Sunday, January 29, 2012

talk about an unequal world

Here's a jarring juxtaposition. The heads of state gathered at the Masters of the Universe conference in Davos Switzerland (aka the World Economic Forum) are talking of allocating 22 billion euros to combat youth unemployment in Europe. By contrast, in a report late last year, Al Jazeera asked if Senegal -- the West African nation whose total GDP is less than half the amount the Europeans are discussing and where an economic analyst reports that "less than three per cent of the population" receives a formal salary every month while the rest rely on "informal revenue" -- was experiencing "an African renaissance."

Annie Diouf makes her money informally. She works in Sendaga, Dakar's largest market, selling fabrics. "I got started in this business, because earlier I worked for a company and with inflation and the global crisis companies started shutting down in Senegal and because I didn't think I would find a job, I decided to work in the informal sector of the economy," she says. The work is hard and involves spending long hours in the sun and rain, often with little to show for it. With little faith in the government to improve their lot, Diouf and a few of her colleagues have taken matters into their own hands."We got organised, we put together a women's association so we can stand by each other. We pool our profits together and give the money to one of the women on one day and she buys the material for her stall, the next day another woman goes out and does the same," Diouf explains.
This is not to minimize the pressure on Europe's young people. But self-starters will fare better in this chastened and debt-ridden world. Europe has some things it can learn from Senegal. Informal collectives can spark an economic renaissance.

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