Stealing from the poor

The people of Senegal are charming, and poor. The GDP per capita is $1,900, placing it 190th in the world. By comparison, the GDP per capita of the U.S.A. is $47,300.

Senegal’s unemployment rate is 48% and one sees indigents everywhere.


 Although the poverty is omnipresent, wealth is also in clear evidence.

Senegal has a population of 12.6 million people, and although it is so poor, like many of the countries in Africa, cell phones are ubiquitous. There are 8.3 million cell phone users in the country, of which Orange the large international operator services 5.1 million.

In 2010, the most recent year for which Orange has published figures, it had a turnover of €45.5 billion ($55.6 billion). That’s 2½ times Senegal’s GDP. Orange’s profit after tax was €4.9 billion ($6 billion). It’s not really struggling, even in these tough economic times.

Poor people cannot afford cellphone contracts, so most people in Senegal use recharge vouchers.

The voucher shown here says that it’s valid until 31/12/2013. What the voucher does not say is that once it’s been activated, the credit will expire after 10 days, whether it’s been used or not, unless one buys more credit.

In terms of the laws of contract, that’s a unilateral change to the contract, and if there was a small claims court in Senegal, Orange would lose the case. They have changed the contract without the consent of the other party.

Effectively, a company which has a turnover 2½ times Senegal’s GDP is stealing from some of the poorest people in the world, because it can.

When Orange in Senegal were approached for a comment, they laughed. At least someone finds it amusing.