Africans shop till they drop in Christmas fete

A tomorrow-can-wait attitude explains why January is so difficult for families

In Summary

• Traditional Christmas celebrations in Africa are a costly affair. Inflation has not changed that

• Consumers in some countries are spending on average up to seven times their monthly household income on food, decorations and gifts


As we approach the Christmas holidays and cast a keen eye on our bank accounts to see what the festive season might afford us, spare a thought to some African households on the continent. There are those who are likely to spend up to seven times their monthly income on the annual festivities, a new study reveals.

The World Remit study, "Cost of Christmas", reveals Rwandan and Cameroon households as big Christmas spenders, with Kenyans spending far less (though they still splurge more than half of their monthly income) on the celebrations.

The study, which covered 14 countries across the globe, found that gifts are proportionately the most costly element of the annual Christmas spend across more than half of the countries. In that respect, Kenya leads Africa, with 59 per cent of Christmas spend allocated to gifts.

“In fact, 60 per cent of all the countries found that the spend on gifts and food accounted for the majority of their budgets,” the report said.

Rwandese households splurge most of all the African countries monitored, with traditional Christmas meals, decorations and gifts gobbling 708 per cent of monthly income and nearly 60 per cent of annual income.

With an average monthly income of 34 US dollars, Rwandese households spend 236 US dollars, with the bulk of that spent on gifts (38 per cent), decoration (37 per cent) and food (25 per cent).

According to the global payments firm, the spend in Cameroon households is equivalent to four months of household salaries, with cost-per-household coming in at 469 US dollars, against a monthly income of 114 US dollars.

Cameroonian Christians go big on decoration, which takes up 69 per cent of their total Christmas budget, with food (10 per cent) the least of any of the African countries measured.

Nigeria is ranked third in terms of food expenditure (43 per cent), with the overall Christmas budget in that country representing the equivalent of two months of household salary, with most purchases starting as early as November to cater for a month-long celebration.

Uganda (75 per cent) and Ghana (60 per cent) allocate up to three-quarters of the budget on food, with zero expenditure on gifts in Uganda.

Of the countries monitored, Kenyan households in the survey had the highest average monthly household income of 568 dollars while Rwandan households had the least, at 33 dollars. To meet the huge expenses, the global payments firm said most households dip into savings, borrow, or receive support from friends and loved ones abroad, through remittances.

“Without remittances into these countries, celebrating Christmas would be near impossible,” the World Remit report said.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca), in a report, titled “African regional review of the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” projects Africa that remittances will drop by 5.4 per cent to 41 billion dollars in 2021.

The projected drop has been linked to a fall in the wages and employment of Africans in the diaspora, as well as to the high cost of sending money to Africa from overseas.

Despite the projected drop, World Remit underscores the importance of remittances in boosting household purchasing power back home, especially amid the pandemic.

“Because of the high cost of coveted seasonal items, food, and the overall impact Covid-19 has had on supply chain and inflation, it is vital for remittance senders to be able to support those dearest to them by helping make Christmas a reality for their loved ones,” World Remit said.

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