How can a person or country advance, if the very institutions to facilitate this advancement prevent it from happening?
My friend “Abou” (name changed) lives in the bush somewhere in Eastern Mali. I got to know him over the last few years.
Abou is a good guy, a teacher of a women’s literacy class in his village. He is poor, and lives in a mud hut on the outskirts of a small village. He has been keen to have us to do community development work with his elderly literacy grandmothers.
I will never forget a day last year, as I passed him and his wife on the bush road. I thought it was Abou, but I was not certain. I arrived in the village to the news that his wife lost her unborn baby. Abou was taking his wife to the hospital.
Have you ever thought about the logistics of this; what do you do when a person is too sick to sit up on a motorcycle and drive forty or fifty kilometers in a rough bush road? There are not any cars or trucks in the village, so how do you get incapacitated people out for treatment? Not easy, and there are few timely solutions.
Medically, bush life really sucks, and seems to be a crap shoot for survival some times. This is why I drive very carefully in the bush. It’s not the place to act like we are in the Dakar Rally. Break a leg or shoulder out here, and you will have to drive out on the back of a motorcycle with it, assuming you can even get on, and stay on the jostling motorcycle.
Anything can happen. For example, I was driving my motorcycle down a path hemmed in with orange trees. Just be aware that unripened oranges are green, and hard to see among the green leaves on low hanging branches. Well, they really, really hurt your shoulder when you hit a green, baseball sized orange at 30 km an hour. Or perhaps a cow or mule jumps put of the bush in front of you. That is all it takes.
Anyway, that image of Abou taking his wife to the hospital on a moto, over forty km in the bush, after a late term loss of a child, was rather alarming to me.
I met Abou on a bush road a few days ago, while heading to his village. He waved me down to tell me he was on his way in to town because he has some serious issues to take care of. I did not probe, but wished him well with getting the “issues” solved.
He said. “It is very discouraging.”, and then spilled the story.
He received a call from the bank asking for a another meeting today. He has already had several.
Abou had the opportunity to join a program where loans were set up to enable people to buy and develop land of their own. He opted in and bought some land so he could start a small plantation.
The new Bank manager called him in a few days back and asked him why he was not paying down his micro-loan of 1.5 million CFA (About $3000) for the last three years.
Abou explained that he had indeed been paying on the loan for three years, and he was within months of completing the final payments.
The new bank manager said he could be thrown in jail. Abou said that he had been paying, and was almost finished, how can you say I paid nothing?
He does not have the receipts, since he gives them to the Agricultural project people to prove to them he is paying his loan. So hopefully he can get all his payment receipts back from that Micro-Loan program, as proof of payment.
I commented that the tellers must know you, if you are there making payments, surely one of them can indicate that they remember you making payments at their wicket. “I spoke to each one, and they have not said even one word when I speak to them.”
The old bank manager moved on recently, and I suspect he (and\or possibly the tellers) were all setting Abou up to be robbed. The tellers are saying nothing, the old bank manager is gone, and the new guy does not know Abou at all. And he is threatening him, because the bank records show no payments.
I’ll keep you posted…. But if they were accepting his payments, and pocketing the money… what can Abou do about it? There are only four possible outcomes here; Abou gets it all worked out with his proof of receipts (I doubt it), Abou goes to jail, Abou has to pay it all a second time, Abou, will have to pay a portion again.
Sadly, I’ve heard of this crap before.
They really don’t want people to go to prison, how can you pay anything then? So they work out a scheme where they say they have no proof of payment, or only proof of “partial payment”. So you need to pay this further sum… and it will be over. The poor man is happy not to go to jail, happy not to have to pay the full sum again, and the crooks get, yet again, a little more to line their pockets with. So everyone is happy.
Frankly, the way the slimy tellers are acting… it is not looking good.
And you wonder why the poor can’t get ahead? The very structures and systems put there to help them, work against them sometimes, because of the corrupt people running them. Same goes for humanitarian or World Bank Loans going to the government; money goes missing all the time.
The crooks getting rich on the back of a poor man living in a mud hut, slaving to get ahead. How can they sleep at night?
This is one reason I am so glad our agency does not maintain accounts in-country. But that is not fool proof either. Twice I had $3000 lifted off my VISA cards by the bank in Ivory coast, by dipping when I took a VISA field transfer. We got our money back eventually, but it took 4 to 6 months each time.
The worst deal I got here was with ECO Bank…. I took several field fund withdraws via a local debit machine, both times the machine made the noise it does when counting out the bills, spit out my card, my receipt, but the money door did not open and give me any money. It took 4 months, but we got that worked out as well.
Yes, I’m upset for Abou. Maybe, I’ll be visiting my friend in prison. I hope not; they need to reserve more spaces for the real crooks who are sucking the life out of this continent and poor defenseless people like Abou.
Good news…. here is an update to this story. Abou is not going to jail after all. Poverty And Banks Without Money.
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