the end of the day even if I give you the medication and you don’t have food to eat, it’s a problem. It’s not about medication alone.” That last bit gets at the heart of the problem with outside-in aid. Deductive planning misses the interconnected nature of progress everywhere. Family planning, youth employment, digital inclusion, a free press—to name a few goals that were left out of the MDGs—are key ingredients of progress. While they will release new goals for 2015, the 193 countries and fifteen agencies of the UN are anatomically ill equipped to generate a more nuanced vision. The design flaws might be frustrating on their own. But the MDGs have become a cut-and-paste template for governments seeking to make policy and also qualify for additional foreign assistance. Here, formality bias and donor hubris work hand in hand to limit creativity. Ministries convene stakeholder meetings and official government events and commission “poverty reduction strategy papers” that ceaselessly invoke the MDGs. About a dozen countries—including Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa—have adopted “Vision” plans that photocopy the MDG framework as official…  918 Because of the MDG anniversary, much of the 2010 conversation was about the poor—but nobody invited the poor. “They were numbers. They were figures. And they were invisible,” says Ruge.  959

Muchiri Karanja, a local journalist, stood up to state the obvious. “I don’t think we need millions of dollars to do these things,” he said. “We don’t need millions of dollars to make sure we treat women with respect. Do we need money to put more women in leadership positions? We don’t.” Africans are speaking  984  

architects: “We would like the entire world to know simply that we exist, and that we are empowered, we live, and we are real and not just a story. We would like you to know how we stand, how we survive, how we study, how we grow, our successes and our failures.”  988  

Rather than waiting—as the UN poster suggests—or launching a march on fail states, many people I encountered are making their own arrangements. “We provide our own education, we provide our own health care, our own electricity, our own water supply, our own waste disposal,” says Ngozi Iwere, the Nigerian organizer who has long occupied the trenches of small-scale development work. “So what do we need local government for? I am a local government.”   This book is not an argument for anarchy. Even as Africans bemoan the fail state culture, many hope for better. Strongmen die; piecemeal reforms take root; there were some thirty elections across the continent in 2011. The benefits of intelligent government and liberal democracy are undisputed. And Africa—as with fractious, 1700s Europe—would probably not be better off should its political map follow its ethnic contours. But the exciting alchemy between historic failures and decentralized cultural responses has the power to change the framework for development in Africa. Likewise, this book is not an argument for drowning aid in a bathtub, as debt-shocked legislators in fat economies would have it. Certainly, global charity has improved African lives, even if at the end of a long chain of intermediaries.  990  

But there’s no shame in calling out a donor economy that is still wasting time and resources, or in critiquing the state-centric model that is both arbitrary and destructive.  1007  

The historical, political, and cultural framework I have outlined suggests that trusted, non-state networks may be the nimbler means to improve outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa. If the fail state drives both underdevelopment and brilliant, collective alternatives, it makes little sense for aid to continue flowing through palaces and parliaments. Neither does it make sense for development “solutions” to be hatched from afar, and implemented by outsiders, or governments with no better authority than force of habit. The MDGs will expire in 2015, and a new round of goal setting for Africa is already under way. The next wave of well-meaning philanthropists, businesspeople, students, and activists must acknowledge the non-state structures and informal shortcuts that can help accomplish a whispered goal of some aid workers: to put themselves out of business.  1010  

In my travels, I met so many people—and not just women in Mozambique—who rely on tips, favors, and cooperative forces to get by.  1027  

Strong ties invert the fail state problem: within the state, interactions can be asymmetric, deferential, and occasionally predatory; without the state, relations tend to be symmetric, reciprocal, and more supportive. What’s more, one arrangement drives the other: African social networks are strong precisely because central systems are weak, and because getting along together is better than bowling alone.  1036  

The American Sociological Review showed that in 2006, one in four Americans had no close friends or confidants—a huge leap in isolation from just twenty years prior. In Join the Club, Tina Rosenberg observes that fat economies have a “blind spot” about the importance of social circles: “We believe we don’t have time for people; we already have enough friends; we want to keep our private lives private.” In much of Africa, however, the accumulation of colonial history and fail state culture has left a different legacy. Without formal financial or political resources, communities have had to design informal workarounds. Social capital has become an important currency. Repeat interactions build mutual goodwill. Social boundaries collapse, and favors become less extraordinary. Objects themselves are subject to a different sense of ownership. Everyone uses the water pump. Everyone uses the cell phone charging station, or the public toilets. Vehicles are a shared asset—the car in Inhaca was mine and my driver’s and the woman’s, too. When I think about it, I realize I’ve shared all manner of conveyances—from speedboats to matatus. In Rwanda, a truck collected me for a farm visit. I expected a ride back in the same vehicle. Because we were all going to Kigali, I offered the pickup bed to a gaggle of farm workers. Only after two hours of chatter and traffic did I realize that they were doing me the favor of bunching up like sardines. The truck was their normal commute, and I was the interloper. Even as they’ve weakened in fat economies, social ties in Africa are robust—often stronger than more formal affiliations. In fact, everywhere I traveled, kinship and proximity mattered more than citizenship. Protocol was as important as politics. Language can trump law. I am more likely to identify myself—and be identified—as a member of my Yoruba tribe than as a Nigerian citizen, because of my name. Likewise, Yoruba has a particular word for thanking someone who is older, and another for thanking someone with less social status. Mothers are often identified by the name of their first child—a sign of the close tabs kept within the community. This contextual intelligence, and the unusual salience of human relationships, is the essence of Africa’s Family Map. It’s why schoolchildren travel in packs. It’s why the tacit final instruction in African navigation is often “just ask someone,” and why, nine times out of ten, it works. Interdependence powers much of daily life in Africa. In my experience, it’s rare to find individuals truly fending for themselves. Kin looks out for kin; a willingness to turn a favor one day often pays off the next. Expected mutuality is what transforms kanju culture from Hobbesian chaos into a social compact grounded in social networks. “People don’t recognize that what glues African communities together is governance at the community level,” said Iwere, the Ushahidi Nigeria activist. “Just go visit any little village or any little town. What is keeping it together? It’s the way people have organized themselves to keep public space clean, how they bury the dead, how they share and access the land for farming and economic activities. Which has nothing to do with this government we’re talking about.” Though family is a term of art—certainly not limited to blood relations—the Family Map of Africa defines and supports life without a state safety net. As we’ll see, it anchors diverse development solutions, from health care delivery to off-grid energy sales.   The first feature of Africa’s Family Map is not charity, but solidarity. Family is grounded in positive affiliation—recognizing yourself in those around you. Such solidarity transforms identity into action.  1042  

The woman in Mozambique wouldn’t have trusted her catch to my driver if she hadn’t known exactly where to find him later that day. Elizabeth Eze, a friend who spent a year living in rural Tanzania, confirmed that family and community tend to be much more inclusive. Joking about her failed attempts to establish privacy, she faced the facts: “My inner circle now includes an entire village.” The social feedback loop is a valuable, flexible tool. Development practices that rely on proximity, familiarity, and trust can more readily spread necessary information. In Ghana, researchers found the uptake of new crops and techniques had a strong correlation with the habits of respected “master” farmers. What we might call the grapevine, the researchers call an “information neighborhood.” Clusters of neighbors all engaged in the same trade watch one another closely—and know who’s successful and who is not. When it comes to agriculture, success is measured at harvest time and can sway decisions made at the next planting. In order to convince farmers to use fertilizer, or make the switch from sorghum or cassava to a more lucrative crop like pineapples, converting a widely observed plot was incredibly effective.  1112  

In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I talked up a cluster of men selling charcoal. Every day, they travel up to 17 kilometers out of town to gather wood for making charcoal, which they stack high atop well-greased bicycles to sell at dusk. Four days of charcoal then cost about 8,500 Tanzanian shillings, or $5. Kerosene is just as expensive. Dirty energy was a huge part of local household expenditures. When I asked them about solar panels—for sale in an electrician’s shop, up a winding staircase about 200 meters away—the vendors badly overestimated the cost. They assumed a basic installation was 800,000 shillings, or $500, when it is actually $30. As it turns out, even the lowest quintile of earners can afford solar solutions—especially because they are already paying a premium to exit the system in dirty ways. I explained to the men how much cheaper the green solution might be for them. They rightly worried about losing their livelihood as charcoal producers, and about the quality of the solar products for sale in local markets. And they didn’t seem to believe the price I’d just verified. I walked away frustrated. I had earned their acquaintance, but not their trust. In neighboring Uganda, women are emerging as the better ambassadors for solar adoption.  1121  

Solar Sister has recycled the franchise system. The organization loans interested women, mostly homemakers, a handful of solar lamps and teaches them about their benefits. The entrepreneurs are then dispatched to their communities, where it’s up to them to make sales. For each solar lantern sold, the women make 10 percent of the suggested retail price. The nonprofit’s system of sales training and recruitment—and it’s not the only one to encourage female entrepreneurs in Africa—is a welcome source of livelihood for the more than four hundred registered “sisters.” It’s part of an off-grid energy renaissance we’ll discuss more in Chapter 8. But the scheme is most interesting as an example of effective horizontal networking. The sisters are a useful source of knowledge in the market where solar lanterns are alien and underdog. Local brokers can explain the function and value of renewables much more effectively than centralized marketing schemes. With a little education, “many families are going to look at it as affordable, and you don’t have to worry about it,” says Evelyn Namara, who runs the Uganda program. “You will light up your house for the rest of your life.” More than statistics on climate change or years of sales experience, the sisters’ best asset is proximity to information neighborhoods. They have preexisting ties to the markets they enter (most of the Ugandan sisters are recruited through formal and informal women’s groups). And they come armed with a social value proposition—success. Like the dolled-up makeup slinger, the women themselves model the product. Paired with the resulting bump in income, some become higher-status role models to others. Just as women are crucial to getting clean energy products out from the cities and into homes excluded from the national power grid, they are central to the entire function of the social safety net. As caretakers, laborers, decision makers, or entrepreneurs (at least some of the time), Africa’s women are overlooked brokers of behavioral revolutions.  1132  

Diawara and Tostan discovered that a public declaration worked wonders. A soapboxed statement in Senegalese towns had the same effect as a master farmer in Ghana switching to pineapples. Once village A broadcast its intentions to forgo cutting in the future, villages B through Z weren’t far behind.  1162  

community norms proved as powerful as—and reached further than—state action or inaction. The social education approach also works for more general health issues. Despite all the hand wringing (much justified) about public health in Africa, remember that we know a lot about general medicine and have developed fixes for the big health plagues. We have pills to fight malaria, treatment regimens for tuberculosis, and—at long last—improved access to antiretrovirals (ARVs) for HIV. But that doesn’t mean the fixes reach their target. As Rosenberg points out in The Social Cure, “People do throw back lifelines, especially when their culture tells them to.” In South Africa, for one example, ARV uptake has been inhibited by misinformation, stigma, and a swirl of other factors that are hard for bureaucracies to address. With enough pressure, African governments may get a drug to a pregnant patient, but, writes Rosenberg, “the job is not done until she puts it in her mouth.” Good intelligence in the hands of African health consumers is often the best medicine. And like a common cold, life-saving information best circulates within networks of repeated interaction. Community norms are a powerful tool. In practice, this favors more decentralized models for health delivery and patient management. Directly observed treatment, short course (DOTS), for example, is now the leading method to stop tuberculosis from spreading, or taking on frightening mutations. While the World Health Organization emphasizes government buy-in, the method is built on horizontal relationships—it requires another person (initially, a nurse or doctor) to watch the TB treatment pills go down. Over time, DOTS has expanded to pair patients with less official sponsors, such as clergy, school employees, or fellow patients. These untrained volunteers share responsibility for compliance over the lengthy treatment cycle. Like the Solar Sisters, their value is not fancy training or particular expertise in health care. Rather, they are sourced from the patient’s information neighborhood, which triggers an additional incentive to keep the patient TB-free. DOTS was born in Tanzania in the 1980s and has been successfully adapted for HIV in Malawi. Researchers hope to use the community-based model for noncommunicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and schizophrenia. Especially with these tricky chronic diseases, social connectedness can have as great an influence on survival as the drugs. Celia Dugger reported on groups of AIDS patients in Mozambique who are bolstering one another’s will and ability to live with the disease. The patient clusters support one another with taxi fare to appointments and encourage one another to turn a cheek to the social stigma surrounding their status. “If I’m sick and isolated, kept at home, I’m considered a dead body, though still breathing,” said one patient. “But when a person is in a group, he feels, ‘I’m sick, but I count.’” Locally generated feedback loops and monitoring are proving essential to all kinds of development work. Microfinance institutions began to lend to groups rather than to individuals because communities help to police loans in less hierarchical and institutional ways. Again, mapping is key: if you know where people are, both literally and figuratively, you can reach them and get them to do something they may not be personally or culturally inclined to do.  1179  

Dr. Godfrey enormously. Task shifting, for example—in which a nurse is trained to do some of the functions reserved for a doctor, and a community health worker is trained to do the work of a nurse—has been incredibly effective in covering the gaps in skilled labor. Community health workers are more likely to understand hyperlocal medical histories and nonmedical fears, superstitions, and concerns. Decentralization puts simplified tasks and familiar faces at the front lines of care. Without formal regulation or explicit guidelines, nearly half of the countries in Africa have already begun to use non-physician clinical workers to perform minor surgeries. In Tanzania, non-physicians perform 84 percent of C-sections, hysterectomies, and laparotomies for ectopic pregnancy. In Mozambique, the figure is 92 percent. In Angola, the Kalukembe Hospital is a rural facility with 180 beds and zero on-site doctors. Since the 1980s, the nurses who plug the gap have been trained in techniques that save lives where the Ministry of Health (which doesn’t recognize the program) does not reach. Public health practitioners in Africa hotly debate how to optimize many populations’ reliance on traditional healers. Many Africans—80 percent on average—turn to cheaper, trusted caregivers in their information neighborhood. But traditional remedies can lead to badly set bones, home birth fatalities, or herbal “cures” that have no proven physiological benefits. Likewise, there is no evidence that HIV and cancer can be prayed away. In response, the WHO has focused on formal standards—increasing the registration and research of traditional remedies—rather than engaging the people who are trusted to dispense them. This risks dismissing a potential source of health information and treatment provision. Giving informal healers Western diagnostic tools, or drawing them into a referral system for conventional medicine, may allow for a gentler transition to better care. Training and empowering local actors can make a difference in who sees a doctor, and who takes a pill. But prevention—the cheapest  1214  

In many of these situations, contentious identity politics are the only politics. Whether across one-party or multiparty rule, voters in dozens of African countries consistently splinter into religious, clan-based, cultural, linguistic, and geographic factions for purposes of political presentation. (In Kenya, taking a vote is like taking a census.) Aggressive identity politics dominate where genuine nationalism has failed to take hold. As Daniel Posner points out, identity politics also correspond with resource allocation from a fickle central government.* “Where politicians woo support by promising to channel resources to would-be voters,” he writes, “ethnicity provides a cue that helps voters distinguish promises that are credible from promises that are not.” Never mind that many promises are not credible; bloc voting is another loophole by which canny leaders keep power while delivering very little. Contrary to popular perceptions, violent interethnic conflict is often tied to resource battles—clashes not of civilizations, but of economic and environmental interests. Cattle rustling, retaliatory home invasions, and even arson have all been documented in the tense areas of Africa where multiple climates meet and natural resources are scarce. When disappearing pastures and shrinking water tables overlap with cultural and religious borders, competition tends to amplify these divisions. Nonetheless, the generosity and intelligence of authentic social networks in Africa are among the essential building blocks of regional hopes. They are also a good defense against fail state threats.  1256  

Along with solidarity and communal intelligence, a third aspect of the Family Map is reach. The microscopic connections that link Africans together in towns and compounds also support extended kinship networks that span the entire globe. Today, African diaspora maps are reverse models of colonialism—Anglophone Africans flock to Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, even India. Francophones are more likely to be found in Europe, and lusophones have a foothold in Portugal and Brazil. Everyone comes to America—Sudanese in Atlanta, Somalis in Minneapolis, Ethiopians and Eritreans in Washington, DC. The francophones run New York.  1275  

Yet diaspora communities retain a burning stake in the day-to-day at home. At a State Department conference on diaspora engagement, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton correctly noted that diasporas “are, frankly, our Peace Corps, our USAID, our OPIC, our State Department rolled into one.”  1284  

Each week, Mamadou Barry, a Guinean living in central Ohio, puts together a radio show on topics of interest to his peers in America. “Radio show” is a generous moniker: he doesn’t have a radio frequency, or rights to broadcast, or fancy recording equipment. He doesn’t have any journalism training. But he does have a telephone. And so does everyone he knows. And so for several hours each week, GuineeView broadcasts a vibrant “talk show” using free conference call software. American users, often from francophone west Africa, dial in and join a conversation linking past and present, home and away—with a collaborative twist. When the host has a question for the audience, he asks it—and in conference call form, listeners can dial the hash key to weigh in. There are hundreds of other African immigrants who make similar efforts to debate, inform, and engage with diaspora circles. Fréquence Ganndal transmits in French and Fulani, with some religious programming as well. The Jacques Roger Show, hosted by an Ivoirien in Washington, DC, covers a news area from Burkina Faso to Senegal. Listening spikes as you’d expect: during the electoral crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, or after the 2008 death of Guinean president Lansana Conté, when reliable news sources were few and far between. Conference call radio shows are a classic kanju hack, democratizing flows of information to and from Africa. It’s light-years ahead of incumbent technologies: buying phone cards in African specialty stores (which my family still does), or sending paper letters with friends of friends who are heading home (which my family still does). Even e-mail, Skype, and Web and cable news can’t replicate the kind of chatter that might take place at home. The shows create a familiar, new-world analogue to the radio medium (until the cell phone arrived, the most pervasive and important form of communication in Africa). The most impressive example of modern diaspora engagement must be Dahabshiil, a money transfer service born in Somalia. The company allows users to drop off cash in Minneapolis and pick it up in Mogadishu or Mumbai—and the other way around. Abdirashid Duale, the Dahabshiil CEO, manages billions of dollars in international remittances. He is a trim and focused man who jets between Kenya, Somalia, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. In 1970, Duale’s father began trading as a remittance broker, manually trafficking goods between Somalia and the Gulf states and passing the proceeds back to Somali families. By 1988, he’d made the business the leading such service in the region. Unfortunately, a civil war that year dispersed over 500,000 Somalis, including Duale and his surviving family members, as refugees, all over the world. It was an unhappy time, he says. “We lost family and friends and left our homes and everything we knew. On the other hand, it challenged us to adopt and innovate in the difficult situations.” The Duales were lucky to land in London, where Somali immigrant presence is strongest. “My father recognized the opportunities this presented to help displaced communities to send money back home.” Dahabshiil started again from scratch, this time setting up outposts all over the diaspora that enabled the fractured community to keep together. “It is in the Somali culture to help one’s kith and kin, so the business has a natural cultural heritage,” he says. Because decades of government failure had left Somalia without any commercial banking services, Dahabshiil was (and still is) one of the only ways to make financial transactions for hundreds of kilometers around the Horn. The business has expanded to 144 countries since then, and the platform now enables Ethiopians, Sudanese, Rwandans, and Ugandans to send money around the world. Duale introduced the first debit card program in Somalia and employs nearly five thousand people worldwide. During recent food and conflict situations, it’s taken on a humanitarian bent: the UN, Oxfam, and Save the Children rely on Dahabshiil to smooth their operations….  1296  

Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN) that seeks to capitalize on the skills and knowledge of women straddling multiple worlds.  1333  

“I don’t think there’s any other community as connected as Africans,” she says. “Our migration around the world is still new.”  1335  

DAWN focuses on what Araia calls “role modeling.” Diaspora Africans are micro-politicians and development consultants, micro-financiers, and, increasingly, micro-ambassadors. Experience with comparatively stronger civil societies in fat economies offers a template for organizing abroad. This includes using Africans’ casual communitarianism as a tool for home country development. “Think of all the church fundraisers, your community national holiday celebrations—think of when a disaster strikes at home, how easily we can amass resources,” says Araia. “We organize in our sleep but we take it for granted.” This is the silver lining of Africa’s years of human export. And slowly, government institutions are leveraging the Family Map. The US State Department, with Araia and other stakeholders, has begun to recognize the importance of diaspora engagement. “What the State Department might call diplomacy, you might call a phone call home. What we call foreign affairs, you call family affairs,” said Maria Otero, the undersecretary of state. As the example of Dahabshiil shows, sometimes the most troubled countries have the most committed diaspora. Forced from home rather than choosing to leave, they invest in the success of lands they expect to repatriate one day. For similar reasons, diaspora has been essential to liberation struggles in Africa.  1339  

Soon after her own visit, Jones founded FACE Africa, a traditional NGO focused on water security. She and a close family friend began by going door to door, conducting a needs assessment in Grand Bassa, a county anchored by ArcelorMittal, the global steel giant. “We’re going for basic, low-tech water solutions,” she told me during our meeting in town. “Our first project, we tried using a fancy sophisticated solar filtration system and it was a complete disaster. You don’t have the local knowledge to manage this.” They’ve since determined that building wells and repairing old ones, relying on local contractors and local skills, is the surest way to meet immediate water needs. Jones returns when she can and runs the nonprofit with clear eyes about the difficulties of filling the government provision gap.  1363  

County by county, the grass-roots project is attempting large-scale, long-term solutions to state inaction. Of course, Jones is nowhere near her goal of clean, safe drinking water across Liberia. But there is much to learn from the homegrown effort.  1373  

In Liberia, I also met Shawn Winter, a twenty-three-year-old Canadian returnee who says it was the news of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s 2005 election that brought him back. “It’s meaningless to be in a country where you’ve already acquired knowledge, you’re there, you have bills, you have this and that to attend to—when you could be doing something to improve the economy of your country.” Shawn is not alone. He conveyed the mix of ambition and obligation echoed in the many conversations I’ve had with Africans in the diaspora. We’ll meet many more such bridge characters, working in areas from agriculture to technology to corporate finance. They are evidence that a younger generation of diaspora kids have re-engaged the African economies that spent the 1980s and 1990s exporting people. Rather than laboring in middle management in fat economies, many experienced young Africans have set off for home, setting up “move back clubs” to support their transition. This is the secret solace of the 2008 world financial crisis: Africa’s brain drain has become “brain gain.” Family, loosely defined, carries built-in incentives and efficiencies. It is both weapon and shield. And luckily, it’s abundant and free. While it’s the least objective and thus the most mired in challenges, it is also one of the oldest non-state networks in Africa. Our next map, however, is brand-new. 6 The Technology Map Lessons in Leapfrogging  1377  

When Nokia sold its billionth handset, it was to a Nigerian. The speedy uptake of mobile technology took even Africans by surprise. In 1999, Kenyan telecom Safaricom projected that the market might hit three million users by 2020. Seven years short of that deadline, Safaricom alone has seventeen million subscribers.  1411  

My paternal grandmother—born in the 1920s in a British colonial authority—today uses her phone to keep track of church affairs. If you are working or looking for work, your phone is essential.  1415  

Mobile data traffic in Sub-Saharan Africa is already doubling year over year. By 2020, the percentage of Africans with mobile Internet subscriptions is projected to leap from 17% to 37%.  1429  

Technology has four main features relevant not just to Africa, but to the world. It is democratic, market based, innovative, and increasingly effective for development. Combined with kanju, African tech leads us to smart, lean solutions in health, financial services, and retail distribution. And that’s just the beginning.  1438  

Wires transform London into Lusaka, and vice versa. The shift from mobile calling to mobile Web allows ordinary people across the African continent to access the same information as the wealthy world. Electron-to-electron connection has inverted the traditional division of authority in society, eliminating hierarchies across Africa. Ken Banks, an anthropologist with early exposure to the African tech scene, notes that for most African users “centralized means ‘remote,’” while “distributed” now signifies “local.” In other words, your phone puts you at the center of something. The world is not quite flat, but it’s increasingly difficult to segregate the center from the periphery.  1444  

Africa’s best challenge to Craigslist started in sleepy Limbe, Cameroon. Its creator, Fritz Ekwoge, has a moon-shaped face and easy smile that belie a ruthless entrepreneurial mind. He learned to write computer code at age sixteen—without a computer. Unable to afford a laptop or desktop, he borrowed a friend’s TI-82 calculator. “In exchange for me using it I had to write software for him to pass his math exams,” he says now, laughing. Far from being a disadvantage, this hardship has made Fritz one of the most versatile programmers on the continent. When he was still in high school, he created a protocol for simple cell phones that could turn electronics on and off remotely. It was a prank, but it established his reputation for clever hacking and laid the seeds for the mobile industry entrepreneurship he has cultivated since. In 2007, Ekwoge founded Kerawa, a website to host classifieds. Like his computer skills, this venture was born of kanju. Upon graduation from polytechnical school, he needed to move to the major city of Douala but could not for the life of him find an apartment. To fill the market hole, he coded Kerawa and began selling ads and soliciting postings. Quickly, Web users in Cameroon and nearby Ghana and Nigeria began trading goods and services online. Today, Kerawa transmits listings from forty-three different African countries (plus India). It ranks among the top thirty most-visited websites in Cameroon—beating out Craigslist itself. Ekwoge long ago quit his job at accounting multinational PricewaterhouseCoopers—a wild leap for most young Cameroonians. But his venture underscores the second important fact about technology in Africa: commercial markets are working. The explosion of charity support in Africa is founded in part upon the idea that the continent is too poor to help itself. Corruption gums up the wheels of commerce, and the impoverished African can’t afford anything—least of all markets (we’ll talk more about commercial networks in Chapter 7). But the advent of mobile phone technology has offered an unequivocal rebuke to this logic. Without aid or subsidy, Africans are willing to build and buy the tools of this new world order.  1458  

Like so many other aspects of the kanju creative ecosystem, individual adoption of mobiles has come out of necessity. Landlines are bad, or nonexistent (in fact, I’ve never used a landline in Africa). Fail states interfere as well: most businesses in Kenya, where I lived, have had to wait an average of one hundred days for landline connections to be installed—in most cases, following a bribe paid to the parastatal institutions responsible for providing services (the average amount: $117). What’s more, the unreliable infrastructure makes basic information highly asymmetric. What is the price of tomatoes on the coast? Did the teacher show up today? Has the baby come yet? The cost of not knowing the answers to these questions can be high—and without a mobile, the cost of finding out can be just as expensive. For firms and ordinary people, these explicit and implicit costs are a reason to join the mobile public square. In Niger, for instance, traveling to a market to figure out the price for a cash crop may gobble between two and four productive working hours. A brief phone call between a producer and vendor provides the answer in a fraction of the time, and at half the cost. Phones change market behavior—Nigerian grain traders with mobiles have more connections and a wider sales radius, which increases the price they can get for their goods. The opportunity for clever arbitrage is not limited to the pulsing African metropolis: especially in rural areas, recharging mobile phones is a brisk, profitable, informal-sector business model. It’s thus no surprise that Africans spend on average 10 percent of their daily wage on mobile airtime. The figure varies by country and income, but the proportion is amazing. It’s as though an individual making $30,000 a year spent $3,000 on phone calls. The demand for connection in Africa is real and growing, born of both improved purchasing power and greater sophistication about value. The economic rationale for investing in connectivity is nearly bulletproof. This logic will only strengthen as data-enabled phones proliferate. In 2010, Jim Balsillie, then CEO of BlackBerry, described the popularity of his device in emerging markets. He asked, “Is this the most expensive phone, or by far the cheapest TV you’ve ever heard of?” On the supply side, African technology is proving to be among the most exciting growth industries in the world. It’s appropriate that Mo Ibrahim, the first African billionaire, made his money from a cell phone company. When it comes to profitability, mobile phone services in east Africa now rival beer. African mobile technology companies like Vodacom, MTN, and Tigo have followed in Ibrahim’s footsteps, replicating the scramble for Africa—this time, for its consumers. Opeke is bullish about the potential. “People are willing to pay. They have a need that you can quantify in economic terms, and we as a private venture can organize and raise the capital to satisfy individual aspiration.” The ensuing price wars have been an entertaining and beneficial side effect.  1476  

Devices are being marketed just as aggressively, and in ways tailored to African markets. Phones with prepaid minutes offer strength, speed, and flexibility to users, without the Western hassle of contracts and premiums. As cheaper handsets flood the market, prices are dipping to meet Africans at their purchasing point.  1502  

McKinsey, in 2014, began tracking “iGDP,” or the contribution of web access to African economies. In South Africa, according to researchers Stefan Klonner and Patrick Nolen, phone coverage correlates to a 15 percent increase in employment—and women are the chief beneficiaries. Another much-cited 2006 study found that a 1 percent increase in mobile penetration in a given country produced a 0.6 percent increase in national growth rates. For many African nations in which the late twentieth century produced flat or negative growth, the introduction of mobile telephony is like a sudden stimulus package. The best and brightest example of converting connectivity to cash comes from Kenya’s M-Pesa, which transforms a twelve-button mobile phone into an ATM. The idea is simple. Customers deposit cash onto their mobile phones at one of the thirty-seven thousand official M-Pesa kiosks in Kenya. By producing identification, a phone number, and a PIN code, they can withdraw it at another kiosk, perhaps hundreds of kilometers away. Because mobile technology is the building block of many regional innovations, it helps to know some basic facts: In Africa, cell phones are generally not linked to specific networks. A SIM card holds a user’s number. And rather than establishing postpaid plans, with contracts and credit checks, mobile phone companies generate revenue from prepaid airtime scratch cards ranging in price from just a few minutes of talk to weeks of data downloads. The cards, sold universally at corner kiosks, hold special code numbers to load “credit” for the individual user. This produces some typically kanju uses—multiple family members sharing a simple phone, swapping the SIM card depending on who wishes to make or receive a call. Those who can afford it have developed the habit of owning multiple handsets to use on multiple networks. (The extra phone serves as insurance against service outage.) In response, Samsung came up with a phone to store two SIM cards at once—a lean economy innovation that has since been marketed to wealthier users who need to balance work and personal calls. This adaptability extends to actual minutes used. In 2005, Safaricom rolled out Sambaza, a service that lets customers send prepaid airtime to other subscribers. Callers used to real-life barter and arbitrage began using the system as a type of e-currency, swapping phone credit back and forth to settle debts or trade favors—with no transaction costs. To its credit, the telecom paid close attention to the trend and in 2007, with British Vodafone and backed by DFID, Britain’s development agency, launched a new product to allow actual money transfers between any two subscribers (for a tiny fee). I used M-Pesa to pay my cable bill, or a taxi driver, or a small businessperson, without any cash changing hands. This demonstrates the third result of technology adoption in Africa: a flood of unprecedented innovation. M-Pesa enables a range of financial services. In the event of emergency, funds can be wired to relatives or friends simply by using their phone number. Payment and collection of debts do not require face-to-face interactions. Many users “store” funds electronically in their Safaricom accounts—a kind of rudimentary savings scheme. In Africa, credit and banking services barely exist—about 80 percent of the population is unbanked, and the majority of Africans south of the Sahara have no access to credit. As a result, a significant proportion of Africa’s pesa—which means “money” in Swahili—has been hidden in mattresses or in boreholes. M-Pesa offers security, convenience, and empowerment—not to mention a long-sought ability for individuals in poor countries to build assets. The immensely popular service is now used by 65 percent of Kenyan households, and transactions amount to some $20 million daily—equivalent to 50 percent of Kenya’s annual GDP, and growing. In a society that is openly patriarchal, mobile money is gender balanced: women send money as often as men. As a phone company offering, M-Pesa…  1507  

Around a table in Lagos, I met a group of Nigerian programmers—aboveboard cousins of the Yahoo Boys. They named state power failures as one of the key hurdles to building start-ups. After all, bootstrapping is hard enough without having to think about electricity. The majority of the programmers I spoke with were completely self-taught—the victims of a listless educational system. “A lot of people encounter courses in computer science or engineering courses in university, [but] it’s wholly inadequate,” says Dejo Fabolade, a consultant and Web developer with a decade of experience in Nigeria’s tech scene. “This is the Wild West stage of Nigerian Internet entrepreneurship, in which we can’t depend on those well-laid infrastructures to be successful.” “As young guys, we face a lot of challenges. You’re running a business and you’re the president, secretary, and cleaner—there’s a limit at which you can grow,” adds Dele Odufuye, the executive director of Tsaboin, a Nigerian tech consultancy. “At a point I was attending to more than twenty people, more than fifty, and everybody wants your attention at the same time. . . . And in a situation where the infrastructures are not there, you have to connect a lot of dots together.” Coworking spaces share the burden and create a new information neighborhood that members use to learn from one another. “There’s no centralized platform for us to do this,” says Valery Colong, a programmer from Buea, Cameroon, who serves on the board of ActivSpaces. “If you come together and meet people who have the same passion like you, it gives you a sense that you’re not alone and gives you the courage to act on your business.” Colong has been working with his friend Ebot Tabi on and off for ten years. He has also partnered with Al Banda, whose background is in real estate, on an online platform to search for and sell properties in Cameroon. Says Banda: “It’s a division of labor. They may need to concentrate on the tech part of what we’re doing, and I may need to concentrate on the business part. It’s a lot easier than trying to do it all yourself.” Negotiating hardships breeds strong ties among micro-enterprises, whether industrial or digital. In the plastic economy, according to Daniels, ventures “work together to share labor, technology, and materials. When an entrepreneur gets a large order, he might ask a friend to take on some of the load. Or when supplies are tight, he might ask the friend for a loan of materials. Pooling of resources ensures that they are used efficiently by those who need them. . . . Trust is one of the most valuable assets.” Despite the globalized tools, Africa’s digital economy still looks like the informal economy on the streets outside.    1588  

key facet of kanju is flexibility—on-the-fly improvements that counter overdetermined planning instincts. Speaking at the first ever Tech 4 Africa conference in Johannesburg in 2010, Hersman described Ushahidi as “a small organization that dislikes hierarchy and being told what we can’t do—one that questions everything, embraces innovative thinking.” He described a madcap, three-day timeline from conception to launch, driven by only one overriding goal: “Launch the damn app.” This attitude is why I’m convinced the most impactful innovations of the future will come from lean economies. Call it the imagination differential. The problems—or in business-school-speak, “pain points”—facing wealthy, well-educated entrepreneurs in fat economies are galaxies away from those facing African technologists. Her- mione Way, a British entrepreneur who interviewed two hundred start-ups in the California cluster, gave this difference as the reason why California produces “Groupon clone after Groupon clone, yawn . . . yet another social media dashboard, a cloud-based enterprise solution or, worse still, another photo sharing app . . . they’re building technology to solve trivial issues.” By contrast, Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Pagatech, a Nigerian mobile payment company, left Stanford looking for another spoon. “The guy who invented the spoon,” he says, with sincere reverence, “he might not have known what he was doing, but he changed the world.” Having spent years working in the United States as a technologist for Cisco Systems, Oviosu found himself sitting in the airport on his way home to Lagos. He began a list of twenty ventures that could pass “the big-idea test” and make a difference. “The primary criterion was impact,” he says. “I wanted to say in forty years that I had done something.” His list of ventures ran the gamut—from hair extensions to fast food—but two ideas stood out. Number ten: mobile payments. Number eleven: banking the unbanked. Oviosu soon realized that these goals operated in tandem; a company that leveraged the explosion of mobile phone usage in order to allow Nigerians to build wealth would do good and do well. From the boarding gate, he called his cousin, his friends, and his parents. He had found his spoon. His company, Paga, logged its 2 millionth transaction in 2014. Of course, the technology boom bears the risk of diverting Africa’s best brains into trifling apps and first-world problem solving. But kanju keeps African innovators from aping Silicon Valley’s flaws. Ushahidi’s BRCK modem comes with an eight-hour backup generator built for African blackouts—a solution that also works in fat economies, where drained iPhone batteries expose the limits of even the sexiest technology. At the fourth annual Maker Faire Africa—a celebration of hacking and creative recycling that captures Silicon Valley’s early cyberpunk spirit—a quartet of Nigerian teenaged girls presented their riposte to the Japanese Sound Princess. Rather than a toy to mask the sound of urine, they had built a generator that runs on the stuff. (One liter gives you six hours of electricity.) Likewise, Fritz Ekwoge’s tech heroes are classically California—Jobs, Gates, Larry Ellison—but his tech instincts are all Africa. “I have grown up with calculators, not computers,” he says. “So I was trying to push the limit of what that simple device could do.” This has translated into a contemporary obsession with high-utility apps for low-budget phones. Ekwoge runs an “app store” for the most unlikely of machines: the Nokia 1100. It works because his customers are eager to improve their lives with mobile tech; the three most popular paid apps in his store are for job offers, learning English, and inspirational messages. Another application allows individuals without fast Web access or constant electricity to be alerted by mobile when they have received new e-mails. When we tried it with my e-mail account and Nokia feature phone, I was delighted to see the first several…  1624  

FrontlineSMS, allows any mobile phone owner to send a bulk text message far beyond his or her immediate circles. Installed on any desktop or laptop computer, the free, open-source software becomes a digital megaphone that can be helpful in a wide variety of situations—party invitations, reminders about schoolwork, and, in some cases, vital health information.* Medic Mobile, built on the skeleton of Frontline in 2009, allows clinical workers to reach huge populations with information about drugs when they arrive, appointments when they are needed, and reminders that malaria season is nigh. Previously, rural community health workers had to walk or bike tens of kilometers to submit data and other progress reports on health services. During the initial pilot in Malawi, reporting with cell phones saved hospital staff 1,200 hours of follow-up time and some $3,000 in fuel for motorcycles. Today, versions of the patient management tool operate in Cameroon, Kenya, Mali, Uganda, and South Africa, as well as in Haiti, Honduras, India, and Bangladesh. Frontline is another kanju technology. Distributed data management leapfrogs the frustrations of the status quo. Instead of requiring patients to commute to health care, health care can reach people where they are—through the simple magic of a text message. Importantly, the platform is two-way. Enlisting users as monitors generates data sets for better service delivery. Just knowing when a child has been born, for example, offers a boost to immunization services, where the timing of childhood vaccinations is essential to their efficacy. The ability to quickly summon or dispatch an ambulance (even if it is a bicycle) or a skilled birth attendant is the number-one factor in determining whether women live or die in childbirth. In the absence of state-run “911” emergency services, Mobile Medic is a life saver.  1668  

Mxit, for example, is the biggest virtual social network you’ve never heard of. Built as instant messaging technology, Mxit had fifty million users in sub-Saharan Africa, and in South Africa boasted more users than Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter combined. Unlike, say, Facebook, Mxit has proven a tool for socially conscious developers, generating more than mindless advertising, or Words With Friends. Mxit offers a foundation upon which others can build high-context solutions for Africa. Its Hello Doctor application, one recent success story, brings cloud-based medical services—symptom checkers and live chats with practitioners—to a captive audience. It’s an information management and dissemination tool. Users who are already spending their days in the Mxit family can now access tips and updates about their health.  1685  

Most of the clinical workers have never used a computer before, says Oliver Gadabu, a researcher at Baobab. “The closest they have come to a computer is a basic cell phone.” A touchscreen flashing foolproof instructions—rather like the devices that log orders at a restaurant—bridges the distance. Doctors now know when a patient was last seen, for what, and by whom. They know who has had malaria or been tested recently for HIV. With mobile phone numbers, they can call patients who have missed an appointment. X-ray technicians can see a patient’s previous scans dating to 2005. EDS enables “point-of-care” use as well, in which the computer is live in the consultation room with a patient—an innovation few fat economies have accomplished.  1703  

In the same way that Ekwoge makes dumb phones smart, Baobab strives to deploy technology fit for Africa. It seeks more effective solutions than the broken, donated MRI in Somaliland or the UN’s exorbitantly expensive Microsoft Excel training scheme for Ugandan women. Traditional desktop and laptop computers succumb to power surges, viruses, and airborne dust in places like Malawi, and donors or governments find themselves replacing them every year. By contrast, the Baobab models consume tiny amounts of power, are easy to use, test, and replace, and are robust enough to last for years. The secret is local talent and design. In an open workroom in the center of Lilongwe, Baobab hosts more than a dozen Malawian programmers skilled in hardware and software engineering, and steeped in the design challenges unique to Africa. “We put in computer systems that are well designed for our settings, for the developing world in general,” says Mumba. “We try not to just take a computer system that’s designed elsewhere but ask, ‘What are the components, what are the features that we need?’” I grilled the engineers about whether hacking old computers makes more sense than importing fancy tablets or “One Laptop” Toughbooks. They made a good case for upcycling. “We don’t have to wait for someone to fly to the country to fix any challenge we face with the software we develop here,” says Gadabu. “We think of these problems from the moment we begin engineering the solutions we deploy.” Electronic medical records aren’t an African invention. But they show extreme promise where the floor for health services is so low. Better data management helps doctors, nurses, community health workers, and laypeople give and receive better care, despite strained resources. The electronic accounting means fewer drugs get stolen or lost in the shuffle. When clinics run out of medicine, we know. And for diseases like tuberculosis, the ability to monitor patient compliance helps prevent monster strains from spreading. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USAID have since supported Baobab with small grants, as has the Malawian Ministry of Health. The software has attracted notice in Rwanda, Kenya, and Zambia. Mumba created an open-source Firefox extension that has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.  1721  

West African innovators have created a truly elegant response. Today in Nigeria, pharmacy customers find that some drugs come with a scratch-off label that reveals a numeric code. With a free SMS, the patient can verify whether the drug is real or fake. The simple, red-light-green-light system was repurposed directly from the scratch card economy associated with mobile phones. With the ease of loading airtime, the service gives consumers ownership of their consumption of health products. And for drug makers wary of recalls and public relations disasters—not to mention revenue lost to the black market—the encrypted code on every product is a million-dollar idea. The innovation is the brainchild of Bright Simons, who may have the perfect name for an African social entrepreneur. Simons grew up in Ghana and came of age at a time when pro-democracy movements and mobile technologies hit his region with twin force. After time as a university student known for rabble-rousing activism, he wanted to stop talking and actually do something that made a difference. “I thought entrepreneurship was really cool, that you could really build something you can use to make your lives better.” Simons had been working with farmers in Ghana on fair trade practices and organic certification. He paired his experience with reputation verification in agricultural trade with his graduate study of China in Africa. Like mobile phone usage, Chinese business dealings with African governments and companies had begun to hockey-stick in the early 2000s, bringing with them a spike in counterfeiting—particularly medicines.  1770  

Simons began mPedigree in 2007 as an explicit social response to a public health catastrophe. mPedigree’s first pilot program, in 2008, put scratch codes on liquid Tylenol for toddlers in Ghana. The model worked just as planned. After receiving small-dollar grants from business competitions and foundations in the United States, Simons and a growing team began constructing partnerships with telecoms operating in Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana, and Cameroon. His approach was to get pharmaceutical companies interested in the service, and to use telecoms to make it available to ordinary Africans (the mobile network operator would front the cost of the SMS). To both sides, Simons stressed a kind of corporate social responsibility to protect consumers. By 2010, he had received a glut of international praise for his efforts and funding from bigger partners. He’d gotten all the major telecoms in Nigeria to agree on one number for consumer feedback. Hewlett-Packard came on board to manage the label printing and code generation. Over the same time period, a company called Sproxil launched a similar service. Founded by another Ghanaian and one-time mPedigree employee named Ashifi Gogo, Sproxil has secured $1.8 million in equity funding from the Acumen Fund and has more than two dozen employees in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, India, and the United States. Both companies have earned the approval of relevant government regulators, and both partner with multinational companies: mPedigree works through telecoms Airtel, Orange, Glo, and MTN. Sproxil supplies codes for Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline, as well as local drug distributors. Their work has been recognized by big names in development: Gogo by the Clinton Global Initiative and Acumen, Simons by the World Economic Forum and Ashoka. In 2012, Sproxil celebrated its one millionth SMS verification request. Both ventures are learning a lot about how to expose fake drugs in Africa. Neither operation prosecutes offenders; instead they pass on valuable data to government actors on the hook for stopping crime. When three hundred blisters of Lonart, a popular antimalarial drug, went missing in Nigeria, Sproxil was able to track the range of serial codes to a local pharmacy and, eventually, the distributor who had stolen the product. The data are equally attractive to companies, which can track the geographic clustering of fakes, or the repeat offenders who are stealing their brand. The system also encourages community policing, says Gogo. “It’s a deterrent,” he notes. “Any consumer that walks into a pharmacy can say, ‘Hey, I texted in a fake,’ or, ‘I have a hotline for the Nigerian FDA and I’m going to call them now and they’re going to close the shop.’ For two fake drugs you sell, you’re going to lose your shop. So you better cut the crap.” The ICT 4 D trend is sometimes caricatured as a humanitarian movement—saving babies with cell phones. And yes, many of the tech entrepreneurs I encountered were building ventures that plug a social hole. But as mPedigree begins to show, ICT can also help solve more mundane and commercial inefficiencies.  1786  

Virtual City aims to ease the circulation of goods and services in east Africa. Founded by John Waibochi, a thirty-something Kenyan engineer trained in Michigan, Virtual City markets itself as “a mobility solutions company” that concentrates on supply chains in Africa. “How does a commodity leave from a smallholder farmer to first-level processing, second-level processing, all the way out to export? And what are the inefficiencies there?” asks Waibochi. It turns out there are lots of them. Moving a container inland from Senegal to Burkina Faso costs $10,000 (and waiting time at fifty-five different checkpoints).* His business, which bested entrants from fifty-four countries to win a $1 million mobile innovation prize from Nokia, uses mobile technology to “automate the entire value chain,” he says. “We will automate the buying process of a smallholder farm using mobile devices, mobile weigh scales, mobile printing, smart cards for the farmer, whatever—and capture that accurately and honestly.” African corporations, research institutions, and small and medium-size enterprises prefer to concentrate on their core business, whether it’s gathering medical information or selling milk. But in the absence of first-world distribution networks, they need help. Waibochi admits that the lean economy is a key driver of demand for his business, and that Virtual City would have struggled just five years ago. “You may find you have started this initiative or this company to do this great product, and you spend 60 percent of your time running the company, whether it’s dealing with power issues or dealing with cost issues, or dealing with the Internet going down,” he says. New connective infrastructure and widespread mobile usage enabled him to sand down the business of doing business in Africa. His generative solution improves the consumer choice of millions.   The Technology Map isn’t just about clever apps. Rather, it is a platform for self-direction. It helps people to exit systems over which they have no control—and to make better decisions where they do. Talking with me about Ushahidi, Juliana Rotich made the case for locally grown projects. “As participants in the new knowledge economy, [we] have the opportunity to create apps that serve the needs of everybody—and we’re not going to wait for Western developers to create apps for us; we’re going to do it ourselves.” This is why technology matters in Africa: it is unbiased—supporting both formal and informal economic activity. It reduces information asymmetries and helps to repave well-worn paths of development policy. And it’s an ironic foil to government dysfunction—deployed as a solution to problems that central institutions have shown themselves poorly equipped to tackle.  1812  

stronger, and linked to a faster network with more people. It is this exponential value that gives African technology the power to break the chains of institutional failure: rather than doing good in a single corner of a single village in a single country, modern connective technologies create a world of opportunity accessible literally from thin air.  1834  

commercial activity is a powerful, shovel-ready network in Africa. Here is some prosperity porn: Africa provides a higher rate of return on investment than any other developing region of the world—including the celebrated “BRIC” nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Seven of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world are African. Behind the dusty feet in the UN poster, the African middle class is booming. Its members are not oil barons or oligarchs. These are the people who have steady jobs, who own property, perhaps even a car (though it may end up parked halfway through the month when gas prices pinch). Health emergencies don’t knock them to the mat. They indulge in tiny luxuries in the form of a movie ticket, imported sweets, or a fancier mobile phone and make larger investments in cable television, home computers, or a decent private education for their children. In 1998, business strategists C. K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart first introduced the business world to consumers at the “Bottom of the Pyramid”—the “BOP” for short. The BOP is the most numerous and least wealthy demographic around the world (the well-off inhabit the top of the pyramid). The African Development Bank estimates that there are now up to 350 million people at the middle of the pyramid—a population the size of the United States making up to ten times the poverty benchmark of $2 per day. This doesn’t mean there aren’t massive inequalities in virtually every African economy. Or that the African “middle class” looks like its equivalent in a fat economy. But the conventional stories and statistics about money in Africa no longer apply—if they ever did. “A low GDP per capita says that Nigerians can’t afford mobile phones. Yet there are over 60 million mobile subscribers in Nigeria,” says Zain Latif, a private equity investor focused on sub-Saharan Africa. “Obviously something doesn’t add up.” This century, huge opportunities exist for producers who can peer past historic blinders. They’ll find highly complex local, regional, and global markets that enjoy near-universal participation. As it happens, Africans are willing and able to buy or sell just about anything to just about anyone—if the price and product are right.  1855  

Africa’s commercial map is defined by great flexibility. Consumers in fat economies are used to accepting products as packaged and marketed, and paying fixed prices. Not so in Africa, where arbitrage and valuation are essential survival skills.  1884  

We’ve already seen community finance help Davis Karambi with school fees. In Cameroon, tontines, or social lending circles, have long met the capital needs of small businesses as well. Groups of men pool resources, meet regularly, and share the pot of savings on a predetermined basis. This “merry-go-round” arrangement, known academically as a rotating savings and credit association, keeps money from slipping through the fingers of those without banks. If a group member wants to finance a project or pay away an immediate problem, he or she can bid to win the entire pot, with interest rates determined by the group. This credit aspect adds a twist: “It’s a common decision based on what they think your ability to repay is,” says Rebecca Enonchong, the Cameroonian businesswoman. Among these informal networks of friendly borrowers, default rates are very low.  1913  

Massmart, the big-box retailer operating in twelve African countries, was acquired by Wal-Mart in 2011—evidence of a coming tsunami of high-volume, low-margin retail opportunities. Jumia, a Nigerian-grown e-commerce website, raised €20 million for its promise as the “Amazon of Africa.” Where incumbents like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and Japan’s Rakuten have steered clear of Africa’s huge consumer market, Jumia’s operations in Nigeria and five other countries are a way to capture that value first. In each of these businesses, canny African entrepreneurs repurpose existing models and adapt them for local convenience.  1927  

You can find Dahabshiil kiosks in Columbus, Ohio, and Doha, Qatar, as well as across the African continent. Mobile money kiosks are now as common as coffee in east Africa. And, of course, these services rely on a widespread network of informal shopkeepers to build their business. In the marketplace, social differences disappear. Yes, certain tribes, elites, and religious or other groups self-deal in parts of the region. But trade is perhaps Africa’s only universal language. It creates and reinforces social ties and provides an alternative to state-citizen relationships.  1940  

The appeal of commerce in Africa also boils down to accountability. A long-running debate among development hands asks whether less fortunate communities are better served by charity or by commercial products. Those who believe in giveaways argue that the poor should spend their limited resources on food, shelter, or education rather than, say, an antimalarial bed net. Strategic handouts, they argue, can offer a hand up. Those on the side of free markets claim that free things are without value, to the poor or to anyone. Free bed nets are doomed to be misused for fishing or as wedding veils, not used as shrouds against disease. While research on this issue supports both claims, markets have the advantage of reflecting the real values of individuals and groups in a way aid does not. Markets generate a built-in opportunity for ordinary people to express choice. Consumers and producers are equal partners in transactions; as we’ve seen, donors and recipients are not. Free goods (shoes, laptops, or medicine) may be very important to their recipients. But without commercial agency, donees are subject to the well-intentioned guesses of outsiders. What’s more, markets solve the scalability problem. More often than not, a smart new practice stops at the clinic or farm level, bounded by an isolated information neighborhood, the equipment required, or the budget of the NGO that developed it. As we’ll see, commercial viability is a proven path to scale. At bottom, the argument for aid money rests on a kind of paternalism that is, in many cases, unnecessary: consumers in sub-Saharan Africa often choose to spend their money on goods that are “good.” The biggest household expenditures on the continent are food, shelter, and transport. Health care is a frequent out-of-pocket expense. So is education. Generally, even the poorest in Africa are value rather than price sensitive. If consumers can see a product’s benefit, they will buy it. The totally unsubsidized uptake of mobile phones in Africa is just one key proof.  1949  

The predatory governments that spirit away money earmarked for roads and other public services often do the same for education. For years in Uganda, just 13 percent of discretionary government funds reached the schools they were intended to support.  1993  

More controversially, Bridge is not free. Tuition is bare-bones—something like $5 per pupil per month, and payable on flexible terms. But it presents a strong philosophical distinction from the fail state economy. “We are a retail service to our parents,” says May, Bridge’s CSO. “The definition of poverty is that there are things that you want that you can’t buy—things that would make your life better or make it easier for you to survive, you don’t have the ability to acquire. Often that’s because of price points. We drive the price point low enough so [parents] can become a consumer of that product.” Bridge received early-stage equity funding from New Enterprise Associates, the philanthropic Omidyar Network, Khosla Ventures, and Learn Capital, and each school’s customer base helps cover each school’s operating costs. Running the schools for profit “is a direct shortcut to accountability,” says Kimmelman. “If teachers don’t show up, parents aren’t going to pay. If they don’t believe their kids are learning, they’re not going to pay and the school’s going to go out of business,” he adds. “As a result you see much lower levels of absenteeism on average among these low-cost private schools, and on average you see higher performance in terms of the kids’ academics.” Indeed, privately schooled young Africans do better on average than peers on math and English tests. According to annual third party evaluations, even the lowest-performing Bridge students are beating out their peers at government and other private schools. In reading fluency, the gap is as high as 205 percent. Bridge is an innovation for the bottom of the pyramid, responding to a market need with market forces. As such, it operates like a well-oiled education factory. The schools themselves are sited with corporate precision; before entering a given community, a team maps out competing schools, access to transport, and the maximal potential uptake in students and builds a school right in the crosshairs. Smartphones eliminate the need for secretaries, bursars, principals, and other administrators, and each academy runs with an average of three non-teaching staff members. Tuition is paid using mobile money, and staff salaries are, too. Part of what makes Bridge possible is scripted instruction. Teachers are plucked from local communities and equipped with 350 hours of Bridge doctrine before beginning two-year contracts. In the classroom, they read from scripts containing instructions by the noun and by the minute. To relieve novice teachers of the burden of content expertise and lesson planning, Bridge focus-grouped the ideal methodology for teaching, say, fractions, or how to use whom, and deployed it in hundreds of classrooms.  2000  

Bridge thus leverages a typical corporate form: highly centralized and decentralized at once. The company can make the large-scale investments in training, testing, pedagogy, and day-to-day administration that mom-and-pop shops cannot. It can also expand rapidly; in winter 2013, Bridge opened fifty-one schools in one month. In fall 2013, it opened another eighty outposts, for a total of sixty-five thousand students. Kimmelman, who previously built the education management company Edusoft* in America, uses the fitting analogy of a Starbucks or McDonald’s restaurant—eerily consistent across the globe: “It’s really weird and really amazing and it works.” The company won’t be profitable until it’s educating 500,000 students but intends to be serving 10 million children by 2025. The plan isn’t so far-fetched: nursery and primary education for families living on less than $2 per day is a $51 billion market globally. “We’re not trying to market some product no one’s heard of, where they don’t understand it or don’t know why they want it,” says May. “There’s incredible pent-up demand for what we’re trying to provide, and it’s about showing how we’re providing the thing they want already.” For parents who, Jacob tells me, “do not have time or money” to supplement the public school experience—or are poorly educated themselves—an affordable, reliable basic primary education for their children is a genuinely attractive investment.  2032  

Beginning in 1998, KickStart began selling foot-powered pumps that draw water from deep beneath the ground, giving the smallholder farmer control over the heavens and the harvest. The company works in Tanzania, Mali, Kenya, and Burkina Faso and exports pumps to countries where it doesn’t have full programs, including Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia. The pump is guaranteed for one year and doesn’t require maintenance or fuel that farmers can’t afford. “You only need your energy,” says Moon. “They are deliberately low-capital, labor-intensive technologies.” Their distributed sales staff offers basic training on how to assemble and operate the pump and leaves the farmers with a tool to boost their income—hence the most popular model’s name: the MoneyMaker Max.  2060  

The best-selling “Super” pump is about $100 and the smaller hip pump is $70. There are layaway plans for their cash-strapped clientele. “We’re approaching these people as investors,” says Regina Kamau, a development officer at KickStart. “We know that not everyone is going to buy the pump, but the majority will because they realize it’s an opportunity.”   Private solutions for education and agriculture are a huge opportunity in Africa—not least because so many millions depend on learning and farming to get by. Likewise, the most exciting innovations for health care are private.  2074  

According to a report from the International Finance Corporation, the private-sector arm of the World Bank, an astonishing 50 percent of the total spent on health south of the Sahara is financed with “out-of-pocket payments from its largely impoverished population.” Public and private treatment centers I visited in Kenya, Uganda, and Malawi were strictly “pay as you go.” It works a little bit like top-ups for cell phone airtime: pony up the fee for a consultation and only then can you see the doctor. If you’re bleeding profusely, you still might have to stop to buy bandages, and in some government hospitals, blood transfusions are frequently the responsibility of the patient. It’s not crazy to see a Facebook message announcing a same-day blood drive for a friend in need. Some pregnant women arrive at hospitals with “mommy kits” containing the bandages and syringes they suspect the clinic might lack.  2086  

Since 2005 in Uganda, Quality Chemical Industries Ltd. (QCIL) has been scaling up the private drug-making game. The for-profit venture emerged from a partnership between Cipla and a local chemical company. Logically, QCIL has focused its business on cranking out ARVs and antimalarials for local use, avoiding the need to buy everything or be handed everything from abroad. QCIL makes 100 million ARV doses per month, enough to serve three million patients in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, the DRC, and South Sudan. It’s one of only a handful of plants certified by the World Health Organization on the African continent. Making drugs for Africa in Africa changes the game completely. Rather than allowing Indian or American drug makers to capture that value, QCIL replaces imports and creates local jobs so that ordinary people can finance their lives. As the health needs of the local population increase (Uganda’s incidence of HIV has been rising by about 1 percent annually since 2008), the ability to produce locally means fewer procurement headaches and more saved lives—a big sustainability advantage. In private equity circles, QCIL was voted the small-cap deal of the decade in 2012, but like Good African coffee, it wasn’t a go from the start. Even after the local Ugandan team had brokered the deal with Cipla, direct foreign investors and even the International Finance Corporation all backed away from the investment. “Institutions tend to focus on safe investments,” says Zain Latif, the fund manager who sank his money into the plant. “People want to see the white face, not the black face.” Against the grain, his firm put its faith in the local managers and the pent-up demand. QCIL made its investors $18 million in 2011 and $56 million in 2012. A 2013 equity investment valued the firm at over $100 million. Buying and selling human development in this way makes some people cringe. There are obvious drawbacks to inserting a profit motive into flows of local or global social democracy or humanitarianism. It’s callous to withhold beneficial medication or nutritious food from the illiquid—which can sometimes include the continent’s fledgling middle class. But where there is no official welfare or safety net, some of Africa’s needs are exceptional business opportunities. Like it or not, the need for “mommy kits” has created an industry of mommy-kit vendors. State failures are market failures, and invitations to kanju thinking. Fail states have enabled a new kind of start-up culture.  2164  

Safer than cash, the “halfway house” is an unusual savings instrument.* Brick by brick, even the very poor are doing their level best to build assets. If the clever cryptocurrency in Mombasa tells us anything, it’s that creative accounting and finance anchor the kanju economy. But human capital is also underused. Unemployment in both the formal and informal sectors is a big problem in Africa (as everywhere). It’s why the poor tend to articulate their desires not in terms of aid, GDP growth, or even cash at hand, but in terms of stability. More than a sturdy house, low-income households prefer a steady job. For all the kanju creativity in Africa’s marginal economies, reliable income is uniformly coveted. The practical value of a job goes back to the Family Map—typically, a single wage earner in sub-Saharan Africa supports a household of half a dozen other people. But work is equally a matter of dignity and, as we’ll discuss in Chapter 9, of youth empowerment.  2196  

“Macrofinance” is not trickling down to ordinary workers, in part because major multinational banks and institutional investors haven’t figured out how to take smaller capital needs seriously. “If you want to build a bridge and you need three hundred million dollars, you’ll get the money in no time,” says Ashifi Gogo, who runs Sproxil, the mobile drug checker. Less than that is a hard sell, he says. For managers sitting on a $100 million fund (on the small side of the new boom), it’s a headache to hand it out $1 million at a time. Big banks tend to chase marquee projects with lower risk—aluminum factories and shopping malls. Most don’t take chances on entrepreneurs like Emanuel. Even among formal-sector firms, risk aversion leads to lower access for borrowers. Banks prefer to lend based on short-term cash flow projections rather than innovation or social impact. What’s more, banks provide capital alone, and no support in thinking about business strategy. Even some microfinance models backstop loans with training that encourages smart business, health, and environmental practices. But at commercial banks, as one review put it, “the availability and dedication of [staff] to spend time with SMEs, to fully understand their business and requirements, sadly is not always a priority.”  2284  

Gogo’s and Enonchong’s ventures fall into what’s now known in development circles as the “missing middle” between microfinance and traditional banking capital. Many promising SMEs are asking for investments of as low as $30,000 to get moving. These capital needs are tiny by global standards but stretch much further in Africa. Businesses at this size create jobs more consistently than the mega-infrastructure projects that have kept GDP growth rates so high this decade. But the prevailing culture of banking is depriving a key sector of the economy of the oxygen it needs to live. As a result of this “missing middle” for finance, emerging market entrepreneurs rely disproportionately on informal finance, making up between 87 and 100 percent of outside capital raised.  2294  

According to the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), approximately 80 percent of start-up capital for small and medium enterprises in Somalia was funded from remittances. Social networks in Africa have fueled the venture capital–style investments to date. Unfortunately, informal finance can’t stretch as far as it needs to, in part because African lenders and borrowers are still poor. Even when a better-off “uncle” serves as an angel investor, small firms “don’t have a growth vision,” says Moses Mwaura of Enablis. “Your nieces grow up, and you employ them in the business. You humble along and bumble along. That’s a big problem.”  2299  

“Over the years, we’ve seen several strong for-profit enterprises serving the BOP that we were eager to invest in—but who ultimately found it too difficult to compete with other companies that had received large grant support from well-meaning philanthropists.” The past few years have seen hopeful points of convergence between better aid and better trade: the storied “public-private partnership.” The uninspiring version of a PPP involves liquid Chinese banks financing mega-highways for shrugging African governments. A better version encourages local businesses to expand by accessing needed debt. This used to be (and remains) very difficult for the hiring class of SMEs. But in 2009, the Africa Commission (run by the Danish government) inaugurated a loan guarantee facility that would offer $3 billion to banks that lend to small businesses. USAID, the American aid agency, has also tried to nudge banks into taking more development-focused risks with their investments. These public guarantees of private enterprise blunt the uncertainty of lending to an entrepreneur like Emanuel who lacks a credit history or guarantor.* They’re a welcome hint of support for the informal in Africa, and a good way to lower the risk involved in market-based solutions. Importantly, these transactions are neither charity nor equity—merely a recognition that financing a small-scale business in, say, Accra, can and should look different from funding a mature company in Amsterdam. In addition to encouraging investment, perhaps the most important prescription for markets in Africa is to provide support for the informal sector—for workers like Emanuel. “Governments have never tried to find ways of making them grow,” says Aleke Dondo. “Given that the informal sector is so large in Africa, why do we pretend by continuing to support the formal sector? Let us put in resources, budget for it, and try to promote it. Because it’s a big sector in terms of employment creation.”  2332  

The African continent has a power problem. Only one in every three people has access to reliable electricity. Often, there just isn’t enough to go around: total generation capacity for the forty-eight sub-Saharan countries is roughly equal to that of Spain annually. State distribution lines, if they exist at all, are notoriously fickle. Never mind the “last mile” of distribution: in too many places, light never makes it to the first.  2413  

In Voggu, a rural settlement in the northern region of Ghana, DiCampo captured a head teacher at a local high school grading papers with a flashlight. He’s found a way to do his job, but many teachers in rural areas prefer to commute back to homes in the city, where power is more constant. It’s common for them to skip one or two days of school each week. Thus energy poverty in Africa traps the region in real poverty. Students who can’t do their homework after sunset don’t do well in school. Mothers who cook with dirty charcoal expose themselves to worrying indoor air pollution, the equivalent of smoking packs of cigarettes daily. Children—often young girls—who fetch firewood across long distances do so at the risk of being attacked on their way. Kerosene lamps account for an alarming number of burns and fires. In urban areas without reliable power, the building blocks of business—a tailor’s sewing machine, a contractor’s bandsaw—depend on access to a generator. When available resources can’t cover the cost, business stops entirely. We sit in the dark. It’s a breathtaking drain on productivity—a forgone loss of 2.2 percent of GDP growth annually. It’s a kanju miracle that anything happens at all. It should be no surprise to learn that sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest carbon footprint in the world. World Bank figures suggest that the average use of basic electricity in high-income countries is over 10,000 kilowatt-hours per person per year. The average African uses about twenty times less. The energy New York’s 19.5 million people consume every year covers nearly 800 million on the continent. Excluding South Africa, the region is the only part of the world where per capita consumption of electricity is decreasing.  2427  

As I amble through Dar es Salaam after dark, the motivations for new methods are obvious. Every third storefront is lit with a naked incandescent bulb, the next with a kerosene lamp, and the next lit not at all. A dozen young men play football in an open lot on the edge of the city. A dozen more watch perched atop a half-hewn concrete wall, cheering until it is too dim to see the ball. The Tanzanian company EGG-energy has given itself a simple job: bringing electricity to the country’s doorstep. Subscribers pay EGG to install electric wiring in their homes, and for access to rechargeable batteries needed to power the same. The batteries are charged centrally and plug right into the newly wired households. When the old battery wears out, subscribers return it to one of EGG’s depots in exchange for a new one. Founder Jamie Yang likes to describe the model, which has also seen success in India, as “Netflix for energy.” EGG operates for profit, which “enforces a certain discipline,” says Yang. Like other kanju solutions, Tanzanians are willing to pay for the system because they are already paying a price. Energy poverty isn’t cheap; stakeholder surveys estimate that families in Tanzania spend $125 annually—almost 40 percent of household income—on one-and-done batteries and piecemeal access to power for charging cell phones. Like their counterparts in the rest of Africa, most Tanzanians also buy charcoal or kerosene to light and cook after dark. Second, they realize no cavalry is coming: TANESCO, the Tanzanian power authority, has privatized electricity generation, but not distribution—which is still atrocious. Seventy percent of residents don’t have electricity but live within three miles of a cable. “A lot of areas you will see power lines running overhead but they have no access,” says Yang. “You find people who live within spitting distance of a transmission line. Ask when they think they’ll get power and they’ll laugh in your face.” By contrast, EGG is a convenient alternative—with a sense of comparative permanence. Once the household has paid for installation, the home is wired, with real overhead sockets and wall switches (in case TANESCO ever gets it together). The batteries are imported from China, but the other inputs come from local markets and are installed by local employees. To a bystander, EGG-energy appears no different from grid energy, at roughly half the cost. Most importantly, the informal economy does EGG’s legwork. The company runs central charging and swapping stations but also enlists kiosk owners to stock its batteries alongside the soaps, chocolates, and mobile airtime typically for sale. When a subscriber swaps out a battery, the kiosk owner gets a cut. “We’re trying to use the same distribution networks that already exist,” says Yang, “people who go around selling produce on motorbikes, who walk eggs on bicycles or use wheelbarrows.” These extended networks enable EGG to reach ordinary people 30 or 40 kilometers outside the biggest city. It’s a marriage of high and low technology that solves the last-mile problem with feet. EGG is just one of dozens of examples. In addition to Solar Sister, firms like Nuru Energy, d.light Design, Sunny Money, Mobisol, and Fenix International have similar schemes for distributing low-cost, off-grid energy solutions to those who need them most. Nuru solar lamps, sold for profit mostly in Rwanda, can be charged from the sun or by pedaling a bicycle. Mobisol sells solar panels via layaway payments made by mobile phone. D.light, which designs and sells lamps rugged and cheap enough for the bottom of the pyramid, sold lamps to 30 percent of Tanzania’s Mafia Island in less than a week by making the basic argument that it would help children learn. Where the current model is grounded in central monopolies, these smaller businesses compete to help illuminate that which the state does not reach. Fenix International deploys the most explicitly market-based model for both the sale and the design of a renewable energy…  2474  

Orun Energy, developed a clever hack: a generator and batteries that could hook up to cell phone towers that were running on diesel. Power flows from the grid when it is available, but when the state “takes light,” the system cuts to a backup supply that doesn’t rely on diesel inputs. During the pilot in Ghana, Smith held his breath that it would work. When Orun reviewed the data from control towers, they found a 72 percent reduction in diesel use. It wasn’t totally clean energy, but it was cleaner. Smith spent the better part of three years getting Orun’s efficiency to a self-reported 90 percent. Now he is offering large corporates relief from the expense of private, dirty energy. He’s not the first to work with telecoms on targeted energy efficiency. As in the exploding market for individual solar solutions, dozens of African companies are building businesses that fix the power problem for corporations. In 2012, the Nigerian company IHS, which runs four thousand wireless towers in five countries, launched the continent’s largest solar-powered “cell site.” The mini solar farm keeps local lines of communication humming and will reduce carbon dioxide outputs by 24,000 tons a year. Smith rubbed his palms as he detailed the familiar docket of fail state problems that have frustrated Orun in the short term. By dramatically reducing fuel consumption, the company is also challenging what Smith calls the “diesel mafia.” It’s a consortium of private thugs and well-connected civil servants who capitalize on public rationing and subsidies for petrol. Millions of residents depend utterly on diesel generators for comfort and livelihoods—a rent-seeking opportunity that no one cedes without a struggle. When in early 2012 Nigeria ended (and then partially reinstated) its longtime fuel subsidy, it was to arrest the $6 billion flow of “diesel mafia” graft. Crooks and profiteers aside, most people in Africa hope that national electric grids improve, and soon. But kanju lessons learned in their absence are crucial for the local and global energy innovation ecosystem. Retail alternative energy products are much more prevalent in lean economies than in fat ones. It’s a corollary to marketing theory: the best customers are those who are pushed rather than pulled into using new products. The technologies are far from native to sub-Saharan Africa. But the general dysfunction in large-scale production, distribution, and consumption of energy serves as an aggressive “push” to adopt alternatives. Take William Kamkwamba, the Malawian boy who became a global celebrity in 2007. After reading a local library book on wind power, fourteen-year-old William fashioned a working windmill using a tractor belt, plastic scraps, and bike parts. His incredible story landed him a mention in Oprah’s Book Club and a spot at Dartmouth College. Like  2530  

In Wimbe, his windmill still stands. Instead of buying paraffin and kerosene to light their home, the family uses the 18 to 30 volts of electricity generated with each windmill revolution to live free from darkness. William’s curiosity and drive allowed his family to leap completely off the grid—no state power cuts interfere with their way of life. Just as importantly, his invention overhauled his family’s farming practice. The windmill is helping to irrigate the Kamkwamba crops: peanuts, tobacco, maize, sweet potatoes, and beans. His father told me that before the windmill, the family could harvest some twenty bags of maize annually. With wind-powered pump irrigation, the farm produces more than a hundred. William’s solution is unusual but the problem is not. Agriculture continues to be the most common use of sub-Saharan land—the beating heart of the region’s past, present, and future. All told, agriculture makes up nearly two-thirds of employment, one-third of GDP, and more than one in five businesses. Africa is the second-largest landmass in the world, with more potential farmland than Latin America or Asia. Soil, not oil, is its most abundant natural resource. Diverse climates across the continent can support cash crops like cocoa, tea, and coffee, basic cereals like wheat, sorghum, and barley, pulses and legumes, sweet potatoes and cassava, exotic fruit, fish and livestock, and virtually all of the vegetables we know about.  2553  

On paper, Africa’s farm production is growing at a rate of 12 percent—about double that of other economic sectors—since the late 1990s. This should be a huge boon to the population. Unfortunately, real income from farming is hard to come by. At planting time, many smallholder farmers are stuck with Stone Age tools, unimproved seeds, and inadequate fertilizer. At harvest, many more lack storage to house or roads to distribute their crops. Though arable land in Africa is abundant, only 4 percent of it is irrigated (compared with 58 percent in India and 55 percent in China). Not all farmers have formal rights to profit from property. Some land is state owned, some is communal, and much is expensive. Most small-scale agriculture in Africa has faltered.  2567  

As of 2008, 80 percent of African countries spent less than 10 percent of their budgets on agricultural development. What is spent is intended to cheapen inputs like seeds, rather than to train farmers in how to cultivate them. More consequential is the lack of substantive land reforms across Africa. States play an inherent and important role in supporting and enforcing land tenure, property rights, and title deeds. The absence of focused policies crafted to support smallholders without formal ownership rights has created an unstable, ad hoc framework for families like Gladys’s and has reduced incentives to invest in land. And, of course, agriculture was excluded from the MDG framework. Some of the crisis is due to troubling demographic trends.  2589  

The same rural-to-urban transition that has made more than half the world into city dwellers has undercut agricultural expertise.  2596  

There’s still a robust debate about how to take advantage of the land dividend. Some development economists are encouraging small-scale farms to give up the hardscrabble routine of hoe, plant, pray—and embrace the large-scale industrial farming that has allowed countries like the United States, Australia, and Brazil to feed themselves and export cash crops. Others advocate an aggressive focus on the “one acre” plots that are so prevalent in Africa and other developing parts of the world. For the mega-farming enthusiasts, Fitsum Hagos is a perfect poster child. In Mojo, about 70 kilometers outside of Addis Ababa, Luna Farm Export and Slaughterhouse PLC is bulk-growing bell peppers, chilies, onions, potatoes, maize, beans, and tomatoes, among other crops.  2614  

I’m convinced that with best practices on irrigation (the rubber tubes he uses to water his crops come from Israel), storage, and distribution, Africa could easily feed local and global populations. Hagos and his family are not the only ones to see the extraordinary financial upside of agriculture. The pan-African food market is set to grow from $50 billion to $150 billion by 2030. And global demand has yet to peak. Across the world, urban populations are expanding faster than rural ones, and the ratio of growers to consumers is falling as quickly. The United States, Australia, Europe, and Brazil have responded with specialized, capital-intensive growing practices that lean heavily on biotechnology, chemicals, expensive farming equipment, and irrational subsidies. Other fat economies are turning to Africa. Surplus labor, organic growing conditions, and vast quantities of arable land are the subject of envy and interest in land-poor Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. The European Union, Canada, Turkey, and China have all cut deals to provide what they can’t grow. The African continent hosts large-scale, private industrial farms—many times bigger than Luna—in Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Madagascar, to start. Congo-Brazzaville has leased 80,000 hectares of land for commercial farming to a gaggle of homesteading, white South Africans. Across the board, yields are spectacular, and mostly for export.  2656  

All in all, Africa will surge from under 500,000 city dwellers in 1950 to 750 million by midcentury. As migrants flock to the jobs and services and to the networks we’ve discussed, over 40 million will live in Lagos, Kinshasa, and Johannesburg—the club of mega-cities famous for their Hobbesian density. Likewise, the continent’s commercial and political capitals—think Accra, Abidjan, and Addis—will each house millions more. The scale of urbanization in the continent’s major cities is breathtaking. It’s no surprise at all that Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, should have made his fortune with cement.  2801  

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of slum dwellers hit 200 million in 2010.  2819  reducing the supply of food available. Plenty of American corn is fed to animals that are then fed to people; more than 80 percent of US agricultural production goes into livestock feed.  2894

(About a coming tsunami of retirees), Africa is enjoying a demographic dividend. The median age is nineteen. Seventy percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is less than thirty years old—the highest proportion in the world.  2938  

In sub-Saharan Africa, young people make up 37 percent of the working-age population, but 60 percent of the unemployed—at least in the formal sector. Rote memorization is still the preferred pedagogy in public high schools and universities. Few institutions help young people navigate career choices, and labor markets offer no clear staircase to income security.  2968  

Where ALA departs dramatically from the curriculum at virtually every other school in the world is a two-year emphasis on entrepreneurship and leadership. In an act of unusual pedagogical daring, Swaniker believes he can distill kanju and teach it. “The best way to develop as an entrepreneur is through practice and experience, not through theory,” he says. Thus, his students are required to “major” in one of three areas: a long-term social service venture, an original idea that is developed by students and nurtured throughout the year, or a student-run business. One popular student business was to supplement the school’s cold breakfast offerings with hot eggs and bacon. Spencer Horne, a recent graduate, devised a compost machine for when the kids are done. “It breaks down waste and turns it into methane gas, along with other by-products which can be used as fertilizer afterwards,” he told reporter Kyle Brown. “Once it’s complete we’d like to see [the school] cutting down the cost they’re currently spending on gas for cooking.” The ALA program, intended as a supplement to local secondary schools, lasts two years, and students range in age from fifteen to nineteen. Students like Lizzy completed public high school in their home countries. Others leap from inadequate domestic educational systems to join the elite team. Still others are already the best-educated young people in their home nation. Whatever their background—and students hail from forty-some countries—the students understand intuitively that this place is different. Like any boarding school community, its members are not from the same hometown. Thus ALA is slowly and surely building a network of powerhouse pan-Africanists whose internal connections will serve the continent well in the future. Any high school experience will seed important memories and relationships. At ALA, they have the handy and humorous effect of blasting down internal African stereotypes.  3021  

Now he believes “we need to be teaching masonry, ironmongery, mechanics, handcrafts, commerce and bookkeeping, artistic and creative endeavors.” In Africa, the best economic and educational opportunities for youth may lie in the informal economy discussed in Chapter 2. Informal “attachment” employment has been a long-standing means of passing on technical expertise and earning opportunity in Africa and elsewhere. Ever-greater numbers of young people—fully 99 percent of working youth in Zambia, for example—are employed in the informal economy.  3123  

Despite being separate from the formal schooling regime, informal-sector apprenticeships can be very organized, grounded in local social norms that are a useful skeleton on which young people can build practical skills.   Wilson Musembi trains street children in his workshop. Apprenticeships like this are a proven way to equip young people with practical skills and earning potential.   Jitegemee’s practices also conform to our best knowledge about getting cash into the hands of young people. The International Labor Organization notes that vocational schools work best when they offer a job placement component as well. The apprentices are initiated into a business culture and network of practitioners—a way to build not only skills, but extended professional relationships that will matter for future job prospects. Wilson Musembi trains street children in his workshop. Apprenticeships like this are a proven way to equip young people with practical skills and earning potential. Trusting and engaging the informal sector as a training partner allows Jitegemee to make more effective interventions than its competitors—underfunded public polytechnical schools that offer few employment guarantees. In Jitegemee’s model, Musembi and other mentors get a helping hand that amplifies their earning potential, an incentive that needs no justification or subsidy. The program is grounded in the same practice-makes-perfect logic as ALA—or any summer internship around the world—but accomplishes its objective in careful and realistic ways.  3127  

Hirschman identified three possible responses to systems in turmoil. Members of a group can signal their opinion with disengagement (“exit”), with expression (“voice”), or with obedience (“loyalty”). The framework is easily applied to sub-Saharan states. As the preceding  3305  

To speed Rwanda’s process of reinvention, Kagame has adopted a philosophy of agaciro, a Kinyarwanda word for self-reliance and dignity. “The agaciro I often talk of is about fighting for our integrity and our future,” he said at a leadership retreat in 2010. At a regional youth development conference in Kampala, he pronounced, “It is when you have that dignity and are prepared to protect it that you will make inventions that answer our circumstances.”  3453  

Just as many Africans choose private health care or “private school,” many Liberians opted for private law. Many more people chose the informal system because it better reflected abstract social priorities. Where formal legal systems are designed for punishment that “provides little or no material or social gain,” the customary courts emphasize restitution, flexibility, and the well-being of a broader community. Victims turned out to be less interested in discipline than in being made whole for the crime. This pragmatism favored the customary courts. In one illustrative case, a young man killed another in a hunting accident; rather than sending him to jail and rupturing the social bonds of the community, the uncle of the deceased ended up convincing both families to settle for a sacrifice of livestock and a solemn toast. What’s remarkable about the two Liberian “publics” is their interchangeability. At any given time, people can leap from one system to another. If a customary judgment is ignored, parties can pursue formal—and presumably more enforceable—remedies. Official disputes that become financially or socially costly can likewise exit the formal framework and return to community courts. Around the world, these “two publics” are more than simultaneous—they are fundamentally codependent. The one requires the other. Some social or market-based norms, or what economist Avinash Dixit calls “private government,” depend on the existence of laws, from import restrictions to license plates to a stable currency. Likewise, some laws, like the Bretton Woods agreement that stabilized global exchange rates (for a time), or the municipal regulations that fix the price of a taxi, derive from pragmatic, informal trade practices. Both laws and norms inform everyday decision making. But this reliance varies greatly by world region. Fat economies tend toward greater formality and stronger laws.  3504  

It may be easy to read this book as a libertarian celebration of hustling, hacking, and free-form development in sub-Saharan Africa. And it is. Rwanda’s strong state is the exception, and not the rule. Public institutions are not maturing at the pace that the region deserves. Some goods, like safety and security, justice and rights to land and water, are the traditional domain of state actors. But development necessities such as health care, electricity, and education flourish outside the reach of the African state—and even roads and sanitation are increasingly the province of private ambition. There is a pronounced gap between smaller forms of organization that provide structure, finance, and services, and the political institutions that frequently fail to do the same. The region desperately needs recognition and support for the role of informal ties, between families, businesses, landholders, young people, and information neighborhoods on- and offline. These powerful forms of affiliation have been marvelously resistant to the state cartography and bureaucracy that grid and divide the world. Understanding and accepting kanju will be exciting and transformative for global decision making. But closing the gap also depends on hybrid commitments, from both “publics.” The Liberia study concludes that incorporating elements of formal law into informal structures, and vice versa, is a low-cost alternative to rigid formalism, with far greater potential for legitimacy. The same “open-source” mentality can be applied to other areas of development practice. Achille Mbembe calls for an “entanglement,” an effort “to account for time as lived . . . in its multiplicity and simultaneities, its presences and absences, beyond the lazy categories of permanence and change.” Innovations that build on both institutional and informal frameworks may be doubly effective. The United Nations, for an unexpected example, has launched a project called Global Pulse that seeks to mine data in order to predict economic shocks. If, for example, an individual has been purchasing mobile phone airtime in denominations of $10 every month and suddenly begins to purchase denominations of $1 every week, the Global Pulse model might treat the shift as a sign of pinched income and step up a local school feeding program. If cattle begin showing up on markets (live or virtual) several weeks ahead of the season—and for below-market rates—it’s another sign of stress. Online searches for “banana rot” or “jobs in France” are similar canaries in the mine. The program is grounded in a recognition of past malpractice. In 2008—at the height of the food, fuel, and financial crisis—governments and development agencies around the world stood flat-footed as millions of people slipped back below the poverty line. Instead of sending bureaucrats to compile interviews with select households, or waiting for local governments to spit out household income, rainfall, or maternal death statistics, Global Pulse tries to read between the lines and act fast. By mining ambient data and passing on what is learned, the team seeks to strengthen development responses. The first of the “Pulse Labs” will be in Kampala, Uganda. While limited in scope, similar open government and transparency movements have emerged to insist that basic information be shared among the center and the periphery. The governments of Kenya, Liberia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Ghana have committed to posting full government data sets online. The initiatives work better with an assist from civil society. Uwezo, an east African transparency organization, has been conducting a national education survey that goes beyond schools and into homes where some students had been left behind. Some aid agencies and philanthropies leverage their grants as start-up capital for market solutions. New “public-private partnerships” fund products and processes rather than handing out basic necessities. USAID’s pilot policy of loan guarantees, for example, looks more like the vision for…  3532    Yeats wrote in his poem “The Second Coming” that “the centre cannot hold.” Across Africa, it turns out that the center never was. And only when the dust from the half-century of inauthentic fail states clears will a dynamic, assured, post-national public shine through.3580

We are beginning to see a host of hybrid institutions that work in Africa to improve lives. The lean techniques and talents of the periphery are creeping closer to the center. Large institutions playing in Africa are beginning to use more kanju tools to reach the periphery. The most innovative development initiatives are harder to characterize as public or private.  3582  

committed residents like Ngito, armed with simple GPS devices and Open Street Map—a sort of geographic Wikipedia—created not only a detailed online map of Kibera, but a business and services directory for the residents. In addition to mapping Kibera’s built environment, digital atlases layer information on health, education, security, and land use. If you want to know which clinic offers free immunizations, how many trained teachers are at a given school, or which streetlights are operational, Map Kibera will tell you. It’s Yelp for development. The map epitomizes the new narrative of twenty-first-century Africa. It defines a universe smaller than the state—as well as a larger, potentially global community, invited into the map on the residents’ terms. As such, it’s a useful model for anyone who cares about making it in Africa: students, religious NGOs, smallholder farmers, fledgling businesses, booming corporations, and small-scale social entrepreneurs trying to make a difference.   Map Kibera offers a detailed cartography of Nairobi’s largest informal settlement, layering information about amenities and living conditions atop an open-source, community-edited map.   But in modern Africa, scale is everything. Even as ordinary people rewrite stale cartography, we need allies. Good ideas that languish in local clinics or tech hubs will never reach their generative potential. These ideas are borne along diverse and complementary vectors: family, technology, commerce, nature, and youth. Like the motorcycle taxis bringing word of change across Lagos, our maps help bridge the two publics. They can accelerate traditional efforts to build wealth, strengthen formal institutions, and aid the least fortunate. These maps change the equation for what is possible. And in most cases, their only subsidy is their utility to ordinary people. Compared with “stuff we don’t want,” they are elementary ingredients of Africa’s bright future. 3590