Bill Clinton in Ethiopia

In a slightly whimsical account of Bill Clinton’s trip to Ethiopia in The Guardian, we find this:

Awke Tiruneh and his wife Emaye Beyene are not the only couple who are faintly bemused. They are pleased with their two lightbulbs, one in the main room and a second in the kitchen annexe of their pristine mud hut, and with the radio that everybody in Rema tunes to get music, not news. But they say they don’t want anything else.

“When they have more money, they don’t know what to do with it in Rema,” says Samson Tsegaye, country director of the Solar Power Foundation. “They are happy. They don’t need a Mercedes or a television. When they have money, the men are always going to the bar.

The idea that the people of Rema “don’t want anything else” seems improbable to me. I am all for looking at consumerism with a sceptical eye; but there is a world of difference between conspicuous consumption and having enough money to send your children to school, or to afford health care, or to have what you need to cope with the failure of the harvest. And why shouldn’t the people of Rema have a television if they want one? Does the country director of a western NGO really speak for them?

1 thought on “Bill Clinton in Ethiopia”

  1. Thabo (South Africa)

    “When they have money, the men are always going to the bar” – reminds me of my uncles. Sadly there is a truth to the statements. Only problem is that for some reason, once expectations rise, they lead to a culture of conspicuous comsumption. South Africa’s new middle class is often accused of this

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