Saturday, 12 December 2009

Africa: Postal Addresses and Age

Postal Addresses:

These are two interesting articles by African journalists, which show to what degree priorities are different in their part of the world, when compared to ours.

Firstly, it seems addresses are not all that important in certain parts of Africa. Despite regulatory efforts to name streets and number houses, many remain unnamed and unnumbered. Maps seem rare. Hence, it is difficult, if not impossible in some cases, to get an address; and proofs of address can, at times, also be red herrings. In Ghana, if you want directions, you will be told what turns to take and what landmarks to notice. And if you want to receive post, you have to go to a post office.

Secondly, it also seems age is a matter of guesswork and expedience, as people are not very meticulous when it comes to keeping a records of births and deaths, despite regulatory efforts to that effect. In some countries, less than 40% of births and less than 20% of deaths are recorded.

The conclusion seems to be that in certain parts of Africa people are not too worried about measuring things exactly and recording them precisely, consistently, and reliably. In this they seem to differ fundamentally to Europeans, who are all about exact measurements and precise, consistent, and reliable records.

Ideas of international development seek a convergence of 'developing' countries with the West's techno-industrial model of society. It would seem to me that this is a Quixotic pursuit, as it does not take into account the unique features of other cultures, and assumes that lack of development is necessarily a bad thing; in some ways, this is a form of imperialism, derived from a Eurocentric worldview. Yet, the political leadership in many African countries does embrace this imperialism, out of a mixture of need (for Western money) and desire (for Western standards of living).

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