As I was visiting a relative in one of Sub-Saharan country where I am living since nearly one year, I saw masons working and I asked my host how much they gain per day. She replied “7000 Shillings”. That was “wow” for me. I said “in my country they gain around 1500 Fcfa which is 7500 shillings”. Converting in dollars gives us approximately $2.8 to 3.In further enquiries in another building site, a worker said he earns 8000 shillings a day ($3.2).I was really amazed when reading the Sustainable Development Goals, to notice that around 1 billion people on earth live with less than the above amounts. Actually, the other shock was to realize that masons are not among the poorest (which I actually thought).These masons are earning between 84 to 96 dollars a month. Fare ahead the limit of $1.25 a day.
Then several questions came into my mind:
How do they manage to live with $2.8 to 3.2 a day? The cost of life includes paying a house, eating and drinking, paying the bills, health and transport. And as I noticed with one of the masons, many of them either have a wife with children or are living with a girl with a child. How can they manage such responsibilities? I pictured it again and again. The answer was still not clear in my mind.
Do they have a plan to sustain the work and gain more than that? The possibilities of having such work 30 days a month is still to question. What about fatigue both physical and psychological? What are the strategies they have developed to earn money if they are not working on a building site?
As I was reading the SDGs again, these two questions were there over and over until I decided to conduct a little interview with one of the masons representing a group of 10 to 15.I thought this is a good baseline for further studies and analysis on how to make the SDGs workable in Sub-Saharan Countries.
This is the summary of the interview done on the 29th of January evening:
- The salary can vary from 5000-10000 Shillings depending on the duration of work (5h-9h30/day).For the bosses who are generous, the launch can be paid (around 2000/day)
- All the money is spent on diner and to care for the family generally living upcountry. The rent can vary from 10000-50000 shillings.
- None of the masons have a saving plan. “It does not even cross their mind” said the young masons interviewed. This means no plan to grow or invest for a better future.
- Most of them have only the job of masons. If they are not hired they remain without trying to get another job.
- There are people who live with less than 5000 shilling a day with no saving plan.
- Most of the masons ended school in S4 or S6.
After the interview I concluded that:
- It is possible to live with $1.25 a day including all the charges with a family. Many of the masons live with more than that amount a month.
- There is no plan for sustainability. No idea for investment. No strategy of personal or family development.
This case study enlightens me on the practicability of the SDGs: It remains a fiction for those who are not prepared for it. In fact the masons interviewed have just ended its secondary school and was working as a masons to collect 70000 Shillings to register at University. His plan is to graduate and get a descent Job. He has a plan for academic and professional development and would possibly have a Job in the formal sector.
Since the reason of the fiction is known, something can be done. The government, the civil society and the international community can address the challenge of preparedness through awareness. Ignorance is the key hindrance for the sustainable development of these masons and many others in their job categories. The gap between knowing what to do and implementing by starting somewhere somehow depend on our good will.
By Ngaté Hervé-Boris
Hervé-Boris holds a Masters of Arts specialized in cross-cultural psychology and communication.He is interested in the global approach of development in Sub-Saharan Countries. He promotes innovation and creativity as key tools for development and he is passionate about supporting vulnerable groups.