In East Africa, there is little doubt that Christmas marks the peak of the holiday season. This can be attributed to its predictability (the date is a fixed one each year) and the fact that it falls in the last week of the year when many are accorded some time off their busy work schedules. A few lucky ones will even get a financial bonus from their generous employers so they can have a little more cash to spend.
During the Christmas season people’s activities tend to fall into three major categories. You have the money chasers who will spend the time making every coin that can be made at a time when many are more willing to spend. These are usually entertainers and those with businesses whose services are needed during that day like hotels.
Then we have those who have made (and saved) some good money during the year and to them this is the time to head out to an exotic destination. Some head outside the continent while others stay within but go to places like South Africa or Morocco. Around here the coastal town of Mombasa probably gets the most traffic. Relaxation spots elsewhere also get a lot of traffic during the season.
The biggest category however is that of the people who head to their ancestral homes to spend the festive season with their (extended) family. These people create the biggest annual migration on the continent forcing bus companies to even hike fares from the city to the rural areas. Our crowded cities get time to breathe with the rural roads having to deal with the vehicular burden the cities deal with for the rest of the year.
This annual migration also serves as the only ‘touristic’ experience in a year for many of the city dwellers and those who fly in from Europe or America. Children with exotic accents can be seen asking about the milking of cows or why uncle is so heartless for slaughtering chicken with a knife instead of buying it from the supermarket.
The new ‘visitors’ will tour the local church where they will get front seats and maybe asked to stand up and wave to the rest of the congregation before the church leader delves into the projects the church is undertaking hoping they can reach for their leather wallets and help. This bit of the economics is what interests me the most.
Although this migration is a great opportunity for the rural economies to prosper some people just won’t let that happen. Instead of spending money in the village you prefer to buy almost everything from the city and load it in the car and drive to your village. Yes I know you may not find some of the things you like back there but it is still because you have not made it a habit to demand them while there.
Instead of giving your relatives handouts how about you buy from them? Leave them happy but also inspired to always prepare things you can buy while there. You do not have to carry everything from the city to the rural area. That is almost like going to a game park with your pet dog. Indulge in the life there, chat with the people and know more about their situation and environment.
If you have some time, please visit the schools and hospitals to further acquaint yourself with what your relatives that you love so much have to make do with while you live in the city and complain about the cost of data bundles. Talk to the children more, they tend to be more honest about their situation. What are they grateful for, what do they wish they had. All these interactions will open your mind to what development in real terms is about.
And those of you with the habit of taking pictures to share on your social media platforms your work is cut out. Show off the countryside to the rest of the world. The internet has made the world a global village but that only makes sense if we actively share our stories and experiences. Yes you are always posting pictures of pizzas and coffee lattes while in the city; why not show the world the fresh organic foods back home complete with videos of how it is prepared?
Allow me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2017.