What is middle class in Ivory Coast?

Written by admin   // June 25, 2013   // 0 Comments

Two Ivorians, considered to be middle class by the African Development Bank, tell the BBC’s Tamasin Ford how they survive on between $2 (£1.30) and $20 a day.

Konan Kouassi Vercruysses, 26, runs a phone booth with his cousin. He works five-hour shifts, six days a week and attends university. Kouadio Koffi, 29, is a security guard who shares a one-room house with his cousin. He works 12-hour night shifts, six days a week.
Monthly budget Konan Kouassi Vercruysses Kouadio Koffi
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

Both men, who live in the main city of Abidjan, are single with no children, do not own a car, a house or land and were affected by the five-month conflict that followed the disputed 2010 polls.

Konan Kouassi Vercruysses:

I manage a phone box at the market of Cocody in Abidjan.

A phone box is where people come to make a call or buy airtime for their mobile phones.

When you have many customers it’s profitable but if you don’t get many customers, unfortunately, you leave your work place empty-handed.

I don’t live with my parents. I rent a room in a house with my cousin.

He helps me manage my business when I am at university.

I’m studying English at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny University in Abidjan.

I don’t own the house or have any land.

I just want to live alone to be a man, to face the difficulties by myself and be independent.

My parents take care of my school fees so I just pay for everything else.

I spend most of my money on food every month for me and my cousin. Here in Abidjan, food is very expensive. If you want to eat very well you need to spend more.

I face many difficulties because when I’m managing my business myself I cannot study very well.

I’m wasting my time and often I’m very angry because I see my friends go to school but I’m obliged to stay here and manage my business.

I become very sad and very angry because my aim is not to stay here. My aim is to go beyond and be excellent in my studies.

‘I will be rich’

My dream is to become a businessman but here in Ivory Coast it’s not easy to start that right now so I would like first of all to be a teacher and then if I get some money I will set up my own business.

Konan Kouassi Vercruysses behind his phone booth in AbidjanSweets are also for sale at the phone box

Of course I am afraid of losing my business because it pays for my life.

During the crisis I had to stop working; I lost everything; I had to spend all my savings just to live, to eat.

Now I put money aside every day. I started my savings again just five months ago because I want to buy a computer. Maybe in three months I will have enough money to buy one.

Right now I don’t find I have enough money to do what I want to do because I need to pay for so many things so it’s not easy to start a good business.

If one of my brothers calls me and says he needs money, I give him some money. I have two younger brothers and three sisters; I’m the eldest.

I cannot say I’m wealthy but I cannot say I’m poor because if I’m living it means I can sustain my life.

I don’t like the word poor because if you have this in your mind it brings you down.

I’m convinced I will be rich one day. I would like to reach my goals.

If I am able to pay my food, buy my clothes it means I have something. I am not nothing.

Kouadio Koffi:

I am a security guard in the east of Abidjan but I live in Yopougon [in the west].

Transport is very expensive in Abidjan so if I had to go from my house to my work every day it would cost a lot of money because it’s far away.

So I sleep here with a friend during the week and go home at the weekends [where] life is good because things are cheaper there.

Other areas, like here where I work, are more expensive.

Kouadio Koffi in Abidjan
Kouadio Koffi cannot afford to visit cyber cafes

I live with my younger cousin in a one-room house.

He is staying with me so he can go to school here. He helps with the food bills but he doesn’t have very much.

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.

This work is tiring. I start at 6.30pm and finish at 6.30am but what other work can I do?

‘I want a family’

My father died in 2004 and that’s when I stopped going to school because I had to work to find money.

It was hard to find work then because it was just after the first crisis. Everyone fled to Abidjan and everybody needed jobs.

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 there’s a death in my family I go to my friends for help, to give me a little something. It’s like that.

Yes I am scared if I lose my job because there will be nothing to pay for my rent.

Where will I find money? If I lose my job there will be many problems for me.

I don’t have a computer and I’ve probably only been on the internet four or five times in the last five years.

It is very rare for me to visit a cyber cafe. I just don’t have the money.

After all the bills there is no money left. If there is anything, I give it to my cousin or I use it for transport to go home.

But there is usually nothing – 50,000 CFA ($100) a month is too small to live on.

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.

When life is better for me I can have a family.


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Ivory Coast

middle class


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