Zigubu

I have returned from a 3 week visit to Blantyre. It was a very relaxing holiday. I visted family and friends in Malawi’s biggest city.

The weather was beautiful as expected: hot and rainy. Even though the rainy season has started, temperatures soared to 36 degrees and more on several days. Blantyre is located at an altitude of over 1000 m above sea level.

Due to an ongoing fuel shortage, I didn’t travel to other parts of Malawi. We did not manage to fill the tank even once during the 3 weeks that I was there. It was very frustrating to queue for 3 and a half hours only to hear, 5 vehicles away from the pump, that diesel is finished.

The forces of demand and supply set in. Black market prices soared to 100 to 120% of the regular filling station price.

Every day you could see men walking around with yellow containers (called zigubu) in search of liquid gold. Zigubu. From a linguistic point of view, I like the word very much. From a driver’s point of view, zigubu are very frustrating, cos it’s a synonym for hoarding.

I found Fred Bvalani’s Malawi Fuel Watch group on Facebook to be a very useful source of information. Zikomo kwambiri.

Since I left the fuel situation has improved. I hope this will continue.

Internet

Throughout my visit i found TNM’s mobile data service to be reliable. I also like the fact that TNM are advertising their products and services in Chichewa, Malawi’s national language.

I noticed that several friends and contacts are using Blackberry smartphones. I am wondering if this is a RIM strategy?

Easyjet for BLZ!

Both of my flights from JNB to BLZ and back were packed to the max. Since Air Malawi’s grounding, the SAA flight is the only regular airlink. I heard there is a small jet that flies to Lusaka. But that’s about it. Passengers flying to Nairobi need to take a bus to Lilongwe, 400 km away from Blantyre, to reach the Kenya Airways connection. I wonder what the limiting factor is in the business case. Evidently it is not so easy. Once upon a time, Comair was planning to buy Air Malawi. But wouldn’t it be cool if Malawi was accessible by means of a low cost airline similar to Easyjet?

As usual I’ve posted some snapshots on Flickr.

I am back in Switzerland. To my amazement, the weather is very mild this January. So far I haven’t really felt cold, despite my tropical break.

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