I am not an economist but I am learning the true implication of purchasing power by working and living here in Bamako. Purchasing power in case you aren’t familiar is defined as “the financial ability to buy products and services”.
I am one of the lucky ones living in Mali that makes a livable salary (while I might be paid below industry standard I still easily make x3 what some of my Malian counterparts make. A fact that causes many mixed emotions on a daily basis for me). Now I live off a budget – you have to in a country where things are very expensive due to a +35% but what I budget for to spend on vegetables in one month alone is more than many Malians have to spend on all of their weekly expenses combined.
The reality is that some people make around $6/day for a full day’s work in construction, field labour, small roadside commerce etc. and due to extremely high unemployment rates there is not a lot of opportunity to change that situation. So when a good ole white “toubab” (the Malian word for white person – pronounces too -bob) comes by or a middle class Malian who spends $2-3 you really do have a big impact.
Until earlier this month I was buying a lot of my weekly needs at a local small scale “grocery shop” (more like a bigger convenience store that has most of what I need and isn’t any more expensive than the big grocery stores in town that are farther away.). One day they were out of bread and it was late so I wondered around and found a small tin shack that was being lit by a candle while the two shop keepers stooped over a supper of beans. I bought a dozen eggs and bread – a $1 purchase in all. This one dollar made the shopkeeper so happy. Where I choose to spend money can make people happy. Life in Mali is hard – and the power of a dollar spent means that shopkeepers, vegetable ladies, and small commerce people can do more than eat one meal of beans a day it means that they can also have the power to buy their own goods and services that will improve their lives and the lives of their families. It’s all in how you spend – spending with intention.