Oyvin´s Perspectives

Posted on July 12, 2011

10


We have now been traveling for 20 days and have little by little warmed up the individual “engines” of the team. We are starting to both understand and appreciate individual differences and learning how to deal with them.

It also feels as if we have almost shaken our rented VW van to the ground on corrugated African roads. We have gotten stuck in the sand several times and in Beira we were rescued by 12 young men appearing as angels (though still wanting to be paid after pulling and pushing us to firm ground).

So far we have punctured once in the middle of no-where in Mozambique only to find out that the car lacked the tool to change the wheel. However, we made it with continuous small adjustments in the daily plan.

We also came across a bunch of baboons crossing the highway, but so far happily finding our way, greatly helped by the GPS and an AVIS-borrowed roadmap.

And not the least surviving huge pot-holes by quick slalom-turns at 80 km/hour except the one time when we punctured so far, all surely great fun with a WV van, though sorely missing the Landcruiser better equipped and prepared for these conditions!

Last, but not least, setting up and breaking camp is now done in record time. 3 tents and a hot dinner made by campfire are done really fast (especially if the team is hungry), not bad for amateur travelers slowly turning half-pro.

Team-ambience

The team-atmosphere is fantastic – each and everyone doing very well (me continually working to conquer my impatience and trying to disconnect from what used to be daily routines at home). Overall, the performance is far beyond expectations and Mona proving herself as the excellent team-leader we knew she was. And the team-members love her for it and her gentle manners and ability to take initiatives in difficult situations. But we still have the intent to slowly, but surely, let the younger members of the team take more of a leadership role. We have confidence they will – we have plenty of time and believe they will be surprised by what they will be able to handle!

Resources and entrepreneurship – some observations

On the road from Johannesburg (South Africa) to Maputo (Mozambique) the traffic was relatively light, but with some big trucks in both directions. About halfway we stopped to fuel. In the gas station, while in the line to go to the restroom, we realized we were the only whites… Apparently, we had stopped at a refueling station for combis (the most popular mean of public transportation in South Africa) and truckers…  Only about 50 km down the road we arrived at another “class” of gas station – a station with higher standards, higher prices and where almost all the clients were whites.

This is the way it is and this may or may not also somehow have an impact on the wider context of social dynamics among them the formation of an entrepreneurial spirit especially among the young, the great majority of whom are colored, poor and with aspirations of a better life. Realizing that this might be a very superficial observation – it is nevertheless a reminder of still underlying racial differences with its social consequences.

Continuing towards Maputo and later toward the North of Mozambique, some other phenomena struck me. Firstly, it was the obvious importance of the “road” for commercial activity and basic transportation within and between African countries.

Secondly, the limited amount of industrialization seen along the road with the exception of very basic local activities based on wood, production of bricks, sale of agricultural products and basic repairs of cars and trucks. However, nevertheless clear presence of a small mobile phone revolution where the telephone infrastructure apparently completely is jumping over the fixed line stage.

Thirdly, the great number of young people along the sides of the road and the many very young pregnant women, often balancing wood or water on their heads and with one or two small ones following her (at times difficult to tell whether children or siblings). Literally an explosion of young “resources” literally walking along the sides of the road – to and from school or simply selling fruits, vegetable and wood along the road. Given an appropriate school system and political stability this is naturally a great advantage. However, it might also represent a latent bomb if all these youngsters grow up without an ability to contribute to the economic and social growth of their country. Talking to a professor at the University in Beira and a catholic priest in Vilanculos, the challenges ahead for Mozambique are well recognized. Actually not at all a bad place to start for anyone interested in entrepreneurial education – and maybe we’ll be back!

Finally, a more philosophical thought.  People here appear to be very happy and content with what they have (which is not much compared to European material standards) – we do see people with less, but no misery. However, a curious lack of motivation to repair, expanding and improving even the most basic living quarters and their surroundings are also noted. This is a little weird and contrary to what we are used to (at least for me with a Scandinavian and protestant mindset). However, the other night as we camped in the outskirts of Inhassoro (Mozambique), we heard children play with laughter and spontaneous shouts until long after darkness (and all this without electronic games, internet, TV or more than rudimentary toys). It is not too often we observe the same back in Spain and it simply leads me to wonder whether we in our search for a “perfect” social model may confuse material wealth with happiness. We are all familiar with the developed world’s call for back to basics, however, naturally a growing population does require resources to sustain a most basic welfare system and igniting an entrepreneurial spirit would surely help. But, I still wonder how one might expect to do this when people are content, happy and simultaneously seem to lack, in our eyes, the urge to improve their personal situation. In this context, in addition to very constrained basic resources, it appears very hard even to think about business beyond covering basic daily needs.

And now some more pictures.

Oyvin


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