For the few days that that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in the country, one phrase that you will hear, or have to learn is We Are Like That Only.
Many years ago, when India’s economy was being liberalised, the political party that Modi belongs to, Bharatiya Janata Party, was in its nascent stages but its views about India’s future, and the economy bordered on the extreme and it was against very many things it considered foreign since party stalwarts felt the so-called foreign investors had sinister motives.
But they had to give in, and they set the conditions. So, when foreign companies wanted to bring in trinkets and junk food in the name of foreign investment, BJP said the country needed computer chips, not potato chips.
Simplistic you may say, but the party’s message reached home — to both the investors and the voters and that is why BJP grew from a fringe political party to a ruling one in slightly over 20 years and it has had two Prime Ministers.
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The echoes of that narrative of “computer chips, not potato chips” were felt many years later when fast food firms such as KFC wanted to enter the Indian market and there was talk that even the potatoes will be imported because desi (local) potatoes are of inferior quality and will not meet their culinary standards.
Really? Give our farmers the seeds of your high quality potatoes, they were told.
And so it came to pass that in India, KFC potatoes do not come from Egypt as it was once said that is the case with Kenya.
There was also another minor hitch. What type of cooking oil do you fry these potatoes and chickens in? Nobody was interested in knowing, but the foreign fast food outlets had to switch to vegetable oil.
Why were Indians harassing foreign investors, you may ask? Because, they are like that only.
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These measures were not being applied so as to lock out foreign firms, but to make them conform to India’s value systems with an aim of protecting local investors and improving the lives of all citizens — farmers, cleaners, tuk-tuk drivers, mama mbogas and even people did not know where locations of KFC outlets were supposed to feel the effects of its entry in the Indian market.
While many Kenyans who go gaga over foreign investors will think KFC was being harassed, and should have pulled out, Colonel Sanders probably smiled after realising that these are a people who know their values, understand their tastes and know what they want what they want, thus, when you serve them chicken tikka with their masala, and not bland American fare, you will gain.
Nearer home, foreign investors are not respected. They are feared and incase of food, Kenyans can be served their own parents and they will eat, lick their fingers and burp in satisfaction.
“Shhhh! Just eat. The foreigner investor will run away if you antagonise him,” they say, and when they walk out after eating their parents and even their own body parts, they start shouting that Kenya is a sovereign state which does not need foreigners to survive.
And while Kenyans are so happy that they can get imported junk foods at the nearest outlet, and the kenyan farmer is wallowing in poverty, the Indian farmer and the mama mboga is happy that their voices were heard and they were protected.
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And while the Kenyan politician is blaming unseen foreign powers, the Indian government is running a very successful “Make In India” campaign and the goods they once used to import, are currently being exported form India.
It is may not be right to say that Kenyans do now know what they want. They know what they want. They want corrupt leaders who will kill local companies and ensure that citizens are poverty-stricken, then come with “goodies”, yeah, stuff bought with stolen taxes and convince the suffering that they are being given assistance.
As a Kenyan, do you know why you cannot get quality healthcare and have to go to India, or why you eat imported junk food that is spiced and garnished with imported condiments and vegetables — or even why you have to eat fish, tilapia no less, brought in from China while you live next to a fresh water lake?
Because Kenyans, and Kenyan politicians, are like that only: Very corrupt.