Spare a moment to consider the plight of luckless slaves pursued by their benefactors for taxes and treats across the continent. But just who are these slaves? They are ostensibly called the middle-class; the 5% of the population that carries the economic burden of state. While government targets employees in formal employment to pay for legislation that maintains the state; the rest of the population prey on wage earners for the essentials of food, shelter and school fees.
This privileged 5% of the population has an enviable profile. Each will have an education far above the rest of the population. Most live in urban areas where access to the pleasures of life are easiest. Nonetheless in this position they are subject to multiple legislative burdens unheard of in the village. They will be punished for enjoying the privileges of urban existence by paying for everything they consume, use or make an attempt to own. 98% (of the 5%) live in houses they do not own and work on jobs that belong to the upper class, the government and foreign investors. They may drive a car on loan but owning a house is well beyond their reach. The broad majority of the lower middle-class, will be scaling public transport before 8am and after 5pm. While they appear fashionably dressed, a cost they must pay for whatever economic empowerment they earn, their income is frequently raided by inflation and vandalized by any number of pretentious rent seekers.
Nonetheless, while employees have a source of regular income they do not have access to capital! Bank interest rates are so high they do not support individual enterprise. It is better to remain employed than try to break into the murky waters of entrepreneurship. Incidentally the same two benefactors are ready and waiting to punish anyone who thinks of abandoning the employment lines. A host of legal agencies are instructed to punish any initiative to depart from the workforce with licenses, levies and all manner of innovative tolls and tariffs.
Because employees have a number, their records are sped post haste to government advisers who ensure that employment income is directly taxed to the tune of 35% or more of gross earnings to pay for the privilege of being employed and the support of those who escape formal jobs. While employees fund 60-80% of national coffers, their vote (less than 5%) does not influence the economic destiny of the nation. The ballot box remains a balkanized conspiracy of the wealthy, ethnicity and religious bias. No one really cares where the money comes from so long as it is a democracy. Yet the middle class in wealthy nations directly influence the vote.
“The creative class, which comprises a third to more than forty percent of the workforce in the advanced nations, includes scientists and technologists; artists, cultural creatives, and media workers, as well knowledge-based professionals in business, education, and health-care. While the varied members of the working class had physical skills as a shared trait, the diverse groups of workers that make up the creative class all draw on their underlying human creativity. The even larger service class is made up of lower-skill, lower-wage, routine service occupations in fields like health care support, food preparation and service, low-end retail, and office and administrative positions.” GLOBAL CREATIVTY INDEX 2015.
The global creativity index lists talent, technology and tolerance as the keys to economic advancement and credits the creative class as the drivers. Luxemburg has a creative class of 54%, Singapore 47%, United Kingdom 44% and USA 33%. Ghana stands at 8.61%, Rwanda 3.76 % but the majority of countries in Africa are unlisted. It is not hard to see that while the working class in the west creates wealth, the working class in Africa is drained of the wealth it creates. Around the world the middle class is known for its professionalism, creativity, productivity and enterprise. Unfortunately the percentage of the middle class in Africa is shrinking. Economic slaves are dying younger by the generation. They hardly remain employed more than a few years. They are coming under such pressure as to abandon the state and migrate to other nations where they can enjoy a measure of the wealth they earn and send a little back home by western union, Mpesa and a number of other transfer vehicles.
The reason I plead for employees is that there can be no meaningful development and national growth without the empowerment of the people of a land. While skewed per capita incomes and GDPs can be manufactured by inviting a few foreign investors to put up factories, real empowerment only comes from the creativity of the people. Unless this 5% is nurtured, encouraged expanded and empowered countries will continue to fleece the life out of its wealth creating citizenry. But to whom do I plead? My plea is to policy makers at all levels and every sphere of society to ensure that policy is not punitive to wealth creators and discouraging to innovators to the extent that it kills the will to take initiative to produce value.
While I have a great concern for the plight of employees across Africa, I am desperately worried about the majority of employees who do not comprehend that they create wealth and consign themselves to be slaves! After producing wealth for their employers, economic slaves retire distraught, disillusioned and penniless. Distraught; when they look back at how much they have earned and yet do not own. Disillusioned; because they were promised that education and employment would elevate them from poverty. And penniless; because they have no clue as to the purpose or principles of money!
Allan Bukusi is the author of