Home Money The “less than X dollar” narrative – Vivian Nwagbo

The “less than X dollar” narrative – Vivian Nwagbo

Vivian Nwagbo
The “less than X dollar” narrative Vivian Nwagbo

I came across an article the other day talking about how 85% of people in Africa live on less than $5.50 a day . So naturally I read through and while I was reading, I could not help but think about how many people have seen headlines like these and have immediately become horrified.

Calm down! It is not as terrible as you think. Let me explain:

A quick currency conversion on Google reveals that $5.50 equals roughly 1,990 Nigerian Naira. Now I have lived most of my life in Nigeria and I can tell you that the purchasing power of 1,990 Naira in Nigeria is nowhere near that of $5.50 in the U.S. For example, $5.50 will probably buy around three bottles of Pepsi in the States. However, when you take that same amount to Nigeria and convert it to the local currency, you can buy almost 20 bottles.

Shocking? Not really!

I did not want to stop at Nigeria so I asked my other friends in two other African countries: Ghana and Tanzania for how many bottles of Pepsi the equivalent of $5.50 (already calculated) could buy in their countries, and this is what they said:


My “research methods” are simplistic at best and I was not feeling motivated to ask more friends from other countries (mostly because people took forever to respond) but I think these three examples are enough to give you an idea of the situation.

The point of this article is not to deny the fact that real poverty exists all over the world. It is, however, an invitation to look beyond sensational headlines because what these really do is enforce biases and encourage ignorance.

What do you think? Is there something I am missing?

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