{Post by the Husband} This is Zambia: The Mini-Bus

December 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Zambian Minibus

For the last several years, Seattle has debated what to do about the downtown viaduct.  There was public campaigning.  There were several votes.  There were millions of dollars spent on studies.  The debate seemingly propped up an unlikely mayor but may finally prove to be his undoing.  Ultimately, even the governor had to get involved.  The whole process felt like a mess to many.  And yet at the end of the day, Seattle will likely have a new state-of-the-art tunnel and a beautiful new waterfront.

The viaduct experience illustrates the Western way of inventing a macro solution (a billion dollar tunnel) to a problem (congestion, danger of earthquake, ugly construction, etc).  In Zambia (and other African countries), micro solutions are the rule.  And the Zambian solution to the transportation problem is the mini-bus.

Mini-buses are a way of life for most middle class and lower class Zambians.  Some castigate mini-buses because they are overcrowded (14 people crammed in one Toyota van) and at times drive recklessly (on the sidewalk).  However, they are cheap ($1.50 for me to ride two mini-buses to work) and run very frequently.  Furthermore, my father-in-law would love mini-buses because they are privately run and do not require government subsidies.

Well, after two months, Laura and I finally each rode the mini-bus last week.  We had great experiences, and we will likely be riding them regularly for the rest of our time here.  We definitely get some comments about being mzungu’s on the mini-bus (some Zambians thought we are too poor to afford to drive ourselves), but it is a lot of fun and a great way to experience Zambian culture.


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