No bags please, we're Kenyan

Kenya has introduced a very strict ban on plastic bags entering the country or being doled out within. At Heathrow travellers are warned about this and on entering Nairobi bags are inspected more vigorously than before. It's a good move in that Kenyan towns and villages often have a sea of decaying plastic bags dumped by the wind at one edge of town. These are particularly ugly when vegetation is lacking and ragged bags stream from the branches of surviving trees. As the ban is nationwide I am hoping it hasn't adversely impacted the trade of the poorest market vendors, who used to use these bags every few minutes for packaging up sugar, salt, bananas, you name it.

I didn't want to ask the customs official how the ban reconciles with the British aviation authority's safety requirement to put all toiletries in a clear plastic bag on departure. Perhaps the rationale would be to dump these bags on aircraft. In Africa it's often better to ask no unnecessary questions and plough through, concealing the few plastic bags in your luggage. Keeping hold of plastic bags is helpful in South Sudan for secreting random dust-stained pieces of clothing.

Kenya has been in the grip of consumerism for several years, which probably partly led to the plastic bag decision. This massage business depicting a seductive big-bottomed lady was being advertised on the same road as our small office. I am sure it does a roaring trade in the Kenyan middle class, knotted and angry after being stuck in traffic jams for hours.

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