BOYD PHIRI, Mongu
NANCY Akabati, a resident of Mongu, is not watching traditional performances taking place at the main arena some metres away.Not even the bewitching sound of drums reverberating through cashew nut trees under which she is seated seems to move her.
Though aware of the importance of the Kuomboka ceremony and its inherent royal etiquette, her mind is focused on the financial benefit of the event – business.
With a steady stream of customers doing the shopping in-between watching the ceremony, Ms Akabati does not want to let the opportunity pass by.
The increasing number of people attending Kuomboka ceremony every year has given rise to business opportunities at Limulunga in Mongu.
Underpinning this growth of business during the ceremony are two things: the development of road infrastructure between Mongu and its adjoining towns, and the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE)’s resolve to open Kuomboka to many activities.
For instance, the Mongu-Kalabo road has opened doors for people in that region to come and do business in the provincial capital, Mongu during Kuomboka ceremony.
Traders come in droves from other towns and cities in the country to sell various goods during the ceremony.
Ms Akabati is one of the locals who have taken advantage of the business opportunities to make money during the ceremony.
“I have a shop here in town, but I have come here at Limulunga to sell a few items because of the huge number of people attending Kuomboka ceremony,” she says.
She has brought secondhand clothes called salaula in local parlance and some soft drinks to sell on the road leading to Limulunga Palace.
She says the idea of selling goods, especially secondhand clothes during Kuomboka ceremony began to take root last year.
This is evidenced by many vendors, mostly women carrying on their trade in the precincts of the main arena at Limulunga Palace.
Asked how business is going so far, Ms Akabati says despite the huge patronage of people attending the ceremony, business is slow.
She says apart from food stuffs, which is making brisk business, salaula is slow to sell.
“It appears people have no money this time around. They would share with us in business if they had money,” she says.
Many of the people who have brought their businesses to Kuomboka ceremony are, in fact, traders from Lusaka.
Fostina Musuba, a marketeer at Kamwala Market in Lusaka, has brought three bales of blankets to sell in Mongu during the ceremony.
She is attending the Kuomboka ceremony as a trader for the first time, although she has been to the Kulamba ceremony of the Chewa in Katete, Nc’wala of Ngoni in Chipata and the Likumbi Lya Mize in North-Western Province.
Another trader, Caroline Phiri, has joined several other marketeers from Lusaka who have come to sell secondhand clothes in Limulunga during the ceremony.
Like others, business has been slow for Phiri. She attributes the sluggish sales to seasonal trends where local people depend on fish trade to make money.
“I think people have no money, some ask for the price and then they go without buying anything,” she says.
“Most people here are fishermen and it’s like fish trade, which is their source of income, is not yet active because of too much water in the plains,” Phiri says.
Ms Phiri is attending Kuomboka ceremony for the first time with a view to expanding her clientele.
“I just wanted to take advantage of multitudes of people who have come to watch Kuomboka ceremony. Although business has been slow from the time I came three days ago, I think it is a good experience. I am now selling my goods at order price so that I can raise money for transport back to Lusaka,” she says.
Lewis Kampinda is another trader who has travelled from Lusaka to sell secondhand clothes during the ceremony.
He says although business is slow because of too much competition, he hopes to sell something before the Kuomboka ceremony comes to an end in two days’ time.
“For others business is slow and for others business is good, that’s what I can say. When I came first time last year business was good. It’s like this year people do not have money,” he says.
He says he spent K4,000 to order the goods, and that he expects to make a profit of K2,000 or K3,000.
Another trader from Lusaka, Fidelis Mufwaya, says he decided to come and sell salaula during Kuomboka ceremony because of the potential of making quick sales.
“My capital for the goods I have brought here was K7,000. I hoped business would be good, but so far it’s been slow because of high level of competition I guess,” he says.
Unlike other traders, Ameni Banda says business has been good for him since he arrived three days ago.
“I brought in secondhand shirts. I spent K3,000 to order the goods. I expect to make K800 profit or more,” Mr Banda says.
BRE spokesperson Induna Katema says people who come to do business during Kuomboka ceremony pay a fee of K100 to be given space by the BRE.
However, Induna Katema says others pay the fee to individuals who own trading spaces outside the jurisdiction of the BRE.
“We are happy with the business activities taking place during Kuomboka ceremony. Our intention is to grow the business side of the ceremony even as we are trying to increase the number of entertainment activities,” Induna Katema says.
The BRE also intends to introduce other entertainment activities like music concerts during Kuomboka, including swimming competition to give tourists a variety of performances.
Western Province Chamber of Commerce regional coordinator Fred Mulozi says he is delighted to see the growth of business during Kuomboka ceremony.
“The ceremony gives us an opportunity to trade. We were happy to see various business activities. People who come to do business here help the region to grow economically.
“We thank the BRE and Government for making it possible for people to trade during the ceremony,” Mr Mulozi says.
He says his organisation is helping entrepreneurs in the region by holding interactive meetings to share business ideas.
“We normally have business interactions to review the activities. We’ll also be receiving people from Namibia soon who are coming to explore business opportunities here in beef production,” he says.
However, Induna Katema says business will continue being part of the Kuomboka ceremony as more activities are incorporated to attract more people.
This should be good news for Ms Akabati and many other traders who come to Mongu to trade on the sidelines of Kuomboka ceremony.
BOYD PHIRI, Mongu