Cisuma everyone! (That is Bemba for „Good Day“) Our last week in Ibenga has arrived right as we start to feel truly at home. Over the last one-and-a-half weeks we have once again learned a significant difference between Europe and Zambia when it comes to doing business. Our local agricultural guru Elias and Mr. Chitambala aka “Mr. Green” summarized it rather eloquently. In Europe time is a straight line, when you miss a meeting the opportunity is gone. In Africa time is a circle, if you miss it you can just arrive 30 minutes later as the moment comes again. Or phrased differently; in Europe people arrive when the meetings start, in Africa the meeting starts when people arrive.
But despite still having problems adjusting to the different time perceptions we managed to have some productive gatherings, admittedly with some waiting on our side. Firstly, we discussed the possibility for a future cooperation between the company “Roseblooms” and Stijn. Rosebloom organized the supply of fresh vegetables to the individual franchises of the large scale retail company “Pick’n’Pay”, which can be found in every medium sized Zambian city. Luckily, the representative of Roseblooms informed us that his company plans to organize a local supply centre within the Copperbelt that will start buying vegetables from local small scale producers in the near future.
Additionally, we embarked on a one-day trip to the border-town of Kasumbalesa which is the main gateway for goods flowing between Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On the spot we visited the local franchise of the “Cross Border Traders Association”, an advocacy group for small scale traders wishing to im- and export their products. By chance our visit fell together with the visit of the association’s national Chairman General, Mr. Charles Kakoma. Despite Mr. Kakoma being a rather occupied man (judged on the basis of his fancy suit, golden cufflinks and his 4(!) cellphones) he sacrificed a fraction of his visit to explain us about the organizations work and the brand new data gathering project that monitors the goods flows at the border crossing. We left Kasumbalesa with access to the first data-set on prices and quantities. Additionally, we shot a picture with probably every single of the association’s local employees, Mr. Kakoma, a portrait of President Edgar C. Lungu (it hangs in every shop and office) and ourselves.
However, the trip to Kasumbalesa also provided again a reminder that chaos, at least from a European viewpoint, is a steady constant when it comes to local markets in Zambia. While investigating the market prices and general structure at the border the usual screaming of marketeers were now bilingual in French and English. Additionally, the sheer amount of people advertising their products, negotiating prices or simply transporting goods on make-shift bikes across the border was impressive.
Chaotic is also a polite adjective to assign to the drilling company that finally arrived after a two-week delay to start the work on the borehole and the water tower. Although the drilling was done very fast in a one-day effort consuming 55.2 meters of drilling-pipe and roughly one pack of cigarettes on the side of the supervising engineer, the actual building of the tower has yet to start. As it looks now we will unfortunately not see the completion of it during our stay. With regard to the poultry farm however we are confident to set up the very first of our chicken houses as well as buying the future tenants within the next week. With a bit of luck, we should be able to have our first self-produced eggs for breakfast (and selling) to talk about in our next blogpost!