Sunday, August 17, 2008

African Friends and Money Matters

***I apologize for all of the typos! Can you tell that I typed that when I was VERY tired and should have been sleeping!! Good greif!***

Someone who commented on one of my previous blog posts recommended this book-- "African Friends and Monday Matters." Wow. What a GREAT recommendation! I bought the book before I left from Ghana and read it on the plane. I cannot tell you how much this book has affected my understanding of the cultural history behind issues of money and friendship in Africa. I have an "ah-ha!" moment on almost every single page!

The book is in plain English, rather than dry anthropological rhetoric. And it's lightened up even further by the inclusion of cartoons of African scenes, drawn by African artists.

One of the things the book talks about is how Americans manage financies in a marco way and Africans manage finances in a micro way. We think month to month, and year to year. Africans thing day to day (even if they are well off and don't HAVE to think this way). Just knowing that little peice of information gave me such a greater understanding of my relationships with our staff in Ghana.

Budget? What's that? People in Africa don't naturally think in form of a budget like we do in the West. If they have money it can be used for whaever the most pressing need of the day is. If that day they need to spend 1/4 of their income to have a party, they don't think about what they are going to do without that 1/4 later in the month when electricity bill is due!

I will say that our staff at AAI have come SO FAR with budgeting. But it is obviously not something that they grew up doing. It was a very foreign concept to them. When I ask our staff to create a budget they really had no idea how to do that. After I created a budget for them there was definitely a learning curve for them to learn to use it. Now they understand the budget great, but still aren't sure when it's okay to transfer money from one budget area to another budget area to meet costs. But we're getting there!!

Another "lightbulb" moment was when the book talked about people who give to a charity for a specific project (let's say a water well). The needy organizoation aceepts the donation happily. But oops! It's rainy season and you can't dig a water well in rainy season. But they have this money. And in their culture you don't just let money sit around or someone will ask to borrow it (and you will be obligated to give it). so the use the money for another project that needs attention--electricity. Did the organzation misuse the money? Yes, if you as a westerner. Absolutely NOT if you ask the organization. The money sent to them for a specific use couldn't be used for that, so they put the money to use on another big project that was in need of funding. They see no wrongdoing in that at all. Truly. I know...hard to swallow as an American!

These are the types of scenarios presented over and over again in "African Friends and Money Matter" by David Maranz

Another nice thing about the book is that it presents things from both the African and Wester point of view. It tells how Americana feel that we MUST have a budget, and why when we give for a specific purpose we expect the money to go for that specific purpose! The only think I miss in the book would some suggestions on how to manage these relationships between African andWestern thoughts of money.

I learned some things that are helpful while in Ghana. Here are a few:

1. If someone says they want you to give them your shoes, or shirt. or car, it's their way of complimentng you hey may really like to have those things, but don't expected.

2 If you are a "friend" with an African you will be expected behave like a friend. This means that your friend can come up an ask to borrow or have any of your possiession and you will be obligated to allow it or offer a better solution. At the same time, as your friend's friend, you are also entitled to ask and borrow of whatever he has.

3. Friend to Friend--In American we don't get money involved in friendship unless there are very unusual circumstances. In Africa it is expected that a friendship is also a sort of banking relationship where borrowing and repayment is expect throughout the fruendship.

4. Westerners like to handle giving impesonlly--give it to a charity on TV, or put a box of clothes at Goodwill. Africans deal with charity very personally--walk down the road and give Mama Jo some egs; give the guy with one leg a few coins.

I could go on and on about this book but the bottom line is....if there is even a REMOTE change that you are EVER going to be in a position of having friendship or business relationships with Africans, YOU SHOULD bUY THIS BOOK!!! If you are an adoptive parent who has an open adoption with your child's family--YOU SHOULD GET THIS BOOK. If youve already been to some country and handed out your email and phone number to every sweet girl that asked--GET THIS BOOK! Even if you're just traveling for a short trip and hope to spnd just a few moments with your child's biologicla family--GET THIS BOOK! ;-)




Bingaling 9:45 PM  

So, you're recommending that we get this book? ;o)

A. Gillispie 9:55 PM  

Ahhh...ya think?! ;-)

Ericka 7:32 AM  

How far is Eban House and Beacon from each other??
I've been meaning to ask this for weeks!!!!!

A. Gillispie 7:48 AM  

Eban House and Beacon House are maybe 30-45 minutes apart, with regular traffic. Could take 2-3 hours with bad traffic. Eban is in Teshie. Beacon is in East Legon.

Amalama 7:24 PM  

But if the traffic is bad, then you might get to enjoy the bush roads! ;) That is an adventure worth having at least once, wouldn't you say Anita?


Brian 2:12 PM  

Thanks for the book recommendation. We'll just finishing up two years hear in Ghana next week.

Also, we've sucessfully navigated our way cleanly through Ghanaian bureaucracy to complete our a DIY adoption through Ghana DSW. Sure wasn't easy... Your blog has provided quite a bit of insite.

All are doing well, and looking forward to the next chapter in the US.

Beckie Sibley 2:29 PM  

Hi Anita, I second the book recommendation. I bought it before moving to Zambia and found it invaluable once we arrived. The examples you give in this post are right on target. Blessings to you!

Karleen 11:41 PM  

Thanks Anita, I saw this awhile back, and couldn't remember the name to track it down!! I was so excited when I saw the book cover. :)