Throughout the Conquest, I’ve gotten the chance to see poverty up close. The shacks and huts of SE Asia opened my eyes to the realities of the unequivocally poor. At the time, I remembered thinking (and writing) that poverty didn’t seem to be as stark as I had expected. Hunger appeared to be a remote issue, and nearly every family had at least one moped, many having a TV as well.
Senegal is poverty of a different vein.
As I asked in an earlier post, what difference does a Mercedes make compared to a Ford in actual standard of living?
The answer then and now is none.
The difference between a donkey and a moped. That’s a big one.
Within Dakar, there is still a notable percentage of the population, maybe 5-10%, using animal power for transportation. As one gets about an hour east of the city, that number jumps to well over 50%. The difference in standard of living from Senegal’s $1072 per capita GDP to Vietnam’s $1911 is breathtaking.
That additional $839/person is the difference between a moped and a donkey, a television and none, and consistent access to clean water. It is the difference between a steady supply of electricity and one with regular blackouts.
For less than what a daily Starbucks drinker spends annually, the gap in standard of living is endless.
Lack of information has done as much to exacerbate the spread of Ebola as anything. Distrustful residents of affected West African countries have stormed clinics, engaged in shootouts with health care workers offering testing or care, and actively avoided assistance due to misinformation. This has caused what should have been a very manageable outbreak to evolve into an international epidemic.
I lived in a small town long enough to know how word of mouth can distort a story. And we were never talking about a deadly disease with men dressed in space suits. Access to mass media eliminates that problem, but many on this continent don’t have it.
In 2009, the per capita GDP numbers of Vietnam and Senegal were within $90 of one another.
Five years later, Vietnam is outstripping Senegal by nearly 80%.
Senegal is on the cusp of a breakthrough. The marginal standard of life improvements that come in the next few hundred dollars of GDP are the ones that raise output exponentially. Senegal is lucky to be one of a very few African countries blessed with that greatest of natural resources.
Outside of oil, there is no resource more valuable towards economic growth. Senegal is arguably the most successful successful representative democracy in the Muslim world. It is certainly a paragon of stability in the North Africa region, which gives it a vital foothold as multinational companies move to the continent to look at Africans as a consumer base, instead of just a natural resource hub.
That is what makes this trip so exciting. The SEED Project has the opportunity to truly move the needle on education. The education and experiences that our kids gain as they go abroad will help shape the fate of this country going forward.
Our kids have earned nearly 6 million dollars in educational scholarships since 2002, and that number is only set to climb. Our current focus on the girls’ program promises to be even more successful in facilitating female education, a key driver to growth in developing countries.
Our kids are competing in the Final Four (Gorgui Dieng of Louisville and Baye Moussa Keita of Syracuse 2013) and made up the two leading scorers in Senegal’s massive upset victory over Puerto Rico yesterday in the FIBA World Basketball Championship.
So many African charities use a message of guilt to encourage donations, but SEED Project gets the pleasure of using a positive message. We’re building something with an outstanding rate of return, and eventually, we truly believe that it will reach that highest goal of any African charity.
These kids have all the potential in the world, and basketball opens some awfully heavy doors.
To go from this
I’ve got no jump shot and my dribbling skills are marginal at best, but I’m helping shape kids to be NBA players and national leaders.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
For more information or to donate to SEED Project, please visit www.seedproject.org