Africa Diary 3

 Fr Dave Stewart SJ, director of the Young British Jesuit Alumni is in Africa visiting Jesuit projects in several countries. He is sending us diary pieces from his trip - as and when he can get an internet connection! Much has changed since this traveller last flew into Harare about two decades ago and when you disembark you see the first change: a smart, modern neat terminal building that any city would be proud of. But on your way back out of the country, there's a different interpretation. This airport is, you realise, a prestige project. It,s exactly the sort of expenditure on construction that we in the Make Poverty History coalition would worry about, for this is what opponents of our campaign would point to - drop the debt, and the funds released will only be spent on prestige projects such as swish airports or, worse, personal perks for the ruling leadership class. I was impressed by coming down an air-conditioned jetway instead of walking across the hot tarmac; of course I was, because I was meant to be. I was impressed by the bright and airy baggage hall and the big corporate advertisements, rather than Zanu-PF slogans; because I was meant to be. The same goes for the automatic sliding exit doors and the ticket gadgets in the car-park. This all relates a narrative about a country in which there is confident inward investment into a thriving economy and diverts your attention so that you forget that yours was the only aircraft on the apron, the only arrival for the next four hours. All this diverts your attention from the 70% unemployment, the horrendous HIV/AIDS situation, the shortages, the orphaned kids, the hyper-inflation. So too does the beauty of the land and the human decency of the people; it's green and lovely here and you are always met with a smiled 'Makadi; greeting and the Shona gesture of crossed hands gently clapped. You need to look quite closely to see that much has changed indeed in 20 years, and very little of it is for the better.

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