How to produce an African Middle Class? Sitting Fees!

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capacity-building

Have you every wondered what African entrepreneurship really looks like? How poverty stricken slum dwellers can achieve middle class status quickly, with minimal skills and almost no resources? An NPR article I read recently tells us exactly how.

Let’s get rich with sitting fees!

In Kenya’s sprawling Kibera slum, residents are demanding sitting fees to attend the latest poverty eradicating experiments from the newest crop of NGOs. I love the entrepreneurship of newly-minted “professional attendees” – bored locals who’ve figured out how to make a living off of per diems and sitting fees at “capacity building” meetings:

Accurate statistics are hard to come by in Kibera, but by one estimate, roughly four in five groups pays sitting allowances. There are enough groups having enough meetings, and handing out enough cash, that some locals make something of a living going from meeting to meeting. They’ve become known as “professional attendees.”

“I know the professional attendees,” Okoth said. “I celebrate their ingenuity of taking advantage of people who have come to take advantage of them.”

T.I.A. brothers! Go and get paid!

When you live in a slum and the White Savior Complex has calculated your earnings potential at $1.25 per day, you could achieve middle-income status by attending a few meetings per day:

  • Take your neighbor’s photogenic child with flies and a distended belly to maximize the potential of a poverty porn bonus.
  • Show that while you’re poor, you’re also innovative by demanding payment via MPESA.
  • Raise your hand at each meeting and ask the same practiced deep question about the resource curse.
  • Please the donor at any cost by sitting back, nodding politely as they try to fish for an answer.
  • Remember to stick your civilized pinky out while you have a fourth cup of tea! You’re not paying.

I nod to myself. This is genius. Pay us to do nothing. I could imagine a whole village of women dancing and clapping for an arriving fleet of Land Cruisers coming to introduce yet another goddamn cookstove. Why sweat over that stove cooking ugali when you can just eat out from your professional attendee fees?

Let’s scale this innovative innovation!

I am wondering how many NGO’s with an unpronounceable acronym it takes to implement the latest USAID strategy? How many village meetings it would take to achieve each programs logframe? What would happen if all participants demanded to be paid to attend skills-building workshops at the closest workshop venue outside the capitol that qualifies for per diems?

I need to tell all the villagers how to get rich!

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