Calling on Kenya

In Economic Development, International Development, Sustainable Development on April 4, 2007 at 3:49 pm

I’m marginally a fan of Tom Friedman’s – he’s got good ideas, even if he skimps on the hard data – but you can’t expect a journalist to be an academic. If you have a NYT subscription – I recommend reading this article:
The African Connection – New York Times

The call centers that have been most associated with India of late are now working in Kenya. It was only a matter of time before this kind of business was set up in English-speaking Africa. What I like about this development is not just the reasons that Friedman highlites – internet infrastructure, reverse brain-drain, etc. – but also the fact that now there will be direct connections between Kenyans and Americans. This will, over time, allow all the Kenyan employees of the call center to see the things that Americans take for granted, especially rule following, organization, orderliness.

What I mean is that no matter how many modern things you see in Africa, there is often still something missing. When I lived in Niger – there was often the mistaken assumption that if you build something that looks nice and modern, that it is as such. But it’s the way things function, not how they look, that matter. I hope I’m making sense.

These Kenyan call center employees can hopefully act as messengers and catalysts for a wider Kenyan transformation – from middlingly poor to truly up-and-coming, with better governance and institutions being the difference.


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