No Choice: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
30th November 2015
I know a driver who works for a large Ghanaian company. He has four kids – two of them in secondary school and two in university. He is married to a housewife whose diabetic mother lives with them. My friend sure does have some expenses, but his salary is only GHC450. I have always wondered how he manages to make ends meet every month. According to him, it’s not easy. He needs some kpa kpa kpa movement on the side, so he does some private driving, some farming, sells credit and invests in his wife’s pure water business too. Somehow a combination of incomes from all these ventures is putting his kids through school, building a house in his hometown, with a little bit left over for funerals on weekends.
On the surface, it would seem utterly impossible for a person to run a family on four hundred and fifty cedis every month, but the reality is that there are many larger families surviving on much less. it’s not because they are born with some superhuman home economics skills – it’s because they have no choice.
It’s amazing the things you can do when you have no other option. Old women walk ten miles a day to their farms because they have no choice, it’s not like there’s a taxi going that way, and even if there was , they couldn’t afford it. There are tribes in the Amazon forest whose men , women and children sleep in the trees and under leaves every night – rain or shine. They do this because they have no choice in the matter. They know nothing about houses, bungalows and three bedroom flats. They don’t know what they’re missing, and so they make do with what they have, and are happy.
Not so long ago, I used to dread trips to my hometown because I knew I would have no mobile signal once I got there. I would spend the first few hours in agony, feeling utterly cut off from the rest of the world, but soon I would find myself focusing on the people and activities around me and having a wonderful time in spite of my inability to communicate with the rest of the world.
My friends, there is nothing we cannot live without – even the things we think our lives depend on. Choice is what gives value to things. In economics the principle of opportunity cost illustrates this. We all complain about how our salaries aren’t enough, how our business is not making enough profit, how our nation has insufficient revenue, but the truth is, whatever your income, whatever your resources, it is your choices that determine their sufficiency. As our incomes grow, so do our appetites. This happens to individuals, businesses and our government alike . You are branch manager now so you can’t wear your old suits and bring a packed lunch to work – you need a new wardrobe, and you must eat lunch at Movenpick. Your business had a good month and so the old logo, letterhead and location simply won’t do anymore. Experts must be brought in to redefine your brand for the Airport Hills market
Now they say we are a middle income country. No more HIPC. Third world is dead and gone, so our ministers can’t continue to suffer the indignity of only one vehicle each. No, they must each have two cars, and each project they’re involved in must come with its own extra car too. And when they leave office, they must be given huge ex gratia payments, AND be allowed to take as many as the official cars with them as they want, so that the state is forced to buy brand new ones for their replacements. Middle income government officials cannot suffer the indignity of old model vehicles. Meanwhile, the officials of the developed countries we beg for handouts, ride bicycles to work.
My people, wealth is created through sacrifice , the more you can go without today, the more you can afford tomorrow. with this in mind, if you can just remember that there is absolutely nothing that humans cannot live without, then you will soon discover that there is absolutely no limit to how much wealth you can create for yourself.
If my driver friend and his family could survive on a job that paid less than five hundred cedis a month, then nothing is impossible. As we enter a new week I would like us all to identify one thing we spend money on that we can do without . let us give ourselves just the month of December to live without that one thing. In the New Year, we will compare notes and see just how much wealth we have created through sacrifice.
We can do this. People have built empires out of a lot less than what you and I waste in a week. lets put it to the test and see how much closer a little self-discipline and self-denial can move us swiftly toward our life goals.
My name is Kojo Yankson and I’m sacrificing my way to a brighter future.
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!