February 17, 2016
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA ─ Traders rush through the chaotic Old Soweto Market in this capital city, dodging to avoid being hit by protruding modified wheelbarrows that are all over the market.
The wheelbarrows, locally known as Zamcabs, are a major mode of transportation at the market and everywhere in the city. Innovative men modify this gardening and construction tool into a vehicle for transporting heavy loads from Lusaka’s markets to locations throughout the city and suburbs.
The wheelbarrows are fitted with car tires and can carry goods weighing up to 300 kilograms (661 pounds), says Manson Njobvu, a welder who modifies wheelbarrows.
“This is good business,” says Boyd Sakala, a wheelbarrow pusher. “But you need to be energetic. They say a poor man’s capital is his strength, and that is what we have.”
Sakala rents a wheelbarrow at 10 Zambian kwacha (about 90 cents) per day. When business is good, he earns about 100 kwacha ($8.88).
Vincent Mwale, the minister for sport, youth and child development, says these innovations help ease joblessness. Almost 8 percent of the labor force in Zambia was unemployed, according to the Zambia Labour Force Survey Report 2012.
Buses and taxis are readily available in Lusaka, but traders opt to hire wheelbarrow pushers because the service is cheap. Wheelbarrow pushers charge 7 kwacha (62 cents) for a distance a taxi would charge 30 kwacha ($2.66).Buses and taxis have hiked their fares in recent months, after the Energy Regulation Board increased fuel prices up to 1.13 kwacha (about 10 cents) per liter in July 2015.
“Imagine transporting all my goods in a taxi. It means I cannot even make any profit,” says Matti Banda, a vegetable vendor who buys her products at Old Soweto Market.
Njobvu, the welder, says there’s a high demand for wheelbarrows in Lusaka. He sells 10 to 15 every month at 450 kwacha ($40) each.
Prudence Phiri, GPJ, translated some interviews from Nyanja and Bemba.