Days and Nights of Freetown- Africa’s infrastructure nightmare.

I got as close as I dared and worked out what had happened.  A lorry had been crossing the bridge and had overloaded what was now apparently a much weakened structure.  At a point as far away from the supporting columns as possible the weight of the lorry had made the bridge literally snap and it had plunged into the river, the far part of the bridge had dropped into the river too pulling the south end upwards, and at the same time it had dragged a portion of the north side of the bridge down too.  The force of the break had twisted the girders, wrenched out the pins and snapped the weldings.  Peering down into the fast flowing river I could just make out the cab of a modern lorry.  No-one could tell me whether the driver had survived the traumatic plunge or subsequent immersion.

Not point in dwelling too long on this disaster.  The villagers of the settlement on the far side were an industrious lot, had set up a regular ferry service and were doing a brisk trade.

The narrative of this disaster was typical of Sierra Leone.  Years of neglect and lack of maintenance meant what minimal infrastructure the country had was deteriorating.  Out of the fragments of an emergency, though, there was a spirit of entrepreneurialism, and a solution could be found.  If only that spirit could be tapped and more widely fostered the country would become a powerhouse in the region.

How to tap that spirit and who should lead were questions left dangling with me.  Any person who had obtained power may give a perception of some benevolence to those who they guarded, but in reality most of the their time was spent finding ways to further themselves and their immediate circle.  And so many basic problems in Sierra Leone seemed never to be solved.

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