I am going to start off by saying that I am still on the food truck business. Things have come to a halt at the minute due to little to no capital, so I thought I would attend an interview at Standard Chartered Bank when they called me in yesterday. If I could manage to pay the bills and put something away each month, I could then slowly start working to get my own business of the ground. A little bit late I know, but my first priority if you remember was to buy myself a house and with all the ups and downs, I have only been able to do just about that, pay the mortgage (plus generator, dstv, and adhoc stuff which have eaten out of my salary).
This blog though it’s not about me, it’s about corruption, and how it is borne. Africa has a bad reputation when it comes to corruption. The perception is that you can buy your way out of it. I have tried most of the time to live as honest a life as I can and always live within my means. Yes a lot of the time, corruption crops up because of greedy businessmen and politicians who want more. But yesterday, I actually had respect for the little man behind the computer who will not move a contract until he gets a pay back. For some, it is not about greed, it’s about survival.
I thought the job was for a procurement managerial role, but as I got into the discussion it became apparent that it was just your typical entry level position for a fresh graduate straight out of school. I was asked what I was making, and then was told that the position is less than 25% of what I used to know. The salary was a mere 750GHS. Yes you read right SEVEN HUNDRED AND FIFTY GHANA CEDIS. I thanked the man, and said that my mortgage payment is more than that and I would have to cut my DSTV subscription, so thanked him for his time and got out there.
The thing that gets me is that this is a multinational bank, this is a bank whose bank tellers in UK get 5-6-7 times more than this salary. Honestly I don’t really care for the training, the travelling (to Nigeria if I am lucky) or the glory in telling everyone I work for one of the most prestigious banks in Ghana. Show me the money!!!
Alas, this salary is not uncommon in Ghana. Companies are setting up multi-million subsidiaries in Ghana and making more growth than the whole of Europe and America put together. If you find yourself on the lower end of the food chain however, you’re buggered.
When I was interviewing for sales people in Olam, the salary ranges of these candidates ranged from 500 – 1500, these are people who worked for Nestlé, Vodafone as well as big distributors run by Lebanese bosses (don’t get me started on the Lebanese in Ghana for fear of offending a whole race and starting a war). These are men in their late 20s and early 30s. These are men who are married with a young child(ren) and a wife and parents who rely on them for support. Even the most humble of person really couldn’t survive on their mere salary.
If you look at the calculation, for a young married couple they will need a place to stay, as they have to take out a loan they have to pay that back on a monthly basis. Even the cheapest of places will set them back 200GHS. Another 200GHS will go to fuel alone for the car and maybe another 100 on maintenance if they got a second hand car. Nappies (or diapers) another say 150 a month as all are imported, then there is water and electricity which would add another 100. The lady will have to do her hair on a weekly basis, that could set her back between 20 – 80GHS if she is not the kind who has to wear the Brazilian or good quality made in China weaves. If you add up school fees and adhoc expenses, even if the two couples are on 750GHS each, it leaves very little at the end of the month for food and entertainment (and you have to have some kind of social entertainment else you will go mad).
On the flip side, a Senior Executive, and I am talking local person not expatriate, will be getting anywhere between 10,000 – 20,000GHS a month. Their kids will go to the best private schools paid by their employees. They will get a free car and a free driver and the company credit card for which they can use to entertain clients. I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not, I have seen it with my own eyes and the disparity between the bottom and top end of the ladder is huge. Are we supposed to work for the next 20 years for pittance to eventually find the light at the end of the rainbow when our predecessors retire and move on?
So what does one do in the meantime? I was asked by the interviewer, if a supplier was to be awarded a contract, all above board, but at the end of the contract handed me an envelope, what would I do in that situation. I wanted to say, at 750ghs a month for a salary of course I would take it. Instead I bullshitted some answer that made me holier than though.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t, all the time I was at MTN, I knew what was going on around me, but I didn’t say anything, because these people were taking less than me, and I wasn’t making so much in the first place. It wasn’t for greed, it wasn’t to live a lavish lifestyle, it was simply for survival, and to enjoy something nice at the end of the week. A pint of beer shouldn’t just be reserved for the rich; access to the gym shouldn’t be either. In the UK I would fork out for a gym membership and then waste money by not stepping into it for 3 months at a time. Here, I can’t even look at the gym because a well equipped gym is being charged in dollars and they are dollars my salary cannot afford.
The multinationals, and the big businesses are actually encouraging corruption, yes there will always be that greedy bastard who steals from the company and goes out and buys an escalade on a meagre salary (but this happens in every race). The cost of living in Ghana is not actually as low as it once was. You can easily spend 100GHS on simple provisions (tomatoes, onions, sardines, essential household items) and a salary of 750GHS is just not going to do squat apart from making the poor educated low paid worker find loopholes in the system to allow him to look after his family.
The government has increased the amount of money a multinational can invest from 300,000GhS to 1million GHS. While they are at it, they should re-evaluate the minimum wage of the worker of such a multinational should be paid, because quite frankly, it sucks.
The next time you go to an office and a miserable cow who doesn’t give you the time of day, just think about it, she is probably starving, she walked past a pizza inn the night before, checked her purse and moved on along (before her boss who was there with his family saw her).
750GHS….what an insult…I could get more than that stacking shelves at Sainsburys.