Where Water Runs Dry: Streams of Income in Africa

First thing’s first: there’s an elephant in the room whether or not we’d admit it. Folks are continuing to wonder how something like COVID-19 will hurt African countries the most, or why it hasn’t spread as fast in Africa as it did in the “developed”, “Western” world.

Both questions typically involve an assumption: that the virus should technically kill more Africans because we have a nonexistent or terrible healthcare system.

This is insulting, especially because of sample breakthroughs to contain the spread. 

But worse of all it focuses on the wrong issue.

The real problem is that the limited options most Africans already had to make a decent income are disappearing. 

As I wrote about before, remote work is a luxury only people with consistent and cheap access to power and the Internet can afford. We wasted too much time not building this infrastructure in most African countries.

But when you weren’t in the formal sector to begin with, remote work wouldn’t have been a consideration. When your main source of income is housekeeping or selling produce in the town market, how do you cope when the world totally shuts down face-to-face commerce and interactions?

I have to think this through carefully because I’m working with communities that need PRACTICAL advice and support. People who have barely made over $10 USD a week to feed themselves or their families.

One Sunday I was shopping at the Nairobi Maasai market (about three weeks ago) before borders closed and the spread of COVID-19 got worse. Per usual, a vendor aggressively chased me down to view his beautiful artwork in hopes that I’d buy the priciest. 

I had my eye on one that would cost approximately $50 USD (~5,000 Kenyan shillings) but realized I only had $5 USD on hand.

I thought it was a done deal but then the man begged me to just give him the $5 because he worried this was the only sale he was going to make that day.

What are we doing right now about people like him?

I thought about sharing passive income ideas. That’s the new buzzword in this age of the hustle economy. Passive income, along with several streams of income, is the prescribed panacea for a lack of generational wealth. 

Some of the suggestions include tutoring (online curriculum), blogging, investments, and YouTube (one I promoted in the past). 

Nothing about the economy or livelihood of the average African implies they can be “passive” trying to earn additional income.

“Passive” implies that a person wouldn’t need to do much to start earning from these opportunities. But first you need the capital, then the equipment (i.e. computer), then the services we take for granted elsewhere to even begin to create content or put in place a structure to earn money.

I love being African because I come from a continent where the people don’t quit. We’re anything but laid back, whether we’re throwing parties or crossing seas because we know that means our children will eat. 

But we must cut our brothers and sisters in Africa some slack, and realize that at this point a lot of their efforts are futile in moments like these.

Anyone “stepping their game up” to find some passive income opportunities here in the States may want to figure out how to make passive income opportunities real for those in African countries. One idea is setting up call centers: industry experts have said multiple times that we’re not doing enough to replicate India’s success in this area to provide easy entry-level jobs like these that require little training. To my readers in Africa, I’ll post some available opportunities on my website shortly that you can apply to.

Any readers looking to outsource other types of opportunities to a readership of 3,000+ can send them to me at info@karfi.org and I’ll broadcast them to potential applicants.

As always, let me know your thoughts below and remember – we all aren’t in the same place (financially or geographically) but we’re still all in this together.

What do you think?

I’m thinking of starting a business of my own that solves this problem.

I feel the same way — tired of lower standards that keep Africans at risk economically.

I don’t think you’re seeing the full picture, and I have a different point of view.

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