Life among the liquidity constrained

BBC Africa has a great piece on what it means to be middle class in the Ivory Coast.  The article profiles two Ivorians, Konan Kouassi Vercruysses (age 26) and Kouadio Koffi (age 29), who make between $2 and $20/day, thus falling in the middle class range as defined by the African Development Bank.

Konan “runs a phone booth with his cousin. He works five-hour shifts, six days a week and attends university.”  Kouadio “is a security guard who shares a one-room house with his cousin. He works 12-hour night shifts, six days a week.” Here are their monthly budgets (first column is for Konan and the second for Kouadio).

Earnings $240-$530 $100
Rent (inc water) $80 (for his room and one for his cousin) $33
Transport $20 $2
Electricity $8 $4
Gas (for cooking) $2 $4.40
Internet $3.20
Phone $12 $2
Food $140 (including for his cousin) $50
Clothes $10-$30 $10 (if money available)
Other circa $40 (to his cousin for phone booth work)
Savings Yes (undisclosed – been saving for five months) No

The profiles are often heartbreaking, showing how hard it is to smooth consumption at low levels of income (and with no access to credit markets) and how precarious life can be when sickness or unemployment can spell ruin.

Here are some quotes by Mr. Koffi:

When I wake up in the morning my problems begin, truly, because I have to first find food and then I have to help my cousin. If I had more money I could help more.

I don’t have any savings or any emergency fund. There is nothing in my bank account. Everything I earn goes on rent, bills and food. There’s nothing left for savings.

When you’re sick it is serious because there is no money for the hospital. I find small treatments or drugs from people who sell them on the street.

There are many challenges. I want to see a better life, a better life for me. I want to have a wife and children but what food can I give them? I need money to give them a life and send them to school. I don’t want them to suffer.

h/t to Souleymane Soumahoro

One thought on “Life among the liquidity constrained

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