Chilling In Dar es Salaam Lamenting Africa’s Opportunities

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Dar es Salaam hugs the Indian Ocean and is the largest and most important city in Tanzania.

Rolling into the biggest city in Tanzania is not unlike entering any large city. And knowing someone ahead of a time can save time and plenty of headaches. Steve & Klaus’s place sits on a large plot about one kilometer from the ocean. The sprawling property consists of several buildings and a container that Klaus has turned into a workshop. There are more than ten motorcycles here. And the guys are passionate about riding. That’s why they’ve started this little guest house/B&B. I encourage any travelers going to Dar who are looking for budget digs and a cool place to hang while sorting out the next adventure to look up Steve & Klaus.

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The rain would soon disappear and Dar es Sallam would be hot, humid and relaxing.

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Steve & Klaus

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Klaus leans back after tasty eats.

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Klaus (L) next to Steve’s XR400 and Steve displaying a cold bottle of Ndovl, a tasty local brew.

We spent our first night at dinner at Mediterreneo a nice restaurant and pricier hotel just down the road. But the seafood was fresh, the beer cold and the company great. Klaus and a other members of a local motorcycle club made up of ex-pats from all over are planning a month long excursion into northern Mozambique. Steve will take the time and go to Isle of Man. The next evening with another bout of a Dar es Salaam power outage, Steve whipped up a tasty meal of sausage and potatoes which we gobbled up using candlelight outside on the patio overlooking the pool.

Ronnie will head back in the next couple days. Originally he planned to join me for a tour of exotic Zanzibar, but with the clock ticking and plans to meet friends in Mozambique, he wouldn’t have sufficient time to make the trip worthwhile. I heard from Peter and my tire has been shipped from Lilongwe and is due to arrive on Friday or Saturday. Meanwhile, I’ll bid Ronnie goodbye and spend a few days on Zanzibar until returning to claim and fit my tire and begin my journey west and north.

But while in Africa it’s hard not to bring up the expected contrasts between life at home or even in South America, where I spent more than a year. Electricity for example. Even as I type this post South Africa and its government are battling shortages that force the government to shut off sectors seemingly randomly. Meanwhile, the river level on the Zambezi river is approaching near disaster level meaning the Kariba damn in Mozambique will need to be opened causing further displacement of thousands of locals due to flooding. Here in Dar es Salaam construction that has lasted for more than two years on a road outside the guest house here still isn’t complete and power outages, likely due to construction are a fact of life. Ronnie and I spent a whole day in the dark. No internet. No charging our cell phones, cameras and more. Infrastructure is taxed and yet most of the continent sits in the third world without water, electricity or proper roads.

Even worse, because Africa has become the bastard stepchild of developing nations in Asia, Europe and North America, the governments and citizens are used to handouts of cash, construction projects, medical care and drugs and more. The adage that if you haven’t earned it and paid for it yourself you will have less respect for what’s been handed you. I’m told that more than 30% of the Tanzanian government’s budget comes from care packages abroad. Meanwhile, it’s last prime minister just resigned after it was discovered that he pocketed more than $100 million USD through a bogus US-based company run by his brother and that was contracted by the government to build emergency power-generating equipment.

But this isn’t news. This is what African’s have come to expect. The more I question what happens to aid, education, healthcare and infrastructure money that’s pumped into Africa, I’m answered with a shrug and “it’s Africa.” Most of the money ends up in the pockets of politicians and businessmen. But why does it have to be? The people in African politics and with power tend to look at government appointments as winning lottery tickets. But the losers dot the countryside without power, fuel for cooking, water and aid in agriculture. Aid money is squandered and only fractions reach the people who need it. Yet throwing money at a problem is hardly ever a brilliant strategy. But we and others continue to do so. These countries expect their yearly “allowance” and go on ripping off its own people.

Africa perhaps is the richest continent in terms of minerals, oil and agricultural potential. But it’s more than 100 years behind its more developed brethren. It makes me cringe when I stop in a village or wander the streets of a small time and when many notice that a Mzungu (white man, kinda like gringo) is in the vicinity the palms are opened and thrust toward me while their other hands clasp and motion to their mouths indicating they want money for food. Tanzania, so far, has the lowest English literacy rate of any country I’ve visited. But one English word all the children know: “Money”. It’s as if they expect immediately that a Mzungu can provide them with money, food or whatever. I can’t blame them. But I blame the governments. In the Hall of Fame of repressors and dictators I’d have to say Africa just might have the most members.

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In Dar it was the first time I’d seen these little three-wheeled Tuk Tuks since visiting Peru.

I want to do something to help. The signs over Tanzania by schools say “Education is Liberation”. And I agree. And learning responsibility is key to education. I love technology and I see it as a enabler. But how to get it into the hands of those who can use it to help is a tough call. I melt with the smiles and the waves of the children who I meet all over. I want to grab each and every one of them and hug and kiss them. I would like to pack them in my panniers and show them a way to a better life. But I can’t. But I am searching the landscape for something I can do. I want to help.

Tanzania is trying. By making an example of the crooked Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, they can put him behind bars, seize his assets and show others in Africa you can stand up to the corrupt. Though I’m told everyone is corrupt. But I hate that line and the wining that goes along with it resolving into simple acceptance. Apathy and helplessness. So just lie down and get stampeded?

Africa is a beautiful continent with immense potential and it saddens me that its own people would rather see it remain in the third world so that it can continue to rape and pillage the piggy bank. Educate the people and they might wake up and stand up to those who are educated, corrupt and ripping off everyone else. So is it in the best interest of those “educated” to “dumb down” the people? Makes it easier to rip them off.

Sure there is good in the aid and support provided by many. Point is, it could be better. But when will it? I guess I’ll head to Zanzibar and wander the stone city where until the 1860’s slaves were gathered from the interior and sold to high bidders by none other than other Africans.

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