The Central Africa Republic is considered the poorest country in the world, with a gross national income per capita of $663 as of 2019. To put it simpler, the average income earned by the average person in CAR throughout 2019 was estimated at $663; less than $2 per day. You can convert that into your local currency for perspective… Despite a wealth of natural resources from gold, diamond, and oil, over half of its citizens are undernourished. It has the third-highest infant mortality rate and one of the lowest life expectancy. Only about 5 percent – at 1 in 20 of the population has access to the Internet. Compare that to Ghana which is at 37.8 percent, and you’ll understand how the majority of people living in that country are underprivileged. If you live in a country or environment like this, there really isn’t much you can do about your economic situation; because you are systematically disadvantaged. There could be very few exceptional cases of rag to riches but very rare.
In this video, let’s discuss when remaining poor is not your fault versus when it is your choice and what can be done about it. Be sure to subscribe to After School TV for more insightful videos like this.
When Remaining Poor is not Your Fault
When you are living in a privileged society where previous generations have laid the foundation and made sacrifices to build a free society of equal access to opportunities; and you haven’t seen the other side of human existence, it’s easy to assume that everyone has the same chance at life as you do. But when you are confined to an environment like in CAR, you have to be a rare breed, court favor from the elite, or do some bad things for a limited probability at success. Motivational speaking wouldn’t do much for the bottom 90% of people living there.
But if you are living in an environment that offers market opportunity; where you can freely move and trade goods and services for money, you may be poor today due to your background, or some misfortune, but you have the choice to remain poor or transcend above poverty.
‘No-opportunity’ is not the same as ‘unequal opportunity’
A common argument people often make for remaining poor is that access to opportunity is not equal; that some people are more privileged than others. If your goal is to be among the richest people in your country, we can agree that you may not have an equal opportunity to achieve your dream as some other person. But the world doesn’t need more people on Forbes richest list. It only needs more people to afford a decent livelihood. No economic system is perfect but if you live in a country where you have relative freedom, are physically and mentally healthy, and have access to some opportunities, whether equal or not, then you have the choice not to remain poor.
To paraphrase Strive Masiyiwa, founder of Econet Wireless, “as entrepreneurs in Africa, we don’t fight the condition, we fight in the condition.” Think of it like professional boxing. Some people by virtue of their physical stature cannot go beyond the featherweight category. They may dream to fight in the heavyweight category but they are physically disadvantaged to compete at that level. It may seem fair for this person to complain about discrimination and inequality of opportunity. But he can choose to focus on being the best within his capability. Or like Michael Jordan, train harder to develop speed and tactics to make up for his size.
My point is that the excuse of inequality of opportunity is not a valid argument for poverty, except in the case of lack of opportunity. There are people deprived of access to education and information. But that is not the same with someone attending public school because they could not afford private school. Great people still come out from public schools.
Fight in the condition with what you have
You may not have the opportunity to go to university. You may not have the opportunity to study at a private school. You may not even know anyone in a position of authority to help you. But none of these is a prerequisite for transcending poverty. Opportunities may not be equal, but you can start with the little opportunity you have. One thing about opportunities is that the more you accept little opportunities, the more opportunities open up to you.
If you can read, write, and speak in the general language of trade, you have the basic foundation to escape from poverty. The fact that you can watch and understand this video from a device you own, connected to the internet, gives you an advantage that over 95 percent of the people living in the Central African Republic don’t have. You may take this for granted but it’s a lot to start with. You just have to stop thinking like a victim.
Here is a simple example of what you can do with the basic literate skill of reading, writing, speaking, and access to the internet. Research and start learning about a subject you are curious about. There is an unlimited amount of books, courses, and materials online. Devour as many materials as you can find on the subject from different sources. Then start practicing, offering a service, and teaching other people what you learn. Sounds too simple right? Well, many successful careers, businesses, apps, websites, and blogs have been built with this simple method.
The biggest challenge
You see, many people will not admit to this but the real problem here is that people are too distracted; to distracted to focus and learn a profitable skill; too distracted to start and finish an online training; too distracted to finish a 20 minutes video tutorial unless it’s a movie or a comedy show. The biggest challenge with breaking away from poverty in this hyper-connected world is a distraction.
And distraction has always been the weapon of mass destruction from time immemorial. In Roman history, the Coliseum was the tool of distraction from the ruling class to the masses. Give the people something for their amusement and they will love you. They will love you for giving them a means of escape from their misery. But they will never get the chance to reflect on the true source of their misery. Today, people voluntarily use different tools of escape; alcohol, drugs, porn, sports, reality shows, movies. It feels like the right thing to do. After all, everyone is doing it.
Now, here is the hard pill to swallow; if you have the time to indulge in any of these forms of distractions while you are still poor, it is your choice. You chose to remain poor. If I presented you with a red and blue pill to choose from and you choose the blue pill, the mere act of choosing the blue pill is equally the act of choosing not to choose the red pill.
The mere act of choosing activities that help you to escape from your problems is equally the act of choosing not to choose to confront your problem. The Romans in the days of the coliseum didn’t have many options. Access to knowledge and information was very limited. But today, you have unlimited access to knowledge and information just as you have unlimited access to means of amusement. You choose.
The Most Important personal quality
There are many important skills you need to live a more impactful life today. But I believe that the most important personal quality you need to develop if you want to live above average life is self discipline. I believe everything else rises and falls on this one quality. And I also believe that the first step towards self discipline is self responsibility. You just have to stop playing the victim.
If you continue to believe that someone else is responsible for all your problems, you won’t see the need to discipline yourself. It takes accepting that although the external conditions may not be favorable, although my current situation may not be advantageous; I have the power to do something about it. If times are tough, then I have to be tougher. If the conditions are hard, then I have to be harder. Others may have more opportunities; I’ll build on the little opportunity I have and expand my opportunities from there. This will require that I work harder than everyone. It may require that I defer pleasure and meaningless activities. But I am willing to pay that price today for a chance at a better tomorrow. I know there are no guarantees but I also know that there are possibilities that are worth striving for.
There are possibilities of escape when you do everything within your power. So here is the question for you; have you done everything within your power? Can you honestly answer yes to that? If not, then that means you are still responsible. Our world today has too many distractions. It’s a lot harder to be disciplined. But discipline is worth working towards. You have something to offer the world. Don’t deprive the world of it under the pretense of being poor.
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