I was in an Uber car speeding to an airport last week and as usual I struck up a conversations with the driver. She was an extremely articulate woman from one of those small non-picture postcard west African countries. She was so happy to be safe in America where she could earn some money and send her son to a good school.
Okay… so I was making a quick escape from Chicago when I was talking to this Uber driver. That’s the city with one of the highest murder rates and worst schools in the country. There is currently a fight going on to raise the minimum wage from $10/hr to $15/hr as a solution to potentially relieve some of the income harsh income inequality there.
Odd that this Uber driver considered Chicago a garden spot…
Traffic slowed as our friendly conversation turned into a heated lecture as she schooled me on corruption and the resultant hopelessness back in her home country. Government sanctioned corruption in her country saps the economy of needed resources and challenges people every day. Government officials expect payoffs for everything from a driver’s license to placing your child in a decent school. And if you dare start a business in one of these countries there will be a weekly knock at your door by at least one government official looking for their unearned cut of your revenues. And that is if you can afford the under-the-table payoff to get your business license.
That’s corruption… And the toll it takes on education, employment and human spirit keeps the poor below the poverty line and continues to enrich those in political power. Think about this next time you hear someone complain about income inequality in the United States.
According to this Uber driver she makes around $17 an hour. She loves her job, freedom, and how she can provide for her family. This would not have been possible back in her home country in Africa.
So what about the billion or more people still in Africa dealing with these corrupt governments?
Well it wouldn’t be so bad except our US Government seems to be supporting the corrupt African governments on many fronts.
Over the next few days President Obama will be visiting Kenya and Ethiopia. There will certainly be a multitude of photos with Obama and African government officials smiling, shaking hands, and generally chatting it up. Looking to be the best of friends…
In the meantime the smart people at Transparency International rank Kenya as 145th most corrupt country out of 175 countries measured (the USA is 17 out of 175). Luckily Ethiopia is not as bad as Kenya. Ethiopia ranks 110 out of 175.
The problem is that with all the financial aid we send to the dark continent we really don’t know how much does any good. With corruption this high much of that money may be going into government pockets instead of where it is needed.
Why does the US Government tolerate and even condone this corrupt behavior?
I guess in a more perfect world a bolder US Government could impose sanctions and isolate these corrupt African government officials instead of shaking their hands and making nice.
Unfortunately the formula looks like this… Corruption -> poverty -> hopelessness -> anger -> terrorist radicalization -> terrorist attacks. Maybe fixing the corruption would reduce the terrorism threat faster than sending money and weapons to corrupt African governments.