Trucking in Africa

July 5, 2013

These days, I am all over VICE documentaries. I have watched pretty much all of the African related episodes like Africa’s Moonshine Epidemic, Nigeria Fashion Week – God vs Gay People and Caribbean Fashion Week – Dance Hall and Skin Bleaching. I have also watched other episodes interesting ones such as Prostitutes of God which is about an Indian practice in the Devadasi tradition which involves selling their daughters into a life of prostitution and The KKK vs. the Crips vs. Memphis City Council – no explanation required, the title says it all!

The latest episode on my radar is Cowboy Capitalists. It’s about an American entrepreneur by the name of Ian Cox who moved to South Sudan years ago to make money. Once a struggling electronics man, he has now become a savvy businessman handling major contracts with a whole lot of red tape. In late 2012, Cox struck big with a major contract from the UN to transport equipment from South Africa to South Sudan. Cox and his team navigate through an array of problems – dangerous roads, bureaucracy, corruption and wild weather all documented by photographer and filmmaker Tim Freccia who has been living in Africa for the past 25 years.

The journey to South Sudan has a lot of similarities to the journey documented in VICE‘s West African Truckers from earlier this year. Both episodes remind me of all the broken down, overloaded, damaged and traffic stopping trucks I would see on the bus ride to Kumasi from Accra (Ghana). Accra’s sea port is the point of contact for inland countries such as Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. The truck journeys marvel me! It’s thousands and thousands of kilometres long with run down trucks holding triple the load, endless check-points topped off with bribes, fatigue, dangerous road and weather conditions, the list of negatives goes ON and ON and ON. Don’t forget the big boss chilling at home whilst his poorly paid drivers suffer to try and meet an often unrealistic deadlines.

It’s really interesting watching the Africans (in West African Truckers) deal with their trucking system and then watching the American truckies (in Cowboy Capitalists) switch to the African way of trucking in a heartbeat. As they say, ‘When you go to Rome, do what the Romans do!’

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