I Will Always Write Back is the true story of Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka, who became pen pals -- between Zimbabwe and the USA -- in middle (or lower secondary) school. Over time, they learn from each other, and ultimately Caitlin's family realizes the depth of need of Martin and his family -- living in a slum on the outskirts of the city Matate -- and provides support beyond the letters, all to an inspiring end (which I won't spoil).
This book is on many middle school reading lists, with good reason. My thirteen-year-old son just read and enjoyed it. It provides an introduction to life in Zimbabwe and a range of challenges that might never occur to a child (or adult, for that matter) in a high-income country. I've never worked in Zimbabwe, but I have studied education in many countries, including several countries around Sub-Saharan Africa, and the characterizations of life broadly rang true.
Dried, mopane worms are traditionally offered to foreigners visiting Zimbabwe as a welcoming snack. Not really worms at all, they are the caterpillars of the Emperor moth (Gonimbrasia belina), hand-picked from mopane trees in the wild, their names “madora” in Shona and “amacimbi” in Ndebele a testament to their local popularity.
Zimbabwe is not known as an economic dynamo in Africa. In fact, most people who know anything about the country probably have the opposite impression. Yet not so long ago, Zimbabwe was the bread basket of Africa – endowed with amazingly fertile land, abundant mineral resources, and one of the best educated populations on the continent.
For some time now, public procurement has accounted for a good 20%–25% of Zimbabwe’s annual budget, which currently stands at about US$4 billion. Guided by a law crafted in 1999, the country’s procurement system is centralized, causing bottlenecks and delays.
“Why would I want to?” Because in poor countries, chickens are everywhere, they are pooping wherever they want, and chicken feces is dangerous for young children.
At this year’s Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, leaders are not hiding their concerns about the commodities downturn.
Government representatives express their frustration for not having benefited enough during the boom. Policymakers lament the lack of planning that has left their countries with no cushion in their budgets, and companies are looking to cut costs so they can weather the storm. And most importantly, communities are feeling the economic impact as mines purchase less local supplies, generate fewer jobs and halt some operations.
Not only are things slowing down, but it seems a golden opportunity has passed us by. Fatima Denton, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, highlighted that Africa is less industrialized today than it was in 1990. After the minerals super cycle of 2000-2013, the percentage of manufacturing of African economies actually declined from 12% to 11%.