Postcard From Freetown: “Everything is Expensive”!

My journey of a story almost forgotten continues as I walk through the streets of Freetown, reminiscencing the memory of what was once a glorious city with rich history. Freetown, the educational powerhouse in the West African sub region, vintage colonial buildings that will leave you in awe of what it means to be free and the hard earned work of our forefathers replicating itself everywhere.

It is now five month to be exact since I left Johannesburg for my country of birth, Sierra Leone, and I must say I miss Johannesburg so much that I am lost for words to express my feelings. What keep me close and in touch with my friends and foes is Twitter. As my friend Lucinda once said, I tweet as if I never left Joburg and this is in reference to me tweeting and commenting on politics on a daily basis. It’s all thanks to the beauty of technology which invariably makes the world a global village with the click of a button on your smartphone, laptop or netbook.

I must say Sierra Leoneans are still engrossed on the facebook euphoria and by my research Twitter is not much of a hit down here. Most of the people I know that are Sierra Leoneans on Twitter are leaving overseas. I’m still on the search to find more people and connect with them daily. So far I am not winning but I am a persistent being, I am still on it relentlessly.

On Monday, I went to the SierraTel internet cafe on Shiaka Steven’s streets and I was made to inquire about the internet service connections in the country and was told that, SierraTel uses satellite to connect in other to provide services to its customers. They are charging L5, 000 for an hour browsing experience in which by my experience you will spend thirty minute trying to load a page as the internet is very slow. I continued to inquire further from the sales people and was told that, the government is on the verge of laying fiber optic cables in the Atlantic Ocean which will then enhance a better internet and communication services to the people of Sierra Leone. Till that is done and God knows when, I’ll have to suck up and deal with the frustration of poor internet service.

To my surprise, SierraTel does not provide or have BlackBerry Service. I was flabbergasted by the news. I am still yet to recover from this shock. I was forced to join ship with the leading private communication network in Freetown Airtel. Airtel does have Blackberry Services and they are charging $50 a month which is almost plus R300.00 compared to R59 in South Africa. So I am in stitches and had to cut cost by returning to my E63 Nokia phone for internet service which to my surprise had to be configured at the Airtel office for me to have internet services. Everything here is done manually. What a bore and frustration galore it is.

Generally in Freetown everything is expensive, there’s no price regulator anywhere to synchronize prices. Traders increase price at their own will and customers have no choice than to put up with this incessant rise in prices by greedy traders and the government is doing absolutely nothing about it. The Indians and Lebanese are taking advantage of this situation by exploiting and inflating prices at random and the people have no viable alternative as they are their main source for groceries and household products in the whole country. Street trading is rampant in Freetown, so much that it causes heavy traffic on the main commercial roads leaving you stuck in traffic for several hours. The chances of you buying almost expired food product is seven to ten and most times some of the people don’t even bother to check on the dates because the cheap price is their sole motivator to buy these products. It frustrates me because I feel it is inhuman and against their human fundamental rights.

The Chinarization of Freetown is massive and I will say, Freetown is like a dumping ground for Chinese and fake products. Everywhere I have been from fashion stores to stalls, all you see is Chinese products everywhere, from clothes to household products to electronics and so on and so forth. There are few boutiques in Freetown and they are so expensive that the poor or middle class don’t even shop there. The rich and well off to do make such places their enclave and to my understanding, expatriates and foreign workers go to such places to shop. For example, the Saint Mary’s chain of supermarket is mainly patronized by the aforementioned people as ordinary Sierra Leoneans can’t afford the price tag on their products.

I hope that the government will look into all of these issues and address them as soon as possible. The people are hungry, angry youths out there as the basic amenities of life are not readily available. Unemployment amongst youth is almost 90% by my estimation; teenage pregnancy, Sierra Leone tops the chat. Corruption is itching the helm of this nation, everywhere you go, under the counter deals are proposed to you even in the civil service which is like the normal norm for you to get things done. I have countless of encounters when I went to get my passport and ID card.

As I reflect on these issues, I must reiterate it is not doom and gloom for Sierra Leone. In the midst of the rotten, there are few men and women that are working tirelessly to put this country back on the map and as I discover them on this journey I will not hesitate but to share their stories as well. Sierra Leone is bleeding, her tears are innocent because she has done nothing wrong but the greed of her sons and daughters is prodding her beauty and charm. The Lion Mountain as we know it is fast becoming powerless but I have hope that the lioness within her will surpass all tribulations and rise to her feet and defend her children. This is the land that we love and I have hope for a brighter future for us Salone pikin dem. For now I am back on the streets of Freetown as I discover more postcards stories to share about my country of birth, Mama Salone.

@DanteBello on Twitter



2 Responses to “Postcard From Freetown: “Everything is Expensive”!”

  1. WOW, you’re such a vivid writer Dante!

  2. What a graphical detail of not only human but infrastructral wreckage war leaves behind. What frighten me most is the 90% unemployed youths, a ticking social time bomb. Well researched article Dante! fredoarts.

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