For the third part of our series “Our Observers Balance Their Books”, we talked to Younousse Lamine Sakho, who has been a hotel manager in Abidjan since 1998. With a monthly salary of €533, he has to be extremely careful with his spending to stay afloat at the end of the month. He is calling for political action to save the Ivorian hotel industry.
Younousse Lamine Sakho, one of our Observers in the Ivory Coast, is the manager of a two-star hotel in Adjamé, a neighbourhood of the commercial capital, Abidjan. In 1998, at the age of 24, he took over his deceased father’s business. Today, he is 38 years old. The average salary in the Ivory Coast is around €300 a month. But even with a salary that is nearly double that, he says it is not always enough for him to get by.
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Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Alexandre Capron.

“My hotel’s business has halved in 10 years”

I need to be very rigorous with my expenses, both for myself and for the hotel, and keep detailed calculations every week. Half the time I take the car, and the rest of the time the bus, because petrol is too expensive. I only allow myself about 40 euros a month for going out to bars and maquis (Ivorian restaurants). In the past, when I was able to set some money aside, I used it to bail out my hotel’s coffers. But now I can’t do that anymore. Luckily, I don’t have to pay rent because I live in a house that my mother gave me as a gift. It’s difficult when I deal with my family: my cousins sometimes ask me to help them. When I tell them it’s not possible, I am regarded as the bad guy who doesn’t want to give them any money.
Since the Ivorian civil war in 2002, I have had to lower my prices. A night at my hotel used to cost between 18 and 22 euros. Today, I know I won’t get any clients if I charge more than 12 euros a night. Fewer and fewer foreign tourists, whether they’re from Europe or other parts of Africa, are staying at the hotel. Most of the clients are Ivorian. In ten years, my hotel’s revenue has gone from 122,000 euros in 2002 to 54,100 euros in 2012. I have had to lay off eight of my 15 employees as well as reduce my own salary. The state really needs to do something about the level of taxes. Between the commercial taxes, property tax, and the goods and services tax, I pay between 7,600 euros and 10,600 euros in taxes every year.
“I’ve thought about emigrating; it doesn’t matter where or which continent”
I am divorced, and my wife looks after our three children aged between 2 and 8 years old. I pay her spousal support, but I would like to put aside extra money for their future. I have a small rubber and cacao plantation that allows me to make and sell some goods, but there is very little demand. I’ve thought about emigrating for work; it doesn’t matter where or which continent. But I don’t want to leave on such an adventure without thinking it through, and then find myself with nothing when I arrive. A few of my friends have migrated to Europe. One of them was a professor in the Ivory Coast. Now he sells newspapers on the street and drives buses, but he spent several months sleeping rough in the metro. I won’t be able to bear it if it happens to me.