August 11, 2008

Western lifestyle magazines in East Africa

Last week I bought a copy (on recommendation from a friend locally) of the magazine pictured above, called Bang. I usually find these kind of things a bit like eye candy, promoting products I would never buy, cars I will never drive, houses I will never own, and women I will never, uh, well, you get the picture. Now no disrespect to my friend who works for the magazine as one of its editors, but I found that the absurdity I feel when picking up one of these lifestyle magazines was only heightened in the context of East Africa. For instance, what does it mean to have a whole section in Bang on new cars and accessories when 90% of people cannot afford them? Is this magazine just targeting the young upwardly mobile classes who have the disposable income for such pursuits? Or is it simply, like a host of its Western cousins, offering materialism dressed up with a few pseudo-serious articles (for example an important-looking feature about xenophobia in South Africa)? A Swahili teacher here dismissed it as 'selling unattainable and unrealistic dreams.' Its so strange because increasingly ALL magazines are becoming like these lifestyle magazines, with the same advertisers gearing their approach to a particular niche market. Just take a look at Vibe, XXL, The Source, Rolling Stone, Spin, Ebony, GQ, Glamour, etc, in order to see this in full effect.
The interesting thing about Bang is that is produced and edited in Dar-es-Salaam and shipped throughout East Africa (I've already seen copies in Mombasa). So we've got a magazine with a reach beyond national borders, produced locally, selling mostly Western products and lifestyle to an aspiring class of bourgeious shoppers from Africa.


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