Saturday, June 20, 2009

A trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and to Lilongwe, Malawi

This past week, (June 14th ~ 20th) I have traveled to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Lilongwe, Malawi. In fact, I am still in Nairobi, Kenya waiting for my flight back to Kigali, Rwanda to depart at 23:40PM. Ahhh... But, I have time to update the blog. That is the positive side of it.

The trip to Dar es Salaam was to attend the OI Africa Region's CEO conference. A dozen of us gathered to discuss about each country's situation and strategies. We also discussed about each country's effective practices for mutual learning. I ended up facilitating the day-long session of sharing effective practices.

Dar es Salaam is a port facing the Indian Ocea and one of the largest cities in Tanzania. Tanzania represents the essenses of Africa. It has the Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest in Africa. It also has the Seregenti National Park, the most famous African national park that frequently appears in movies. Lion King was produced on the basis of Serengeti National Park. "Simba" the lion king means the lion in Swahili. It also has the famous Ngorongoro Crater that has its own unique animals living in it. Moreover, it has Zanzibar, an island that is legally part of Tanzania but has its own President and immigration system. Zanzibar was the capital of slave trade. All slaves were collected from all over Africa and exported out of Zanzibar. It is also famous for its beautiful clear water. Indeed, Tanzania has the essenses of Africa.

But, it has been falling behind its neighboring country Kenya in promoting itself to the world and their relationship is not so friendly. It is largely because Kenya has its own airline, Kenya Airways covering most of Africa and gateways to the world, and because it has been very effective in promoting the safari and tourism. A lot of people assume that Kenya is the place for safari while Tanzania should be. Also, Kenya has the regional headquarter for the U.N. It draws many NGOs from around the world.
In 1998, the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam was attacked by a truck armed with bombs. It killed 12 people and injured additional 85 people. No American was killed but the tension between the U.S. and the terrorist world continued to accelerate culminated by the so-called September 11 incident in 2001.

The purpose to my trip to Malawi was to see the business practices of OI's Malawian operation and to learn from their successes. It was a great learning experience and the trip was well worth the time.
Malawi is part of the Southern Africa along with South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swazilan etc. It is called "the Warm Heart of Africa." As the nickname implies, I found the country very peaceful and the people very friendly. It is a long country stretched from north to south. Lilongwe is the capital and is close to the Lake Malawi that is known to have almost 250 kinds of fish in it. Malawi is not so famous, but recently it has been exposed to the world because the singer Madonna has won a lawsuit to adopt a Malawian boy, namely Mercy, at the Malawian supreme court. Malawi is also known for its wooden craft. You can easily find the street shops selling wooden crafts. It is also known for its tobacco industry.

Surprisingly, I found several Korean-owned businesses in Lilongwe. I met one family who settled down in Lilongwe in 1975 and has been running a hotel with a restaurant. The hotel is called "Korea Garden" and the restaurant is called "Koryo-jung." I also saw a store called "Korea Motors", a bicycle parts store and a hospital that had a sign that has "Korea" in it. It was a pleasant surprise because I never expected to run into Korean businesses or Koreans in this desolate place. I ended up eating Korean foods with the Korea Garden family. Can you believe it? I ate Korean food in Lilongwe, Malawi! Mr. Cho came with his parents when he was a high schooler. He married a Japanese woman and they have four children. He said that there are 30 Korean families who are either doing businesses or working for tobacco companies.

Travel gives you surprising joy of meeting people totoally unexpectedly. - Jeffrey

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