About

Poverty is the worse form of violence.

— Mahatma Gandhi

 

A few years ago, I founded African Peace Journal with Nobel Peace Prize recipient Desmond Tutu.

It was at that time that he shared with me the idea that although South Africa had openly strived to transcend racial apartheid, the unspoken plague of “economic apartheid” continued to persist and perpetuate throughout most African countries, and indeed, throughout the entire developing world.

I explained to Desmond Tutu that I had certainly witnessed the same phenomena throughout my travels in India where, in a period of so called ‘economic prosperity’ the rich and the middle classes were visibly prospering economically, while the majority of the population, the very poor, remained invisible, as mere statistics, within an indifferent system of economic apartheid.

My modest hope in founding this forum on Economic Apartheid, is to strive to make those who remain invisible to us to become a bit more visible to us; to make those that are merely economic statistics to us, to become a bit more real and a bit more accessible to us. After all, we share this planet with them and they live in the same home as we do. We should get to know them.

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya and grew up there and went to school there.

When I joined the boy scouts in Kenya, our scout troop volunteered to help the street boys on the streets of Nairobi, which were known as ‘parking boys’ because they helped motorists looking for parking in the city find a parking spot, usually for a modest tip. Often, these were young boys who had fled their rural villages in Kenya in order to seek a better life in the capital. They ended up homeless on the streets of Nairobi, where they live and sleep. I befriended one of the parking boys, who would often sniff glue, and I wrote a poem about him featured on this website: Glue.

My paternal grandfather had emigrated to then British East Africa from British India.

For generations, his family had borne the brunt of economic apartheid as salt pan laborers in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat in western India. They toiled daily in the merciless hot sun, and often died early of disease and exhaustion. They were taxed ruthlessly by the British Raj in India, as were so many invisible statistics of hundreds of millions of poor people in India within this time.

Mahatma Gandhi initiated his historic Salt March partly in protest to the conditions in which these salt laborers worked and lived. Recently, I interviewed my friend Farida Pacha on her documentary film on salt laborers in the Rann of Kutch, “My Name is Salt”; featured on this website: Salt.

Two of my three daughters traveled to Kenya a few years ago, and visited the slums in Kibera.

My middle daughter Sophia kept a blog. Sophia shares a blog excerpt from her visit to Kibera where barefoot African children smiled “How are you?”; featured on this website: Howayou?.

In her blog, Sophia asks this question about the African children enduring such hardship in the slums: “So why do they smile at us?”. I have asked this very same question in my travels and my encounters with people who are subjected to extremely harsh and unrelenting conditions.

People like my friend James Lekadaa in Samburu in northern Kenya, who endures desolate droughts and lives in a mud boma with his wife and three children, and who is always beaming with bright smiles and a generous heart. James is featured on this website: The Smartest Man.

I have included interviews with friends who are economists, ecologist, environmentalists: 3 E’s.

These are my attempts to understand from perspectives of world-renowned experts, the impact and the interconnected global consequences of Economic Apartheid from a macro and a micro level.

I also set 3 interview questions on the issue of Economic Apartheid to friends of mine who are humanitarian workers and directors of NGO’s to better understand the issues on the ground when working with the disenfranchised and marginalized. I have featured these interviews: 3 Questions.

Atempts to understand the prolific subject of Economic Apartheid provide me faint glimpses of a vast ever-expanding landscape. Accumulation of such lofty knowledge on the subject of Economic Apartheid can only add practical value with serviceable actions at ground level with real people.

We should all consider what these useful actions might be, based upon our own unique skills and aspirations as a concerned community of Global Citizens. Since my own skill sets are those of a school teacher and educator, I hereby propose a prototype for learning and literacy: Prototype.

 

Karim Ajania

Editor-in-Chief, Economic Apartheid