| June 6, 2008

Even as the Mozambican police force is less corrupt than it was in the past, plenty of parties continue to demand “facilitation fees.”

Prior to entering the port of Beira, truck drivers must clear their paperwork at a decrepit customs building just outside the gate. Some 20 young men are hanging around with no obvious purpose. I meet the gaze of one of them, and he responds with a hand gesture that I assume to be the local variant of a raised middle finger.

As Alex enters the customs building he slips the apparent ringleader a few banknotes—the price of trouble-free passage.

In the port, money changes hands again. First to persuade the operator of a reach-stacker (a giant forklift) to unload our container now—instead of whenever he might feel like it.

And when he goes to collect his return cargo, grain, he “tips” the foreman of the load crew to get to work straight away. After a few days in Mozambique, I understand why.

A truck weigh station operator who got nothing kept babbling on his cell phone as trucks lined up for the scale. Remarkably, Alex pays the “fees” out of his own pocket. They allow him to deliver his loads faster and, ultimately, make more trips. The extra money earned that way more than compensates for the cost.

Category: Breaking News

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