Karl Arnold Belser
15 April 2017
| I have had the latent impression that Africa was backward and out of control. This impression was totally wrong in South Africa.
Cape Town, the southern most city in South Africa, is more like San Francisco. It has only 4 million people and a thriving economy. Several auto manufacturers have assembly plants there. There is a great waterfront and large vineyards to the east.
Capetown is isolated from the rest of Africa because of a high escarpment (high cliffs) that run completely around the bottom part of Africa. There is a narrow strip of low lands between the cliffs and the ocean. Above the cliffs is the Kalahari desert where the bushmen live. This isolation keeps starving immigrants from wandering in from the poor countries in central Africa. The result is that South Africa near Cape Town is very similar to California in climate and standard of living.
The Cape of Good Hope peninsula is just south of Cape Town. The road that leads there includes Chapman's Peak drive that is cut into the side of the cliffs, and the little towns along the way remind me of the Amafli coast in Italy. The quaint, upscale towns include a penguin colony, ostrich farms and baboons.
We flew to Durban and drove through Swaziland to Kruger Park and on to Johannesburg. Johannesburg is one of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the world. The Soweto suburb (south western township) of Johannesburg is supposedly the worst part of South Africa. Soweto is a city of houses and apartment blocks that remind me of poor parts of US cities like Chicago. The unemployment rate was about 30%, but there is a social welfare system in South Africa so that the people have a place to stay and food to eat.
The road between Durban and Johannesburg had many farms starting with sugar cane in the low lands, eucalyptus tree, pine tree and corn fields over most of the countryside. Even in this part of South Africa there was some prosperity.
We flew to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The Zambezi river flows east through Mozambique to the Indian Ocean. Zimbabwe is a disaster today under the authoritarian leadership of Robert Mugabe. He kicked out most of the white European farmers and gave the land to locals who could not farm. The GDP went essentially to zero. Mugabe sold the railroad system to the Chinese and the Chinese government has built airports in the country presumably in trade for mineral rights. The unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is about 95%. The population is relatively low at about 13 million.
I am writing this post to show that there is a large part of Africa that is not out of control. I suspect that the main problems are in central Africa in countries like South Sudan and Kenya.
Last updated April 15, 2017
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