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South Gets Reading Bug with more Festivals

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

There is no better indicator of significant economic progress than the rise and rise of book festivals across the South. These symbols of intellectually curious and globally aware middle classes are also boosting economies and contributing to a bigger, more sophisticated creative economy – something that will drive future growth across many sectors.

The trend is most advanced in Asia, where according to the OECD, “large numbers of Asians are expected to become middle class in the next 10 years” (OECD Working Paper No. 285). But the rising middle class can also be found across the South – and so can the new book festivals.

According to Sanjoy Roy, managing director of New Delhi-based festival producer Teamwork Productions (www.teamworkfilms.com) ,” India’s rising economic growth has ensured that the great middle class is happy to travel and to spend.”

“More and more Indians are taking to tourism both local and international. India’s large middle-aged upper middle class and wealthy sector feeds occasions like the literature festival, ensuring attendance, making it a word of mouth must-be-seen, must-attend occasion on the social season calendar.”

Recognition of the importance of this trend can be seen in the recent growth in book festivals associated with the Hay Festival (www.hayfestival.com) based in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. There are now Hay festivals in Beirut, Lebanon; Bogota and Cartagena, Colombia; Zacatecas, Mexico; Nairobi, Kenya; the Maldives; and the Indian state of Kerala.

The festivals are part of the powerful global creative economy, which is seen as the “interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology in a contemporary world dominated by images, sounds, texts and symbols” (UNCTAD). The cultural sector has been shown to be an effective way for emerging economies to leapfrog into high-growth areas in the 21st century world economy.

Roy also confirms the economic impact of book festivals. He produces India’s Jaipur Literature Festival (www.jaipurliteraturefestival.org) , which attracted over 32,000 visitors this year. The hard numbers show the economic impact of the event: “Approximately 3,000 room nights were booked by visitors during this period at an average of US $100 per night,” Roy said. “Our own spend in Jaipur during this period was approximately US $500,000. Shopping, meals and transport spend I would peg at between US $200,000 and US $300,000.”

The OECD defines the global middle class as those living in households with daily per capita incomes of between US$10 and US$100. It calculates that Asia accounts for less than one-quarter of today’s middle class, but says that share could double by 2020. Within a decade, “more than half of the world’s middle class could be in Asia and Asian consumers could account for over 40 per cent of global middle class consumption.”

The World Bank takes an even more optimistic view, seeing this burgeoning middle class’ spending power as being triggered once people get out of the desperation of a subsistence existence. This means the “developing world’s middle class is defined as those who are not poor when judged by the median poverty line of developing countries, but are still poor by US standards. The “Western middle class” is defined as those who are not poor by US standards.” Although barely 80 million people in the developing world entered the Western middle class over 1990-2002, it found an extra 1.2 billion people joined the developing world’s middle class. Four-fifths came from Asia, and half from China (World Bank).

With the rise of the creative sector, significant innovation will come from the global South, according to the director of the Hay Festival, Peter Florence.

“The digital revolution will be absolutely essential to developing countries,” he told the Associated Press. “They are going to skip two levels of publishing industry tradition. The mobile phone is more important for writers in those societies than pen and paper is. That is a very interesting continuation of oral culture. At the same time the West has decided to start moving from audio editions to digital downloads, oral culture is just moving straight into digital culture in many places around the world.”

The impact of a growing middle class can be seen in fast-growing India, which is forecast to become the largest market for English language books within a decade.

A survey by Tehelka (www.tehelka.com) found Indians favour stories about local conditions and set in the places where they live.

India’s most popular current writer is Chetan Bhagat, a former investment banker. He has sold more than 3 million books in the last five years. His latest, Two States, sold a million copies in four months.

Bhagat writes about the country’s aspiring middle class. His publisher, Rupa (www.rupapublications.com/Client/home.aspx) , believes he appeals to a “pan-Indian, pan-age group.”

For Roy, it is still too early to tell how the new Hay Kerala festival in the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, will affect the economy of the area (the first one is from November 12 to 14, 2010).

“In the long term we hope this too becomes like Jaipur, attracting an international and national audience from outside the state,” he said. “Kerala has a robust economy. What it may do is increase the total tourist influx into the city and divert some of the annual Goa traffic to its own benefit.”

Roy says the Hay Festival Kerala will follow the programming pattern of other Hay festivals, combining international authors with a strong local flavour.

“India is celebrating its golden age in the creative arts and literature not just in English but across all official and subsidiary Indian languages,” he said. “The depth, scope, extent and range of writing in both fiction and non-fiction is incredible.”

Drawing on his success with the festival in Jaipur, Roy has advice for others in the South looking for creative economy success.

“It’s all about location, location, location,” he said. “A festival city like that of Cannes, Venice, Edinburgh, Avignon, Hay are special. Choose the right location, be inclusive and bring the local community on board and have the power to sustain – and in due course with a strong programming base, the festival will grow.

“Every festival will have its own learning (curve) and those who take these on board will find it easier to be successful.”

Published: June 2010

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Floating Bank Floats New Dreams for Brazilian Middle Class

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Brazil’s booming economy has seen a dramatic increase in the size of its middle class. More and more people have been lifted out of poverty as a growing, stable economy overcomes years of political and economic instability. In 2010, Brazil’s economy grew by a record 7.5 percent, surpassing a previous peak in 1986 (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) (IBGE) (www.ibge.gov.br/english). The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) reached 3.67 trillion reais (US $2.21 trillion) in 2010, making it Latin America’s largest economy.

This strong growth is being fuelled by growing domestic demand in Brazil.

One key component in building personal wealth is the ability to save and bank. It is common across the global South for the poor and lower middle classes to be ignored by traditional banking services.

Freezing large numbers of people out of banking services is a double problem. Individuals are being denied a safe way to store and grow wealth and borrow to improve their economic situation, and the wider economy suffers because many millions are left out of the mainstream economy and can neither consume high-value products nor use services beyond those that meet the basic needs of daily survival.

This leaves many economies experiencing what can be described as a whirlpool effect: wealth spiralling around small clusters of people – for example those with privileged access to natural resources – but failing to spread across the whole of society. This has the effect of discounting the contribution made by the majority of a nation’s people. That majority is a market that needs tending to, not ignoring, as pioneers like the late C.K. Prahalad (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._K._Prahalad) have shown.

In Brazil, one major bank has woken up to this fact and is pioneering services for millions of the nation’s “unbanked” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unbanked). Even wealthy countries like the United States have large numbers of unbanked people, often those living paycheck to paycheck and with little or no savings. In the US in 2009, 7.7 percent of the population fell into this category (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) (FDIC).

Banco Bradesco SA (www.bradesco.com.br) has pioneered reaching the poor and marginalised by opening branches in long-neglected places like the impoverished and crime-ridden shanty town favelas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Favela) that surround major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. It is creating a path other businesses can follow.

“Every bank will care about these people eventually,” Odair Rebelato, the executive heading Bradesco’s retail banking outreach programme, told The Wall Street Journal.

According to FEBRABAN (http://www.febraban.org.br), the Brazilian Banking Federation, the number of bank accounts in the country has tripled in the past decade. It has surged from 42 million in 1997, to 126 million by the end of 2008. That still leaves around 50 million Brazilians who do not have bank accounts.

It’s not just poverty that cuts many Brazilians off from banking services – there is also the problem of isolation.

Brazil is home to the largest portion of the vast Amazon rainforest (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazon_Rainforest), whose population is spread out in isolated villages reachable only by boat. The capital of Amazonas state, Manaus, is the economic hub of the region but transport links only connect it to major cities and not the region’s many isolated villages.

A solution to both problems comes in the form of Bradesco bank’s Voyager III, a three-deck riverboat converted into a floating bank. Launched in November 2010, the white-and-blue 38 metre riverboat ventures up the Solimões River on a journey to 50 isolated communities in 11 municipalities.

“It was something never seen before in the world – a floating branch,” Nézio Vieira, a Bradesco bank manager in São Paulo, told Monocle magazine. “We are now present in 100 per cent of Brazil’s municipalities.”

Luzia Moraes is a former housewife and now the manager of the Voyager III’s floating bank. The bank offers savings and checking accounts, personal loans and direct deposits. Most of the customers are public servants, pensioners and the poor.

It is a simple operation: a red banner is hung in a cramped former storeroom on the boat. Sitting behind a desk, Moraes has just three tools to offer the full banking services: a laptop computer, a printer and an automated teller machine.

Enterprising and adventures, Moraes even uses canoes and rafts to reach out from the riverboat to even remoter villages.

“Before, there were cases where people would take 10 to 12 hours by boat to get to a bank. It wasn’t worth it,” Vieira said. “To be able to serve these river-dwellers you need to go to them. Today the Voyager goes there.”

The Voyager III has signed up more than 1,000 new account holders by touring the river. It heads off every two weeks from Manaus, reaching as far as a remote town on the border with Colombia and Peru, Tabatinga.

The boat’s computers communicate with a satellite, allowing 24-hour access to the bank’s servers so people can access accounts and apply for loans.

A regional lifeblood, the Voyager III also carries 500 tons of beans, chicken, bleach and other goods to sell on the 1,609 kilometre river journey. The boat can carry around 200 passengers for the trip.

“People don’t know what to think,” Moraes told The Wall Street Journal, “but it’s not hard to explain that a bank can make things easier.”

Published: May 2011

Resources

1) Kenya’s Equity Bank: By offering Kenya’s poor people savings accounts and microloans, Equity Bank has captured 50 percent of the Kenyan bank market. Website: http://www.equitybank.co.ke

2) Safaricom M-PESA: Mobile phone banking in Kenya is proving highly successful. Customers can deposit, transfer and withdraw money using their mobile phones. Website: http://www.safaricom.co.ke/index.php?id=123

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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African Media Changing to Reach Growing Middle Class

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Africa’s growing middle classes are being targeted by a new generation of media entrepreneurs. This growing group of Africans is ambitious and intelligent, and they want media that matches their aspirational ways. Clever media people are stepping up to feed this trend.

The continent as a whole forms the 10th largest economy in the world. Of Africa’s more than 1 billion people, 900 million can be classified as part of the consumer economy. Out of this group, there a third – approximately 300 million people – make modest sums by Western standards, about US $200 a month, but have spare cash to buy things like mobile phones, DVDs and new clothes, or pay for better schools. They are the population that is overlooked when attention is focused only on the very poor living on less than US $2 a day.

Pulitzer Prize-winning Nigerian journalist Dele Olojede is one of several African media pioneers re-shaping the continent’s media and taking it to the next level. Another is Godfrey Mwampembwa, whose popular puppet television show satirizes contemporary politics and current events and brings a welcome local flavour to a programming schedule packed with foreign imports.

A book by University of Texas professor Vijay Mahajan, Africa Rising, details the phenomenon of Africa’s middle class consumer society. He calls this group of middle class consumers ‘Africa 2’, with the desperately poor called Africa 3s, and the extremely rich Africa 1s.

This new group has expanded far beyond just the ruling elites and government workers. Many of its members work in the private sector, as secretaries, computer entrepreneurs, merchants and others who have benefited from consistent growth rates in many African countries.

And because these people consume products and services – and advertising products and services are the lifeblood of private media – the opportunities are plentiful.

“I’m convinced that Africa is going to be built by Africa 2s,” Mahajan told the Washington Post newspaper. “These are the people sending their kids to school . . . who are the most optimistic, the most forward-thinking.”

Olojede, owner and publisher of Next newspaper (http://234next.com/csp/cms/sites/Next/Home/index.csp) in Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, has been able to grab readers by breaking original stories and offering a quality, well-designed publication. Launched in 2008, it has its sights set on going continent-wide by 2011.

“There is a need for a newspaper for the African metropolitan middle classes, along the lines of the International Herald Tribune,” he told Monocle magazine.

Olojede cut his teeth as a foreign editor for the US newspaper Newsday and has used this experience to make Next such a success.

Next has become the number one news website in Nigeria’s highly competitive media scene.

Wisely, Olojede put design at the centre of making his newspaper and website stand out from the competition. He commissioned the experienced newspaper design team of Garcia Media (http://garciamedia.com/blog/articles/in_west_africa_a_new_newspaper_is_born_—online_first) – who have designed for The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald and Die Zeit – to develop the template and prototypes.

Kenyan economist James Shikwati (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Shikwati) believes Africa’s middle-income consumers are also a driving force for political change.

“It’s empowering,” he told the Washington Post. “If you give people a sense of freedom in the economic sector, then you deny it in the political sector, you have a problem.”

Kenya-based newspaper cartoonist Gado (Godfrey Mwampembwa) has profited from this phenomenon. Fed up with TV channels sticking to a menu of foreign imports and dull news programmes, he looked to famous puppet TV shows Spitting Image (from Britain) and Les Guignols (from France) for inspiration. The result is the XYZ Show (http://xyzshow.com/blog), which features grotesque puppet caricatures of well-known public and political figures. The show’s blog makes for an excellent entry point into African TV programme-making and its ups and downs. The show is broadcast on Citizen TV in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

“I moved to Nairobi in 1992 when I was 23,” Mwampembwa explained to Monocle. “The Daily Nation, the biggest newspaper in Kenya, had lost its editorial cartoonist so they ran a competition to look for his replacement. I sent in my drawings and came second.”

“I took a year off in 2000-2001 to study film and animation in Vancouver. When I got back to Nairobi I started thinking about the sort of TV programme I would like to make. Kenya needed a show that would make fun of our politicians and expose hypocrisy and I thought a puppet show like Les Guignols or Spitting Image would be a great way to do it.”

“We managed to raise funds for a pilot in 2007 and Citizen TV (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Citizen-TV-Kenya/261061365404), a private station, eventually agreed to broadcast a series.”

Each episode costs US $16,740 and the puppets are US $3,600 to make. The programme-makers could only get money from foreign donors: the French, Dutch, and Finnish embassies and the Ford Foundation.

Despite initial complaints from politicians, the show is preparing for its second season – and, Mwampembwa said, “there will be a lot of big stories for us to cover.”

Making a popular TV show is not an easy thing to do. Mwampembwa maintains a furious work pace to straddle his many roles:

“I have to draw a cartoon every day but editorial cartooning is not a nine-to-five job, it’s 24/7. Whenever I get ideas I have to sketch them.

“It was a steep learning curve in the first season. The show is important for Kenyan TV and everything is done here in Nairobi. We won’t change any of the politics though. We are very hard-hitting and we will stay that way.

“Over the years I’ve got nasty letters, emails and phone calls but that’s OK, it’s part of it.”

As these media innovators show, there is nothing but opportunity for entrepreneurs feeding the hungry news and information appetite of the continent’s ambitious middle class.

And Mwampembwa says becoming better informed doesn’t have to be dull: “We are informing the public but I’d like to think we are entertaining them too.”

Published: September 2010

Resources

  • Africa Rising: A book by Professor Vijay Mahajan on how Africa’s consumer economy is growing and growing. Website: http://tinyurl.com/2vk3m9n

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022