letter from Gaborone

If you thought that stories of Chinese involvement in Africa were exaggerated, think again. A survey of the businesses in Gaborone – from car dealerships to apparel stores to restaurants even – reveals just how much the men and women from the East have established themselves on this continent.

The locals complain that the goods are of poor quality and all but they buy them nonetheless because they are far much cheaper than other locally made stuff or those imported from South Africa and elsewhere. Another complaint I have been hearing is that the Chinese are not really helping the economy – the local economy that is. “They keep to themselves and bring all they need. They even bring their own food,” one man told me. The general complaint is that the Chinese are simply siphoning profits back home and not reinvesting in the Botswana economy.

I haven’t had a chance to see the level of economic disparity among the Batswana – but from the little exposure I have had to the middle class here, I think I can safely say that they have it nice. Nicer than their counterparts in Kenya even. The government seems to be doing its job alright. Next week I shall be traveling to the desert regions of the North and West to see how life is in the rural areas.

Oops, I have to go now. I have become a football junkie and cannot afford to miss Germany-Portugal. Catch you guys later.

power cuts!! oh no!!

Just as I thought that my stay in Botswana was going to be such a nice ride, I was rudely reminded of where I was by an unexpected power cut. Yes, I was trying to cook dinner while watching some show on the travel channel when the lights went out. With no torch (flashlight, as some call it) or candles I was forced to cook with my ipod, phone and camera as the only sources of light available. Luckily the lights came just as I started having my dinner. It was not a pleasant experience though.

After talking to people in the know I was told that this is a regular thing that happens to select neighborhoods between seven and nine. I was also told that Botswana, lacking any powerplants, buys its power from the neighboring states.

But I just can’t stop wondering why the government hasn’t managed to build enough power generation capacity to satisfy its less than 2 million people – and with all the diamond dollars. Just how hard can it be?