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In the Pearl of Africa

In the Pearl of Africa

Back to Kampala: to the hills, the trees, the rust-red earth and the steady flow of motorcycle taxis that keep this city moving. It’s good to be back, and reassuring to find the same sense of ease as two years ago. It’s urban Africa for beginners – unthreatening, unoppressive, walkable. Or #laidbackinthepearlofafrica, as one of the mobile providers puts in in their latest ad campaign.

Reassuring in a way, too, to be semi-prepared for the usual mild irritations: the Rihanna songs blaring from the building next door, the way too large ants in my kitchen, the reliably unreliable electrics and phone connections.

Some stuff has changed. Continue reading

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Urban legend

Keep walkingNairobi, Nairobbery, they say. One of those places you’d never want to visit.

Except that you do, because there’s a buzz about this place and stuff happening like nowhere else on the continent: the developers and innovators building ‘silicon savannah’; the newspapers and corporations making this the bolshy media and business capital of East Africa; the donor money settling in offices here, trailing the idealistic and the cunning behind.

This is no hilly Kampala with her jovial motorbike-taxi drivers, or Dar es Salaam with her Indian bingo clubs and beach bars. This beast of a city has everything in more extreme measures: more choking traffic, more crime, more high-rise buildings and more low-rise shanty towns and all the problems they bring. Continue reading

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