This is the account of a week spent teaching antitrust law in a World Bank sponsored program for the Tanzanian Fair Competition Commission and members of their High Court. Before I leave, my seven year old daughter asks “why do you want to go to Africa?” So do some friends and clients. Most of what we hear about Africa is awful. Extraordinary violence, famine, tribal war, Aids, contagion, and more. My purpose is not to explain why a lawyer from Cleveland would head off on the 4th of July for sub-Saharan Africa, but what I found there. I hope the Tanzanians found our time informative; I learned a lot.
Click for Part I and Part II of Antitrust Lessons in Africa.
Vol. 5: The Road to Mikumi
At some point, knowledge triumphs over worry. The soonest the symptoms of Malaria develop after exposure is seven days. I am almost certain that the earliest I was exposed – bitten by some bug – was three or four days ago. More likely, food-borne illness. I pop a cipro (great drug to bring to Africa) and try to get some sleep.
The final day with the Decision Makers goes quickly. We address tying arrangements: sellers conditioning the purchase of one product upon the purchase of another. In our hypotheticals, the gun manufacturer only sells the rifle with a supply of bullets. The arguments against such arrangements are straightforward: if the seller has market power in one product, the consumer’s freedom of choice may be limited and competition may be restrained. The arguments for such arrangements are more subtle.
At the break, Gregory – the Director of Compliance – tells me that he has arranged a trip for me to go to the game reservation at Mikumi. They will pick me up at 3pm this afternoon, and will take a credit card for $560.00 in charges, including lodging. “They are good people,” Gregory says. “My relations by marriage.”
The time expires. I thank them for the opportunity to work with them at the start of their journey, and wish them a good week next of monopolies and abuse of dominance with a law professor from New York University Law School.
The Chairman speaks. “Mr. Edmund, we were not too proud to listen and we have learned. You have done a fine presentation…we hope you will return again to Tanzania; you have friends here.” All but one of the Decision Makers shakes my hand warmly to say good-bye. From across the room, the High Court Justice nods once to me and departs.
At 3:30 (most scheduled times I am learning are approximate), Gregory walks me out to a dated Toyota 4-Runner that has a Gazelle on the side. I wave once to Gregory as the driver, Annand, drives out the front gate of the hotel. It takes me a few minutes to realize how trashed this truck is. The steering column jacket is gone, the speedometer does not work, and I need to switch to the back seat to find the only working seatbelt. There are many reasons to back out of this – it’s unclear whether the truck or your author is in worse shape – but when will I be back in Africa and I do not want to embarrass Gregory who kindly set this up.
Out the gate, I am surprised by how crowded and destitute the area is around the hotel. I arrived at night. Under the brilliant sunlight, I can see all sorts of cinder block one room houses, shacks, and crude tents crammed together between the road and the gate of the hotel. Most houses do not appear to have electricity. I have been in some tough places but nothing like this.
The road is choked with traffic. Every conceivable vehicle is moving on a two lane road into Dar. Ahead of us, three guys are sitting on a couch that is tilted part of the way out of the back of a pickup truck. I see two guys, a woman, and a baby riding on a single motorcycle without helmets. There are no stop lights at intersections – until we get into the center of Dar – and the result is like rush hour in a blackout. In the midst of the chaos, there are surprising instances of courtesy. Cars stop to let an old woman with a scrawny goat cross the road. Annand surrenders the right of way to cars waiting to enter the procession for no apparent reason.
We stop in the city so I can pay with my credit card. They tap my card for a previously undisclosed extra five percent for just using the card. No one is concerned that I will complain to the Director of Compliance. What can I do at this point?
Walking back to the truck, I am what Texans would call “the tallest Daisy.” I am immediately conspicuous in this part of Dar; I draw stares but only one beggar and no hostility. Tanzanians seem to like the United States. None agree with the invasion of Iraq, but they appreciate Bush for visiting Tanzania and, not surprisingly, Obama is highly popular. Some even claim Obama as their own. (The argument I hear is that Obama’s father belonged to a tribe that migrated back and forth between Kenya and Tanzania.)
The Swahili word “safari” means journey – it has no specific connotation to animals. My safari is more of a journey than I could have imagined. It takes another hour and a half to get to the outer limits of Dar with a prolonged gridlock at the central bus station. Annand admits that this is no three hour trip as I was told; it will likely take us another five to six hours. There is one two lane road west into central Tanzania and beyond to the Congo. The road is clogged with convoys of heavy trucks carrying freight from the port at Dar, and ubiquitous for profit mini-buses called Dalla-Dallas jammed with people. The Dalla-Dallas have slogans on them like “In God We Trust,” “Trust Jesus,” “Trust Allah,” and – I jest not – “Trust No One.” As to the latter, you can imagine a van full of the distrustful warily eyeing each other like in an old Far Side cartoon.
We pass through small towns. Often children stand or sit on the edge of the road within feet of the heavy traffic selling wares or just watching the world go by. Women – and some men – carry all manner of baskets and objects on their heads.
Night falls and we are still on the road to Mikumi. I am told that the predators in Africa come out at night. “Annand, do we have a spare tire,” I ask. “Yes,” he says. “Annand, are there robbers on this road?” “Yes,” Annand says. “But most time they attack the trucks.” I have read a story in the local paper about a band of thugs massacring dozens of villagers with Ak-47s to take their cattle. Annand, changes the subject to the odds of finding “Simba” – the Swahili word for lion – in the morning.
As we get further out in the country, the traffic spaces out. Annand starts speeding up to make up for lost time, no doubt spurred by my impatience. It is hard for me to know how fast he is going – the speedometer does not work – but the truck shakes terribly at these speeds. “Annand, I have four children” I say. “I am no longer worried about how long this trip takes or whether I see the Simba. I just want to make it there tonight, see some animals tomorrow, and back alive.”
Annand slows down a little.
Vol. 6: Symbiotic Relationships
“Since aloneness is the human condition, a stark example of the perfect stranger was the white man in black Africa…” Paul Theroux
Shortly before ten, we arrive at the gate at Mikumi. An armed ranger shines a light in the car and then opens the gate. Annand says that poachers are a real problem here.
Going to Mikumi is a contrarian play. The migration of the wildebeests up north is underway and so follows the big cats and the tourists. The lodge here is nearly empty.
I eat a dinner of grilled chicken with peanut sauce (and another dose of cipro) alone outside by the light of a torch. Water holes are dug nearby. A mother and baby elephant come and drink followed later by what looks like a sort of wolverine.
I return to my cabin which is rustic but clean with a private toilet. Something moves and I see a big lizard run up the wall. On the thought that he eats mosquitoes – and there are plenty of them – I name him Two Socks (after Dunbar’s companion in Dances with Wolves) and declare him welcome to stay. At eleven, they shut down the generator and the place goes completely dark. I lie in bed with my clothes soaked in Deet, beyond exhaustion, and waiting for sleep. The problem is that this is not just another night in a strange hotel on the road.
First, there is a flurry of activity in the room. Presumably, Two Socks just scored a kill. But as big as he is – he is the size of a large rat – it’s hard to imagine that he could make this much noise. Maybe something bigger is killing Two Socks. In the complete dark, alone in Africa, the mind races to all of the heinous creatures in these parts: the black mambo (one of the world’s most dangerous snakes), venom spitting cobras, pythons, vampire bats, hyenas, armed bandits, and the list goes on. At some point, I am drifting to sleep and I am brought back to alertness by the sound of animals moving right outside of my window and then the sudden pounding of hooves.
“That was just the impala,” Annand says laughing at me. “This is their home.” We meet at first light and head out onto a great plain bounded in the distance by green hills. Before long, a great male elephant with large ivory tusks emerges from the bush and walks up to the truck where I am standing out of the open roof. In short order, we also see a herd of buffalo, wildebeest, lots of giraffes, zebras, baboons, impala, hippos, more elephants, and birds of every color. The most interesting aspect of seeing the animals in the wild is to see the relationships between different species. For example, we run into a large group of baboons running with a herd of impala (deer like animals). Annand explains how the baboons will throw fruit down from the trees for the impala to eat and how the impala, with their strong sense of smell and hearing, will warn the baboons against the approach of predators.
The plain is beautiful but severe. A vulture type bird alights from a dark twisted tree of thorns. Like the ravens of Dar, these trees remind me that I am far from home.
I am brought back for a moment by the approach of a Toyota sedan carrying three Indian men. They speak to Annand in Swahili but I hear one word – Simba — and know what they want. Everyone wants to find the lion. “Why don’t you tell them to hire you and you will show them the lion,” I say to Annand. But he does not think that way. Annand is a gentle soul.
Annand works intently to find the lion. According to Annand, there are somewhere between 60 and 70 lions in Mikumi, but they migrate back and forth to an even larger reserve called Selous. The week before Annand watched lions jump and kill a zebra. By early afternoon, I tell Annand that I am happy even though we did not see the lion. We head back for Dar.
The first couple of hours of the trip are enjoyable. We see baboons running across the road and giraffes in the distance eating from trees. We pass through villages where we can see the Massai – the Amish of Africa – in traditional dress sometimes carrying spears.
Groups of boys, some as young as five or six, approach our truck to sell drinks or food like bananas or cashews. Annand buys a can of Red Bull. A boy approaches the truck to sell some sort of meat on a stick and I see that he is wearing a Cleveland Indians shirt. “Cleveland Indians!” I say with genuine enthusiasm. But he does not know what I am talking about. Maybe someone handed it to him out of a car window; more likely, the shirt was donated in the United States where it was resold for pennies in Africa. I see used American clothes sold by the side of the road. There is economic activity all along this road. The problem is that little of it looks high margin and there are no apparent economies of scale. A man has five two by fours for sale by the side of the road; a woman has several dresses hanging for sale in the leafless branches of a dead tree.
We stop in another town to try to buy some hand carved animal figures for my children. “How much for four elephants?,” I ask. A mean looking kid of maybe sixteen, quotes me $65.00 (U.S.). I can’t pay that I say; I need four animals for twenty dollars. This is not just posturing or some sort of sport. No one in Africa will cash my traveler’s check or give me an advance on my credit card, and I am down to my last one hundred dollars and I will need to tip Annand. With a decent crowd watching, the mean looking kid tells me “then no elephants; four giraffes $50.00 (U.S.).” I walk away to the next stall down in the market where handcarved animals are also for sale. But the mean looking kid is still hovering behind me. The guys in the next stall will not even quote me a price. Same problem in the third stall. “Come on my Stanford friend, your best price,” I plead to a kid wearing a red Stanford shirt. He won’t even speak to me. The mean looking kid, restarts the negotiations that get extraordinarily baroque as his price goes up and down, and lions and giraffes are substituted in and out of offers for elephants. “I can’t buy Simba,” I say. “I did not see Simba.” Annand starts looking pained (he likely gets paid for bringing me) and I am losing patience. “Let’s go to Merenge Market (a giant market in Dar),” I say to Annand. We had talked about going there anyway, and I suspect that Annand told the mean looking kid that I meant it. I walk out with two elephants and two giraffes for twenty dollars U.S. I am not proud of haggling, but I really am short of cash and this type of negotiation is how these markets all operate. As I am getting back into the truck, “Stanford” approaches me to sell four giraffes. I shake my head. “You had your chance to compete.” But I certainly understand his situation.
It becomes apparent how young the population is in these towns. You don’t see many older people. The life expectancy in Tanzania is less than fifty years old and falling. You see young adults and even more children. The birth rate is many multiples of that in Western Europe. Western European does not have a high enough birth rate to replace in the long run their traditional ethnicities; the population in Africa is exploding but life is short and often nasty.
We find the nasty part on up of the road.