1st November, 2002
You can ‘structurally adjust’ an economy in a matter of years, but it takes longer to destroy a culture. Heiner Thiessen reports from Senegal on the impact of imposing a Western cash economy on a traditional African barter society
The road to the public tap was long and arduous. A new tap would have saved a lot of time. Nonetheless, Ibrahima decided against the investment. With a tap of his own providing clean and instant drinking water in the privacy of his own compound, neighbours would have descended upon him to fill their plastic containers with the precious fluid – a favour Ibrahima could never decline without risking trouble.
The monthly bill, however, would have been entirely his. Achmed was poorer still, but he didn’t want to be paid on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. He wanted his money in one lump sum, which he would then hide at some friend’s house, far away. The knowledge of actual cash, burning in Achmed’s pocket would have been too much for family and friends. Anyhow, no doors can be closed on friends and neighbours.
Tomorrow you might have to do the knocking yourself. Toure, on the other hand, accepted daily pay. His money would magically disappear at the speed of lightning.
Muslim life in sub-Saharan Africa involves a constant series of financial sacrifices, which peg individuals back to their natural state of cashlessness. Frequent...
To view the rest of this article - you must be a paying subscriber and Login
Using this website means you agree to us using simple cookies.