Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries. Relatively small and hence, supposedly, easy to fix, Malawi received substantial foreign aid over the past years (around USD 1bn p.a.!). However, progress has been limited, and a series of corruption scandals led international donors to freeze their funds.
Consequently, Malawi has become something like a showcase for the limited effectiveness of foreign aid and how NOT to do it.
One of the often-cited negative side effects of foreign aid is the creation of dependence and laziness—assuming that (white) foreigners will continue to give money. We get to feel that first-hand, with all the kids blatantly asking us to “give me money”.
While cycling, I stopped to take a photo of a fishing village. A small boy walked up to me. So I captured him on the photo. He didn’t say anything, didn’t ask for money, nor held out his open palm like most of the other kids. He just looked at me with big eyes. I felt bad for taking a photo of him, and handed him an energy bar in return.
Then I busied myself with my camera. As I hit the road again, I saw that a teenager had taken the energy bar from the boy and was about to bite into it. I didn’t feel obliged to do anything about it and just continued to go about my own business—cycling.
In a small scale, I’d just made the same mistake that I criticize the big guys for making. Talking is easier than doing.
Stage 50: Karonga – Chitimba Beach (Malawi), 91km
Road & traffic condition:
Today was an easy day—only 91km on relatively good and mostly flat tar roads with little traffic (mostly just other cyclists). This meant that we all arrived at camp around noon and had a full afternoon to relax (ahead of another two rest days).
Pleasantly cool and overcast while riding, reaching no more than 30° C. However, very humid which I only started to feel in the evening when the breeze died down. I was perspiring while having dinner after sunset, and my tent felt like a steam sauna!
Even though we’re riding into two rest days (usually no dinner on and before rest days), TDA is cooking dinner for us throughout these rest days. That’s because the kitchen at the lodge we’re staying at wouldn’t be able to handle us. Tonight—boiled beef, potatoes and salad.
Because there’s nothing much around the lodge of our rest days, we all tried to stock up on snacks along the way. I went to supposedly the biggest grocery store in Karonga (the village where we camped).
I hoped to find something relatively healthy—chocolate and peanuts was the closest match.
Heading into two rest days, we’ve had a fancy dress / fashion-show party tonight. There were various categories, such as best dressed, most authentic, most mzungu etc. Many riders made quite an effort. Special mention to Anmei who came as a pretty close match to an African woman, complete with bucket on the head and baby wrapped at the back, as well as Rupert for his Masai warrior outfit. (Sorry, I didn’t take any photos. Please refer to other blogs/facebook pages.)
Enjoying an afternoon just chilling at the beach.