Creating Jobs in Developing Countries
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN SENEGAL
THE teenager’s father died when she was a child, leaving her mother with a large family of eight children. Now that her mother is getting old, the teenager must contribute to the support of the family by finding a job. Finished is her dream of continuing school. She has to work, even though she has no skills or formal education.
Situations like this are common in developing countries. Jobs are scarce, even for those with university degrees. Nevertheless, with determination and a good sense of creativity, many have been able to devise jobs for themselves. Such jobs may not place a person in the lap of luxury, but the Bible says at 1 Timothy 6:8: “Having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”
With that balancing word of advice well in mind, let’s take a look at some of the ingenious ways Christians in developing countries have been surviving and thriving.
The Food Business—African Style
Food is always in demand. Here in West Africa, enterprising women have found a fascinating variety of ways to turn this fact into profit. Some, for example, construct a small shed near a construction site and cook a noon meal for the workers. Others provide food for those on their way to work in the morning. They set up a small table with benches, boil water on a charcoal heater, and serve a simple breakfast—hot coffee with fresh bread and butter. In the evening they set up shop again and serve a small meal to workers at the end of the day. Running this kind of restaurant means working a tough schedule, but it allows industrious ones to pay their bills.
There is also an opportunity for selling snack foods. Some women find a crowded place near a market and roast peanuts. Fatayas—small meat pies served in a hot sauce—are also easily sold. So are meat sandwiches made with a spicy meat sauce. These are fast-moving items in African countries such as The Gambia and Mali.
In Guinea-Bissau and Senegal, quite a number of young people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses support themselves in the full-time ministry by baking and selling another popular item: small cakes. Moses, a resident of Senegal’s capital city, Dakar, explains: “My wife and I were serving as special pioneers [full-time evangelizers] when we began having children. Now I had to find a way to support them, so the idea came to me to make and sell small cakes.
“I had very little cash to start off with, so I had to be careful to distinguish between money I could keep as profit and money I needed to put back into the business to replenish supplies, such as flour and eggs. Now I am able to sell enough cakes to care for most of the needs of my small family.
“To help out, my wife, Esther, sews dresses at home. This permits her to be home with our two small boys. So between the two of us, we are able to care quite well for our family, despite the fact that we live in difficult times.”
Here’s another idea for a small business: Since working people are busy and often do not have time for a long trip to the market, they will patronize small local stands that sell fruit or vegetables. Some stand owners even have a delivery service, taking fresh vegetables right to the homes of customers. Word can spread quickly that you are honest and that you sell quality products. Be careful, however, not to charge too much, or people will simply return to the regular market.
If selling products does not appeal to you, consider offering various services. Domestic work, such as cleaning, cooking, and washing and ironing clothes, is always in demand. And there are numerous other opportunities.
For example, do you live near the ocean or near a fish market? Why not offer to clean fish—quickly and at low cost? All you need is a good block of wood and a fine fish knife. Car washing is another profitable enterprise. Needed equipment? A bucket, some water, a little soap, and a good cloth. In Dakar, business-minded youths can be seen on almost all parking lots and on many a shaded street performing this service.
Is running water scarce in your part of the world? Sometimes women line up for hours at a common water fountain to have their containers filled. Then they have to transport the heavy basins on their heads all the way home. Many are therefore willing to pay someone who will deliver the water to them. The trick is getting to the water fountain early in the morning so that you can fill your containers and load them onto a hand-pushed or donkey-pulled cart. Now you are ready to deliver the water to homes or work sites.
Do you have some secular schooling? Perhaps you could offer to tutor young children on weekends. Classrooms tend to be crowded in developing lands, and parents may be willing to pay for their child to receive some personal attention.
Another useful skill you may already have is the art of hair braiding. Since braided hair styles are quite popular among women in Africa, there is a market for people skilled at this craft.
In Bible times, a capable wife could find clever ways to generate income. Says Proverbs 31:24: “She has made even undergarments and proceeded to sell them, and belts she has given to the tradesmen.” Similarly, many in developing lands have found success in running their own cottage industries, or small businesses. A carpenter, for example, may set up a small shop and make simple stools, benches, and other household items. Only the most basic carpentry tools are needed. If you have some agricultural skills, perhaps you could start a poultry business and sell eggs and chickens.
Ingenuity is an important requisite for starting small industries. Some people have turned discarded tin containers into colorful suitcases and trunks. Others have made sandals out of automobile tires. Still others have constructed buckets out of old inner tubes. The possibilities may be limited only by your own imagination.
In developing lands it takes both skill and imagination to survive, but you also need patience and a positive attitude. Do not give up easily. Be flexible, ready to change jobs if necessary. If starting a business or offering a service, be sure to check into local laws and ordinances. Christians are required to respect the law of the land.—Romans 13:1-7.
Before attempting to offer a product or service, ask yourself: ‘What are the local needs and customs? What is the condition of the local economy? Can customers afford to pay for what I am offering? How many others are offering a similar product or service? Do I really have the skills, energy, initiative, self-discipline, and sense of organization needed to carry on this enterprise? How much of an investment will be involved? Will I have to borrow? Will I be able to pay off the loan?’
Jesus’ question at Luke 14:28 is apropos: “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it?”
True, not all have the skills or the temperament to be self-employed. Yet Jehovah God can bless your initiative and earnest effort when it is put forward with a right motive. (Compare 2 Peter 1:5.) So do your utmost to find work—even if you have to create it yourself!
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
Sewing dresses, washing cars, delivering fresh water, and cleaning fish are some ways people make a living