Panomo Panomo - Today, not tomorrow


Malawi is so far the smallest country I visited on this expedition. It is also the country where I spent most time traveling. When I looked at the map, without a plan, when crossing the border I thought I would give it about two weeks before heading up to Tanzania. Yet, three weeks later here I am, back in the capital Lilongwe only just getting ready to explore the north.

This little gem in southern Africa is said to be the poorest country in Africa, it also has one of the highest rate of children per women in the world (average is about 5 children per woman) and it is also a country with some of the warmest people.

In the article on ‘How poor are poor countries’ I tried to explain why it is good to treat the statistics and numbers with caution. After all, although the researches try their best at estimating and calculating the statistics for population growth, economy, mortality rates etc. Many of those are still hard to gather, since those numbers are changing fast, are under/over reported or reported with a delay and even definitions or specifications of the cases are often misleading. (In rural areas the cause of death is sometimes just a guess, as it is not always in the doctors’ capacity to check for the cause of death, the definitions of child mortality also differs, from country to country even within European countries…).

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How poor are Africans? part 2: The poorest country in Africa or…

According to the way we measure the size of one’s economy which is comparing countries GDP per capita (gross domestic product), Malawi is the poorest country in Africa.

Yes, it might be to your surprise to learn that the poorest countries in the world are not in Africa.

More than half of the population in Malawi lives below the nation stated poverty line and over 80% live in the countryside and rural areas. Exact numbers are hard to estimate; the population grows fast, and the urbanization rate is also growing. Many families now have relatives which live in town, (mainly young adults) and they are often sending money to their families and younger siblings in villages. However, despite Malawi apparently being the poorest I still managed to send many postcards, buy some things from supermarket, get root canal treatment after my tooth was infected and get some delicious Nepalis curry with garlic naan for dinner. Just because we label something the poorest, it doesn’t mean that you will find starving children on every corner nor does it mean that there must be high crime rates or war going on. None of this you will find in Malawi.

I therefore decided to explain a bit the way in which we measure the size on states ‘economies and why it stigmatizes countries with weak law enforcement or with simply missing structures.  

Read more: How poor are Africans? part 2: The poorest country in Africa or…

The life in the village – Zambian mud houses with Wi-Fi

Even though I planned to leave Zambia by the end of last week, I could not resist an invitation from a guy who lives in a small mud hut near the border with Malawi. So as is happens, my stay in Zambia has been prolonged by almost another week. The invitation came from nobody else than from a couchsurfer who saw I was passing by and surprisingly was not from a local Zambian but an American Peace Corp volunteer, who lives in the village for nearly two years now.

Sometimes, somewhere the kids actually enjoy doing chores like washing the dishes!

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How poor are Africans? Part 1: Life in the village

I recently got a question (and I met many people who think the same – hence the reason for starting this expedition); the question was something among the lines: ‘’How is it with the poverty in Africa? Why people don’t work? Why they still have so many children?’’

I decided to write (with time) few articles explaining the ‘poverty phenomenon’ in Africa. By no means I am trying to say that this is how it is. I will try to explain things from my subjective experience with people, books I read, villages I visited and so on. The first part, I would like to focus on the village life - and I mean the proper, rural, poor life in the village. By now, I hope I showed you that there is no ONE Africa, but rather over 50 countries with different level of economical, social and political developments and that even within each country, large differences exist.

For me, the village – rural life is very similar across all the countries. It is also the place where clear majority of the NGOs and charities operate. The second large area of focus are townships (but that maybe later).

Read more: How poor are Africans? Part 1: Life in the village

Western Zambia - Kings and water flooded plains

On Thursday morning, my favourite group of Zambian brothers took me downtown from where the others picked me up. Our international group consisted of one Czech travelled, two Italian volunteers and one Dutch worker. We left early morning as the way to Mongu was long 600 km. On our way we drove through beautiful Kafue National Park, where although we haven’t seen any elephants we spotted many small and big impalas. Long stretches of road were in perfect condition, but one part was full of potholes and so it took us longer to arrive.

Unfortunately, most of the Western province has very sandy soil. This is problem not only for agriculture but also for infrastructure as the roads built on sandy grounds get easily destroyed during the rainy season. Sand gets washed away and heavily loaded trucks just finish the job. We arrived to Mongu just ready for unpacking our stuff and going for a short walk around our hotel to see the sunset over the beautiful flooded plains. The International Women’s day was celebrated all over and so we grab a beer with a sweet man on the street in his little shop and then headed back to continue the celebration with lovely dinner in the hotel.

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