First things first. I assembled this list somberly aware of how insanely slim options are for most of us during the ongoing pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus. If anything, the brevity of this unsolicited list is enough evidence. I know too well what the struggle to survive the African city of the 21st century has done to most of us: even if I failed to show and tell in ‘first things first’ above, I have the scars. Nonetheless, a nagging sense of public duty forces me to front these three tips on budgeting for household and food shopping on a daily wage as COVID-19 asphyxiates life – however inadequate they might be.
Still, I urge you to give this shortest of lists a chance in this high season of: ‘advice from nobodys telling you what to do or not to’. I’ve searched high and wide. My search took me through my collective generational ‘institutional memory’. Meaning, I’ve talked to the old guys for ways of surviving sh*t. Remember, these are wazees who have survived waves upon waves of socio-cultural-economic injustice, both from within and without the continent. I talk of — coup d’états, famines, local measles outbreaks, cholera, typhoid, famines, resource curse, insufferable African demi god leaders and their wives, concubines, children and regime defenders… name it!
The saving grace of shopkeeper credit
If you live on a daily wage, a good credit history at your local shopkeeper could come in handy in these unprecedented times. For example, you can make arrangements with the shopkeeper to get some goods in larger than usual portions, but make comfortable part weekly or daily payments.
More COVID-19 resources
- “I might look okay, but inside I slowly die as COVID-19 attacks ubuntu – the way of life that roots us,” says a young Kenyan
- Africa proof: 3 practical tips budgeting for household and food shopping on a daily wage as COVID-19 threatens to asphyxiate life as we’ve known it
- Africa proof: 5 practical ways Africans can limit spread of coronavirus in public places – Ingenuity and lessons from the continent
Unleash the power of chamas and other group power
Before I let you in on what I learned just by speaking to my mother, I urge you all to talk to your mothers, or, whoever it is that has been doing things that mothers do for you. African women, our mothers know stuff on how to survive and even thrive. I mean, just think about it for a moment: what it takes to raise a child in Africa.
So mum advises that I should try out some of the software that they used back in the days to run homes when they had too many mouths to feed (theirs and other relations) and too little to go around. What the mothers would do is to band together — 2 to nth church mates, neighbors, colleagues, village mates, relatives — and head down to Marikiti market at the crack of dawn. There, with their pooled funds, they would negotiate and buy fresh farm produce straight from farmers or wholesalers delivering to the market.
Then they would distribute the 1, 2 bags of potatoes or whatever produce share it equally or proportionally according to each’s contribution. The point here is in the power of coming together, trusting each other with money and exploiting the power that comes from that. I want to believe that there must be a version of the Swahili proverb umoja ni nguvu utengano ni udhaifu in every African community. It says: “unity is strength, division is weakness”; now, why not some of that ubuntu-ness when budgeting for household and food shopping on a daily wage as COVID-19 threatens our lives and livelihoods?
In truth, I have struggled to find a solution to how to get around this irreplaceable item that’s a fixture in most African urban household budgets. Because, we have to admit that even if it’s African to ‘ingenuity‘ through all sorts of lack, some things need be taken care of by those who must. Be it that they are obligated by the positions they occupy; or because they hold in trust the power to do things on behalf of the people.
Nonetheless, we list water here as its a thing that most of us have to think about every frigging day. So demand for water from the people who are responsible. I know, I know, how it is with our politicians, but hey, ask. Water is life.
Know. Own. Be. Live the African Century. Everyday Tips on Life, Style, Entrepreneurship and Careers for the 21st Century African