A lesson in infrastructure, high transportation costs in Rwanda

March 29, 2008 at 8:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I remember learning the word infrastructure in social studies class, the definition my teacher gave was that it meant transportation and communication. After some time here in Rwanda, I am realizing that the majority of the country’s spending money is going to pay for getting from place to place.

Providing money for transportation is a key principle for youth participation in any process, but in this case we would have no youth conference if we did not pay for peoples transport– and that includes the speakers. I reimbursed Pastor John for a tank of gas for his car today and it was $100 USD. We think the oil crisis is hurting people in the US– the price of gas here is incredible. I am paying some of the participants the equivalent of $10 a day to travel by bus to and from the site. Otherwise $10 can get you pretty far here– in rural areas it is the amount of a micro-finance loan. Our total transportation costs for this meeting, for both reimbursing participants and managing logistics are nearly going to equate our housing costs.

On the flip side, driving is in Rwanda is pleasant because there are few cars and the roads are well maintained. But this morning I woke in a panic because I was late and all the traffic was stopped from 8-12pm for the national monthly clean-up day. You are not allowed to drive because you are supposed to clean up your neighborhood. Rene told me one time his cousin was on a way to a wedding and the police stopped them. They had to get out of the car, take off their suit jackets and roll up their sleeves to start fixing the road.

Second to transport costs are cell phones. To use your cell phone you have to buy mobile credits, and depending on who you are calling they can run out pretty quick. Especially if you are coordinating a conference you are on the phone all day.

I really think that if you ran the numbers the majority of this country’s cash-in-hand is going to getting around and talking to people; something we in the West do without second thought. We live with the inherent assumption that we can go anywhere and say anything at anytime. We say time is money. Well, in Africa it seems all the time in the world is being spent just getting from place to place.

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