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Two Worlds, Two Points of View

Informal power in Africa Vs Formal "West" administration, that opposition that kills everything... but could be an asset for Africa...

This is at least one of my last article of this year… and I needed to write it before the end of the year.

Since I have started my own business, I have experienced a lot of funny and sometime sad moments… but most of time I realized I came back to life…

Let’s start from the beginning...

I have grown up in an entrepreneur family : both my parents are social entrepreneurs and dedicated their lives to build a strong, self relience community in Togo. Their NGO is almost 21 years old and has a very strong young generation members.

They started at the end of the 20th century. First of all they started by spiritual segment… Well, why that way ?

It is Africa and you have to understand how strong religious, ethnical and cultural community are.

This is not about privilegies or some other types of bribery. Things work really like that. You could find a plenty of groups there in Africa who owns entire businesses : rice, tomate, cars, farms, etc… and you have to better understand that you cannot really do any business if you don’t get any permission from them….

Is that a corruption ? Ones could say « yes » ! and i get it ! It seems so.

Things you have to be in peace with...

When you talk about ethnicity or other forms of belonging, you have to understand from where they came from… Africa is a very old civilization. Far more I can remember, before Europe can be what it is today, Africa had already empires, kingdoms, wars, conquests, priests, cults... African civilizations had their own organization, very patriarchal obviously, but still things worked, people traded, alliances, contracted…

When the slavery and imperialism destroy previous power

That is when the nightmare began… with no leaders, there were no plans. Many of leaders were caught and deported far from their empires and kingdoms. But then a kind of counter-power was born from the hashes of the ancient empires : the informal power called most of time, the black power (not the skin).

The slavery's, and then the colonie’s administration had to deal with this power and let it grow as it had ancient secrets of the lands. Any opposition to this informal power could lead to a significant weakness of the colonial or slavery system. From both systems another organization was born : the one called « western » from the slavery then colonial system and the second from the hidden power called « the council of wise men ».

This « council of wise men » still exists today and economy related to it is the informal economy or black economy. They lead the shadow economy with sometimes a GDP of 20% to 50% in some countries.

Is it illegal ? You could be surprised by the answer, most of cases, NO ;

Informal does not mean illegal. It is mean informal. Informal is every where not only in Africa. Take a little village of 300 souls somewhere in Russia or France or Japan. Most of their deals are informal, except when it comes to local market, or official registration of piece of lands, marriages or other type of transaction that requires a public record ;

So it is in Africa; except the fact that people from same community can live at two different boards of states ( for example Ethny of EWE in Togo, Ghana and Benin). So business works as follow : « A » living on side « one » of the board wants to buy 50000 kilograms of tomats from his fellow « B » living on side two of the board. Well, most of time there is no need of money transaction. « A » 's cousin living on the same side as « B » will take care of money transaction, a cash duty-free system. « B » will then send goods as an export, which cost sometimes cheap, to « A ».

A better schema will be to go through unofficial boards and deliver goods. And its works…

What is the purpose?

Money stays inside the community and goods flows out of it : logically simple as it could be…

This well-known schema is today a weak for official african business… but almost not illegal… why ?

Because formal administration and informal power works differently. Which one is the good one ? None of them… Yes!, none of them !

This is a question of « legitimacy » and that is one the reasons, informal economy still there…

As I said Two Worlds, at least Two point of views ! Fact !

What could be done?

Fight for a better inclusion of both system, although nothing will change! Traditional power remains and will, formal power from colonial system seems to be there for long time! A good system that anyone could take profit is to "africanize" both systems. Legal should not relate only to the laws from colonial systems; it has to be also from procedures and traditional usages! And communities must be seen as active assets, not a threat. I think there must be a work of sensitization inside the formal administration system and the communities... That maybe could significantly lower the gap existing between these systems and revive a transparent local economy...

My Hopes!

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