Mobile phones & food in Africa

30 January 2012

I’ve recently read Poor Economics, a great study of the poor in developing countries. One of the interesting observations was that if you give the poorest of the poor an extra $1 per day, they only spend 40c on additional food. The remaining 60c goes towards entertainment.

Turns out being poor is boring.

And the remaining 40c does not go on more food. It goes toward more expensive food.

This tells me a couple of things (in a generalized way):

  • A poor person is not necessarily a starving person
  • It’s more important to eat tasty food than more food
  • Those that are trapped in poverty are yearning for distractions

Maybe this is why mobile phones are so popular in Africa. Entertainment.

It is the gateway to escape reality. A distraction from one’s daily existence. A portal to become someone else, someone more famous, someone with more money.

And, of course, it is the best tool to create trade. Because without communication there can be no trade. Africa missed the printing press, the wireless telegraph, the fixed line phone, and leaped all the way to mobile.

More phones = more trade = more money = more food = more time = more need for distraction = more phones…