Dr. Livingstone, I Presume

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“I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward”. The famous quote belongs to David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer who “discovered” Central Africa. He said this when one of his expeditions was about to fail because dead bodies thrown in the river by the slavetraders constantly got stuck in the paddle of his steam boat. Dr. Livingstone was completely shocked by cruelty of the slave traders when he arrived Malawi in 1859. Walking along Livingstonia Beach you start wondering; what impact has 154 years of white influence had in this country. Malawi, or British Central Africa, was invaded by presbyterian missionaries. Shortly after Livingstones arrival. The north-eastern shore of Lake Malawi was subject to the first white do-gooders. A group of people who have tried to change Malawi to the better ever since.

The problem is that Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in Africa, and therefore also one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the UN some 90 percent of the Malawians have to survive on less than $2 a day. Where did it all go wrong, one might ask. If any of you know the answer to that question, your free to leave a comment under this post. The Malawian government, the World Bank, the UN and a unknown number of NGO’s would surely like to know. But until someone comes up with the right answer and the government, the UN and the rest of them starts acting accordingly poverty is the curse of this country.

Ali the fisherman sure is poor. And if he shall see any improvement in his lifetime the changes must come soon. The expected living age of a Malawian is 52,2 years. Ali has no thought for statistics. The only figures he cares about right now is how much money he has in his pocket when todays catch is sold. The fisherman is riding his canoe like a horse. One foot dipping in the water each side of the scooped out log that keeps both him and his family afloat. He doesn’t speak many words of English, but manages to tell us that he has a wife and three kids to feed. The 30 year old fisherman has two lines running into the lake, and every now and then he pulls a tiny mbuna. Out of the water.

-Good, he says smiling. Mbuna is a good fish.

Ali pats his stomach to make us understand that he is hungry and that maybe we could spare him a couple of kwatcha. We haven’t got any money in our canoe, and even if we had, what difference would it have made? 154 years of donations from the white man has given few, if any sustainable results. Malawi should be prepared to go anywhere, “provided it be forward”.

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19 Responses to “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume”

  1. An interesting story from real life. Many times people are small things that do not give value to what we have. Thanks for sharing.

  2. victoriaaphotography Says:

    I don’t believe small handouts are the answer here. Poor people from third world countries need community support and positive change far into the future.

    They need education, sustainable farming & food production, and most importantly, long term jobs that provide ‘real’ wages to support their families.

    Its only unexpected calamities and natural disasters that need urgent ‘handouts’ (of food, shelter, money & basic essentials). A ‘once off’ handout only makes future survival more difficult to endure and ultimately, creates more dysfunction within the community.

    Great photos (as always).

    • Foreign aid is taking money from the poor people of a rich country and giving it to the rich people of a poor country.

      Each country needs to reinvent itself, not look outside for help nor to apportion blame.

  3. Very true, Victoria!

  4. Is Kiva active in Malawi – giving individuals loans to purchase what is needed to take them into self-sufficiency. It takes out the middle men who are sucking people dry in these countries.

    Friends went to Malawi for 1/2 a year to help with water and education. I sensed they came back feeling a little defeated due to experiencing the obstacles that are buried deep in their culture. It’s a belief system untouched by any other culture.

    I don’t know either, Otto…these are just considerations.

  5. this is very sad. when others go without, indirectly we are all affected since, in a way, we are all spiritually connected. glad you are sharing the Malawi situation.

  6. Nice (but sad) piece on Malawi – thanks for sharing. I spent 6 weeks backpacking around and across the lake and experienced, in equal measures, hope and despair. What to do, what to do – I wish they (we) had the magic answer!

  7. artblablablablog Says:

    Beautiful photos, no answers.

    • In 2006 Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, won the Nobel Peace Price for his concept of microlending. You can google him and view youtube interviews with him. I would hope this worldwide attention would reach areas like Malawi.

  8. Wonderful photography. I learn so much from you. I didn’t know much about the history of Malawi, and I’m challenged.

  9. Very thought provoking. You are certainly offering an education on Malawi.

  10. I’m reading backwards and asked a question that you already answered here.

  11. ahaha, very informative, thanks… and poignant, am afraid. i appreciate it so that your writing, sir, is always to the point. yes, colonization always does a people some great bad, i must say… 😉

    cheers from the Philippines. 🙂

  12. Some honest government people would help. Malawi is 3rd bottom on the corruption list – just above Somalia and North Korea. Add in labrynthine regulations and you have a basket case. Of course there’s nothing in the basket.
    Colonisation has nothing to do with it – look at Botswana, rated as the least corrupt of all African countries.

    Look at the FACTS not the myths.

  13. Great photos as usual! Charity is such a huge industry, salaries to pay, advertising and PR campaigns, so many expenses. Somewhere at the end of this long line .. . .

  14. The usual suspects on the continent; embezzlement, mismanagement, incompetence, colluding with corrupt foreign entities… This is the common plight of the continent. Until we learn to value our culture and ourselves, we will remain impoverished by old backward thinking and a colonial mentality. 😦
    Eliz

    • Not all poor people are poor because they are poor, but I strongly believe someone is making them poor.

  15. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your blog. Do you ever run
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