Lilongwe, Malawi … Only a few years ago there were few cars in Malawi. In fact, only the very rich could afford to operate one. Suddenly in recent years, there has been an explosion of cars in the major cities. The creation of a middle class is developing and families in the city have sufficient income to seek refrigerators, cars, and modern conveniences that before had been only in the hands of the well-to-do. With this problem comes the struggle with the infrastructure; a weak electric grid that cannot begin to fulfill all of the requests, the need for larger and safer water supply, and of course, roads, roads, and more roads. All three are in short supply, but in many ways, the most visible one comes both morning and night in the capital city of Lilongwe. The traffic jams are growing to the point of impossibility, and it can now take 2 hours to cross a city that in years past could be accomplished in 20 minutes.
While caught in this particular traffic jam at 4:30 in the afternoon looking to the left of our car at one of the round-a-bouts was a billboard reading, “We’ve got what you need.” At this moment one would wish for more roads!
A sad note to this is not only the problem being caused with serious traffic jams during a large portion of the day but in the fact that while the city dwellers are growing a bit more prosperous, the people in the villages are growing poorer at a rapid pace. Some of the reasons for this will be presented in the coming stories.