I have previously mentioned Stephen, who stayed with me for a while and is still living in Dar es Salaam. Also I have previously mentioned bijajis, the 3 wheeled taxis imported from India which are very common here, effectively motorbikes with awnings.
Well, through Stephen and his girlfriend Afua I own a bijaji! They are testing out a social entrepreneurial model whereby they get investors to buy bijajis which are then rented by trusted drivers, with the investment paid back over a year (possibly up to 2 years in future). Happy to help in the initial stages, the driver is a friend of Afua's family Dulla, pictured here with me sitting in the driver side:
So, as a birthday present Stephen and Afua arranged for me to have a bijaji driving lesson with Dulla! The controls have more in common with a motorbike than a car, so, never having learnt to ride a motorbike, I was expecting it to be quite hard. Actually, when the moment came, I found it surprisingly easy to adapt from a manual car, although the ground we were driving on was quite rough so not really possible to get beyond 2nd gear.
Stephen and Afua came as my passengers and took this picture:
If you are thinking this is my best side all I can side in return is that I got there first! They declined to pay the fare I demanded on the grounds that it was ridiculously more than bijaji drivers normally charge.
Stephen also had a go:
as did Afua:
Meanwhile, a bijaji being ridden by two wazungu (white people) and a woman (which I for one have not previously seen) attracted a certain amount of interest:
There is a video of me singing 'Ten green bottles' in which the boys can be quite clearly heard anticipating the next number, available on request!
So, a real fun afternoon, thank you, Stephen, Afua and Dulla! Meanwhile, Stephen and Afua are looking for further investors! They are building the model slowly and carefully, ensuring that risks are minimised and there are strong reasons to trust the integrity of the drivers taken on. If you are thinking you would like to get involved, making a real difference to the lives of the drivers, please let me know and I'll pass the message on.
One other thing before I go. The general election is set for October 25th, President Jakaya Kikwete is completing his second and final term, so there is necessarily a change in incumbent. In addition, all opposition parties have combined into a single entity, so for the first time since independence 60 years ago (to my knowledge, alas I know less about Tanzanian politics than I should by now) there is a real possibility that the CCM candidate will not be elected.
It is my hope and prayer that the existence of a viable opposition will give a strong sense of due process being followed, with any conflicts being resolved through debate and reasoning rather than any other way. I do not, however, take this for granted, and ask that you join me in thought and prayer at this transitional time.