Is it really fair to criticize rich Africans on how they spend their money? How can we dictate to people who earned their monies through their personal efforts and hardwork how their monies should be spent? Are we to determine what’s too expensive and what they should or should not spend on? Is that fair?

Some people criticize African rich when they appear to spend their monies on expensive items or live comfortably or lavishly.
Why?

  1. Because some people think the rich shouldn’t be living a lavish lifestyle when so many people especially in their communities are living in abject poverty or go “hungry”.
  2. Some people assume that the rich have more to give to others and should or could be doing more than they already are.
  3. Others compare African rich to foreign especially western rich individuals and their philanthropic values and charitable donations and feel resentful that the African rich are not doing the same.

This morning, as on many other occasions, I saw a few comments criticizing Ghanaian politicians presumed to be “wealthy” because they are having extra marital affairs where they are presumably spending their wealth. Someone suggested that the apparent monies being spent on prostitutes and concubines could be used to invest in the country.

I also read an article today in which the famous Senegalese American artist (singer), Aliaune Damala Bouga, popularly known in showbiz as Akon, had apparently said that it does not make sense to him to wear an expensive jewellery while so many in Africa lack food, electricity and other basic needs. According to Article, Akon is giving up on wearing “$50,000 jewelry to invest in electricity supply and other philanthropic projects for the benefit of the poor in his native Senegal.

My thoughts:
I think Akon’s decision and plans are noble. His is also voluntary and a personal realization. I also believe in philanthropic and charity work when people have more and are able to give. I also believe in giving back to our communities and to those in need whenever we can.

But my questions are:

  1. Is philanthropic work compulsory?
  2. Do they poor or for that matter any third party has any right to tell perceived wealthy individuals how and where they should spend their monies?
  3. Is monetary donations the only way to give back into society?
  4. Who determines what’s wealthy and the threshold for giving back? What constitutes being wealthy?
  5. Is giving only the preserve of those who appear to have more than us to give? Could anyone be wealthier than others around them and should be giving to those who appear poorer them too?
  6. Could giving also be perpetuating poverty? Could the poor be contributing to their own poverty through their own actions and decisions?
  7. If the rich are expected to give their monies to the poor, could they also determine how the poor should be behaving or spending their time and monies? What about the poor who spend most of their time doing unproductive work, long hours on religious activities or donating much of their wealth to churches without any returns or whilst starving instead of going out there to work or invest their monies.
  8. Should the rich have a say in the the choices poor people make that may be contributing to poverty, dropping out of school, poor marital choices, making too many babies etc?

While I believe in charitable and philanthropic virtues, I do believe rich people particularly private individuals have the right to use their monies however they want. People pursue careers, success and wealth for purposes well known to themselves. They may have had help from others or borrowed from that they may want to repay. Hard work is always rewarded and must be appreciated.

Rich people should have the freedom to enjoy their own wealth and should not be chastised for spending on the things they value and makes them happy. Western philanthropist get credit, tax breaks and other incentives, do African rich get the same benefits or recognition? What about other contributions (employment, country image?

The criticisms are often unfounded and unfair. They presupposes:

  1. The rich are NOT giving at all or they could give more than they may be doing already.
  2. That the critics have less and shouldn’t be giving also.
  3. Those who chastize assume they know better and portray the poor as passive individuals who played no role in their own predicaments.
  4. They assume the poor have nothing to give to society although they may be giving away what they cannot afford to others without any returns.
  5. Such attitudes and criticisms of the rich places the poor of poverty on the rich and faults them for their successes.

In my opinion, the rich have the right to enjoy their wealth. It is their prerogative to choose how they want to spend their wealth and who they choose to help. They may have their own reasons as to why they help or not help others. Giving should be voluntary. It is not the responsibility of the rich to provide social goods and services.

That’s governments responsibility and the rich already contribute in many other ways. They should be adored for all contributions including employment generation, entrepreneurship, corporate taxes and development. Chastizing the rich sends the wrong message, kills morale and does not do much good.

Besides, everyone is capable of giving. You do not have to make millions or billions before you do charity work. Rich and poor can give also. Giving can be done in many forms and levels.

Ask yourself also if you have more than others around you and if you have given anything. If the poor can choose how they spend their time and money, why can’t the rich have that right also?

Do what you can and allow others to do what they can.

Best,

Akosua G
Ontario, Canada
January 26, 2020