Friday, 20 April 2007

The Good Man Returns

Well, the good man has just returned from a week away on business. This happens quite often (his being away on business, which, by extention, means his return as well, but, oh hell, you know what I mean!). As he really is a good man, this involves gifts.

The wee 'un was quite clear. She wanted something red for her tummy. This arrived in the form of a red box of teddy shaped chocolates. She is delighted and so she should be. They're a swanky Belgian make to which she is fast becoming quite accustomed.

For me things get a bit more complicated. A lot of his travel is pretty boring and involves little more than shuttling between hotel room and office. For those trips I'm not to fazed if all I get is a peck on the cheek. On the whole I'd choose chasing a two year old around town over the hotel grind. What can I say? I like home cooking! But when he goes somewhere really interesting I expect big rewards for staying behind to toddler wrangle.

This week he was in Beirut. Yes, that Beirut. After checking his life insurance, I went online to reassure myself that he was not destined to come home in a box. What a surprise! It looks fascinating. Rich in history, fantastic architecture, fabulous location and apparently quite safe again. What an amazing rejuvenation. So the Clarins counter at duty free did quite well out of him.

Frustratingly, this kind of rejuvenation does not seem to happen in Africa. I really can't think of one African example of post conflict rapid recovery. Zimbabwe was often sited as a success story. During the mid eighties and early nineties, following years of bush war, it was really on the up - strong growth and one of the few African countries developing a strong middle class. Recent history has put paid to that.

I suppose Lebanon had a strong base to work from - a history of success in banking and tourism and strong trading ties to wealthy middle eastern countries willing to pay richly for the skills Lebanon could provide. In Africa skills are still largely imported, often on a short term basis. And, quite often, they're exported too. I shudder to think how many of my school friends left after receiving a top draw tertiary education, albeit one they paid for.

It really is a conundrum. Salaries in Africa are frighteningly low across the board. Unskilled labour is paid pennies and skilled labour is paid a fraction of their counterparts in developed countries. What would you do if you had the means to earn so much more elsewhere? So simply providing education isn't enough. Anyone out there got any answers?

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