Bass-Ackwards

One of Tuesday’s adventures reminded me of our lecture on the rule of law and post-colonial Africa.  While I know it wasn’t exactly patronage, it was a shining example of why Benin is behind when it shouldn’t be.  Benin had the jump on many other African countries in that it transitioned peacefully (and rather without fanfare) from Marxism-Leninism to a democracy.  Benin was considered rather developed for its region as of 2000, but since has been eclipsed by other countries that started lower, but have a steeper trajectory of development.

The process of getting peanuts and soy crushed into their own respective pastes consumes valuable time and money for the women of the micro-enterprise I work with.  They take a large metal bowl of one of the products with them, and pay 1,000 CFA round-trip for a drive that’s about one hour each way.  Taking multiple batches at a time saves time and money with regard to transportation, but costs them in production by the women who remain on the premises.  This system is a great frustration for the women, who would like to own their own machine.

We were investigated buying them one, as it would save the two-hour, 1,000-CFA trip each week, plus 2,000 CFA per batch that is processed.  Additionally, neighbors would choose to come to them for their own processing needs, rather than traveling so far, bringing in untold additional revenue at 2,000 CFA per batch.  In order to price out the machine, we needed specifics or a picture.  Luckily, they knew that there was a machine nearby.

We set out on our walk for the machine, and arrived approximately sixty seconds later.

One Minute.  There is a machine that they could use that is one minute away.  Of course, the man who owns it simply refuses to use it for peanuts and soy, even though it’s also made for those products.  He only uses it for corn.

It reminded me of patronage and corruption in that a logical, easy solution was not possible for reasons that appear to be arbitrary and/or selfish.  Instead of walking a minute and putting those man-hours and the equipment (1/3 of their buckets) to use in production, they have to expend two hours or labour and equipment use plus 1,000 extra CFA a week.

If I were those women, I would be furious.

One thought on “Bass-Ackwards”

  1. Delia, I say: “Buy them a machine” and screw the other guy. If it’s do-able of course. As long as it’s not cost prohibative. Good luck. I hope it works out for you/them. It’s certainly a step in the right direction. Uncle Joe O.

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