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African Economics

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By Ian Cowley April 20, 2018 - 10:05pm

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I have been playing a cat and mouse game with the lovely, efficient, hardworking housekeepers here at the Kuriftu Bishoftu Resort. Each day I leave 20 Ethiopian Birr ($1 cdn) on the pillow, and each day they leave it on the bedside table. I asked my main man here, HR/Operations Manager Abebaw, about it. He said they don’t want to be fired for stealing. Tourism in Ethiopia is barely a thing yet, so the subtleties of tipping and other practices are not on the radar. So, I starting leaving a note on a napkin, “Thank you for doing a great job! “. Now they take it half the time.
I asked Abebaw yesterday about the small groups of Chinese men who stay at the resort every few days. They are obviously not on vacation. He said they are owners of nearby factories producing garments, shoes, flowers, food, beverages, cars, etc. They are here because the average Ethiopian labourer earns $1.25 per day and because there are no WCB folks bothering owners with working condition standards, workplace exposure to toxins, hours of work, and other dodgy conditions. I have a couple of friends who design and sell clothing in Canada whose products are manufactured in China, I assume because production is cheaper due to low Chinese labour costs mostly. How interesting that the Chinese do that here.
The housekeepers at the resort also make $1.25 per day, though that almost doubles for them with staff meals, transportation, a cut of service charges, and bonus top-ups. I had no idea I was leaving the equivalent of a day’s pay on my pillow.
Should we still support an Ethiopian tourism industry that pays such wages? As contrasting as it is to minimum wages across Canada, it is still a wage in a very poor country. The hope is in CESO’s catch-line “Stronger economies, better lives”. In fact, if you are doing the African-vacation thing from Canada, there is a good chance you will fly through Addis Ababa on your way to the lions and rhinos south of here. Why not stay a few days in a lovely, non-touristy place with lots to see and do?

By: Ian Cowley
Posted: April 20, 2018, 10:05 pm


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