About this site

There’s a mantra in my family, which is notoriously good at losing stuff: when you’re searching for something that’s missing, Look Under Things.

So: I really want to start a social business. And it doesn’t seem so hard – just bring a great new idea to the table, network the hell out of it, be charismatic, and people will shower you with funding, partnerships, training and awards. But we seem to gloss over one tiny detail: coming up with the great new idea. This blog is an attempt to document my learning, pondering and whining as I search every nook and cranny - in my head and around the world - for a social venture to invest myself in.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kenya’s corruption and what it means for India

I recently got my hands on a book that is being referred to as “Kenya’s Watergate” (by Chris Blattman, at least), banned in the nation according to some accounts: It’s Our Turn to Eat by Michela Wrong, former Africa correspondent for the FT.  The book names and shames members of the current administration and brings to light some interesting (though not totally new) insights about the state of corruption in Kenya.  Since said administration’s election shenanigans got me evacuated from the country last year, needless to say, I was fascinated. 

I also recently chatted with an Indian acquaintance who used to work in western and central Africa about the differences between corruption in daily life in India vs. Africa (disclaimer – I hate generalizing issues about “Africa” as if the whole continent is one homogeneous country.  That said, the similarities in corruption attitude among different African countries are often shockingly close).  His impression was that Indian corruption is a little less blatant, a little more under the table - something unusual for a culture known for its bluntness.  He also asserted that Indians tend to be more “content” with the level of corruption in their lives – because, for example, the fees for paying off a cop are usually lower than the official fines for petty offenses (as argued here).  In Africa, on the other hand, corruption is much more over the table.  And when people get fed up with it, they riot.

Of course, the rioting rarely produces solutions.  I certainly wouldn’t advocate it as the appropriate strategy for India.  But in both countries, I wonder what can be done to make people madder about the everday corruption they face.  Mad enough that they will do something about it, and do that thing consistently.  In both countries you see the momentum behind anti-corruption flare up now and again, just to subside as quickly as it erupted.  Take the aftermath of 26/11: I remember seeing Indian citizens, particularly the youth, stepping up to combat the corruption and security issues that had led to the tragedy, through mediums from Facebook to traditional media to business plan competitions!  Today, as we approach the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, I wonder where that outrage and drive to action disappeared to.  And I wonder how to bring it back.

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