So, Malawi is off to a flying start. I arrived Saturday and only after slight delay which made the experience that much better. Nairobi airport felt like a market compared to the drab T4 - a busy and bustling African hub. After a day and a night in Lilongwe, eating corn pudding, watching the Chelsea game and bantering with the locals, I set off for Blantyre.
After missing the bus (went to the wrong stop), I met a local woman who took me home to her mum's house and we chatted about business in Malawi, the government and the Banda years. Brilliant to meet the locals which only continued on the cramped and standing 5 hour bus journey to Blantyre. Packed to the hilt with luggage and chilling to the tunes of local gospel, we travelled at speed (with much use of the horn) and I saw this in a market stall as we stopped.
Beats Shebu . . . a little (picture of the sunrise the next day is better but you'll have to wait for that one).
My first task of the trip was to go and meet Towera - a local business lady who knows lots about juice. She picked me up and took her back to her home where she has built a mini juice factory in her family garage. She's not directly connected with the Microloan Foundation but has lots of experience in Malawian business and fair trade organisations in the country. She introduced me to the wonder that is the Baobab (or Mlambe fruit).
Armed with learnings from Towera, the next few days are all about investigating the juice market and packaging materials as well as visiting farmers. So much more to tell but I'll leave you with first impressions for now and save all that for later in the week.
Malawi is an amazing country - full of brilliant, smiling, warm people even though it is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is a real gap in income between the rich and poor - I talked to people who support their family on less than £10 per month. Because the country has fewer natural resources than its neighbours there appears to be a real lack of opportunity for everyone which is such a difference from the UK and is humbling.
People like Towera are really driving change here but much of peoples' outlook is a legacy of it's history and the political situation here is not as stable as it could be. I'm really looking forward to the next two weeks as I see the work the Microloan foundation is carrying out and understand more about this beautiful place.