The New Times (Kigali)

30 December 2012

Zambia: A Trip to Zambia

opinion

Alas! My darling wife is not going to be amused when she reads this article. She might think that I did not give her sufficient amount of attention as I was taking note of lots of things other than basking in our great holiday experience in both Livingstone and Lusaka - Zambia.

First things first; we have enjoyed our stay here. Zambia is a beautiful country. And its people are very friendly, peaceful and politically right with regard to how they treat each other and foreigners. I realised that they never quarrel or hoot at each other while driving like most Kigalians do.

Well, we do take things for granted back home in Rwanda until we travel to other places. Lusaka has many more tarmacked roads but not as smooth as Kigali roads. The city is bigger than ours but not as neat as our Kigali streets. Our NPD Contraco should target a lucrative business in Zambia because they have no pedestrians' paths.

I wonder why Lusaka streets are not well lit yet the country has about 1,200 megawatts on the electricity grid. That's about six times more than what Rwanda generates.

Startlingly, 100 US dollars would cover asix-month electricity bill of a basic Zambian home installed with a cooker, 24-hour water heater and other devises or appliances. That's 16 USD a month as compared to about 50 USD a month in a basic Rwandan home. Clearly, if you can afford to live in Kigali then you can live in most parts of this world.

Another shocker to me was to see grass thatched houses - nyakatsi - in just 20 miles away from the Zambian capital. Now this tells you why running a country efficiently is not solitarily about resources.

Zambia is about eight times bigger than Rwanda - moreover with almost similar size of population, which is supposedly a natural advantage in terms of land usage, distribution productivity. It has a Gross Domestic Product of about 20 billion US dollars which is four times bigger that of Rwanda.

Ariko, even if they haven't have adopted a 'bye-bye nyakansi' concept, installed street lights and often swept their roads, many Zambians have healthier pockets than ours. As we are dreaming to register a 900 US dollars per capita income or slightly more by 2020 they have already chalked up a per capita income of about 1,700 US dollars.

Aside from referencing to these official economic figures - that most African countries manipulate to expedite their PR campaigns - it is very visible on streets to ascertain that the Zambian economy is vibrant and most of its people are ensconced in a circular flow of cash. They have many and humongous shopping malls and there are always long queues 24 hours every day.

Even house boys and girls go to malls to do their own shopping. By the way there is a minimum and regulated wage for house helpers, which is100 USD dollars. They report to work at 7:00am and return to their respective homes at 4pm just like civil servants. They don't work over the weekends and public holidays. Oh, they don uniforms while at work. They are amazing!

Almost all Zambians speak and write English. Zambian house boys and girls, and shamba boys speak better English that UNILAK or SFB university students.

At this juncture, I would perhaps like to see the Rwanda Education Board importing Zambian teachers in place of Kenyans. It would be better than importing Kenyan teachers who could have an alternative to use Swahili in their teaching as opposed to Zambian teachers whose Nyanja would sound like Chinese to many Rwandese.

Of course, I could not close on this trip without looking at the Zambianfood menu. Hold a little. I got a shock of my life. They serve caterpillars! At the first sight I thought I had landed on a construction company brochures instead - only to find out that it was a food menu and the 'caterpillars' are the insects prepared for eating! They also serve baby chicken. Alas, indeed!

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