At a glance the panic stricken global recession that is currently raking the world especially the West, may after all spare Africa for a while. This thinking is borne out of the fact that Africa has hardly been fully an important part of the world economic community with little or no exposure to international credit markets.
In any case some African countries have always remained below the poverty line. They have hit rock bottom several times in a row so much so that they are now qualified to hit any rock even with the ferocity of a tsunami and come out alive. It is like the Shepherd Boy’s song (I hope I am correct) which partly goes He that is down need fear no fall. The only problem here is that in today’s mad rush those who stay down are the ones that are trampled upon and get killed.
When the global economic down turn started hitting, culminating in the closure of many western businesses and the consequent job losses the initial effects on Africa appear in mere trickles. The reality however is that since for long African economic buoyancy has been dependent on the west, it will eventually become the ultimate recipient of the negative effects. This is not surprising as Africa has always been the object of the West’s subjective crazy exploits. Who dumps toxic waste in the waters of Africa? Who sells the guns that make brothers kill brothers? Oh our poor Africa could have remained a peaceful paradise do you say? Even the bush men and women of the Kalahari Desert have had fun and stayed happy and content.
Down in Sierra Leone the whole global recession has been received with some kind of joke so much so that every little thing is blamed on global.
So global has taken the place of endemic corruption, poverty and almost everything. If people are late to attend important state functions, it is blamed on global. My first encounter with global in Freetown was when I wanted to buy coconut and I realized the prize had been increased. When I asked why the hike, the poor hand-to-mouth youth retorted Nar de global sir!
Trivializing important issue has for long become the Sierra Leonean’s stock in trade…call it a passive coping mechanism. I can remember during the rebel ‘kitikata’ all sorts of strange food concoctions were pleasantly referred to as ‘revo salad.’ Of course you know salad is expensive and it is not the dregman’s regular meal.
Now back to this recession thing that even Obama’s almighty dollar could not stand, never mind the still flourishing street dollar trade in Sierra Leone’s cities round the country. Did I hear you say they are contributing to the economy? Sure, you can call it trade liberalization…free market economy or whatever.
Just the other day I was passing by the corner shop where I get my mobile phone recharge cards, and Nenneh the shop owner brought me to attention saying, “Uncle Ben de top-up done go up by two block oh!” You could have seen me wear an automatic screw face, visibly down cast. Well I have always looked at this little wonder machine they call mobile phone with suspicion…that it will one day spell economic disaster for a lot of Sierra Leoneans especially those not in lucrative business. Indeed being in line with modern technology digs deep into the average Sierra Leoneans’ usually shallow pockets. If the economic squeeze continues to deal its relentless blow, some strategic decisions have to be taken…to keep that phone and sacrifice other competing demands, scrap it altogether and join the Bush men of Kalahari desert, or scale down the use.
Some eight years ago when Celtel stormed the local market very few people could afford a phone. Gradually over the years the mobile phone became almost a necessity. In fact for some ladies it has become part of their make-up. Some people have as many as three or four phones to make it easier for many calls to get through and go round the problem of network failures. While the mobile phone is undoubtedly useful, if not carefully used, it may cause a whole lot of nuisance, embarrassment and even trouble.
Take the situation of a meeting at which a quiet atmosphere is expected and suddenly phones start blaring! What makes this situation unacceptable is the fact that some people keep their phones on very high volumes that is actually irritating at times. Others use their phones to show off how beautiful their ringing tones are. Some others use their phones to fake scenarios to make them look important, influential and rich. Check this out… a young guy in a public transport shouting in his phone, Bo una nor clear den me 30 container yate nar wata quay…look ar nor go done spend over 50 million en tay tiday una nor do nartin! Surely this kind of bogus bluff could well be to impress people around. This could well be the hatching of 419.
Feeding the phone sometimes becomes more of a burden than even feeding yourself. You have a set of people whose phones just receive calls and they hardly call. These are those who cash on incoming calls to deliver their own message. You will find out that those who hardly make calls are the ones who tend to introduce all sorts of small talks or jokes when they are called. Perhaps someone needs to teach people how to talk on the mobile phone. Woe betide you if you call certain ethnic groups who pride themselves in enjoying greetings…they will virtually ask for every member of your family before actually discussing the real issues.
Of course the little machine on the other hand makes life very easy and interesting. You can stay in Freetown and talk to your mother back in your village and share information first hand.
But remember when the global gets that tough take your pick…keep your phone, scrap it or scale down its use. Whichever one you choose will depend on the velocity of the global breeze that heats your pocket.
By S. Beny SAM