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Common market for common Zambian

THE turn of events with the insurgency of the seemingly deadly and unprecedented cholera in Zambia leaves much to talk about.

Having been through Soweto Market where the majority of my own sisters continue to earn their livelihood makes a notification for urgent plans and development for markets that are responsive to the needs of the indigenous common Zambian man and woman.

With the liberalisation of the economy in the early 1990s, we have seen a major shift in market structures in the name of structural adjustment and modernisation. May I quickly point to some major types of markets expected in all business transactions.
• Perfect competition: Defined as a market system characterised by many different buyers and sellers.
• Monopoly: Defined as a market system where there are no competitors.
• Oligopoly: almost similar to monopoly except that there are only few players or firms in the market systems.
• Monopolistic Competition: this is defined as a market system where an industry contains many competing firms which have similar but at least slightly different products.
Narrowing it down to a common man and woman of Zambia, such definitions of market systems may be like a sound of bees in the sky.
What then shall we say would be the ideal market for such a person in the Zambian context?
I would want to submit that most recently built markets and malls seen in Zambia have not in any way responded to the needs of a common Zambian marketeer, whose capital is not worthy the mention but may be enough to help source a single meal back home.
Most people we have seen in streets have their capital ranging from K100 to K2,000, and that is the fact. All they want at the end of each day is to raise something for rent in Kanyama, Misisi, Chipata, Chawama, Mandevu, Garden, Chaisa and many other shanty townships.
Taking into consideration Zambia’s 2030 Vision of becoming a middle-income nation, focus should be placed on the majority population block that must be pushed up and graduated from living below the poverty datum line of $1/day.
The working class, being the target market for the street vendors and Soweto marketeers in the case of Lusaka, must have revised income packages if we are to see meaningful multiplier effect on the common trader in Zambia.
Market structures should be in response to what these traders have in stock for sale. For example, coming up with markets that are above their capital threshold automatically pushes them away and makes them vulnerable to poverty. Take for example, when you talk of a market for a woman who sells chibwabwa with a daily order of K50.00 and then come up with a market with modern shops fetching monthly rentals of K2,000 for arguments sake, already, she is out of place.
We need African, Zambian in context, markets where a common woman from Kanyama will have a table or space for her merchandise and trade freely. We need to have markets with various goods similar in nature, such as salaula area, vegetable section, dry sea foods section, legumes and grains section, etc, well designated. In that way, garbage accumulation will be known and well sorted, eventually making waste collection and management easy.
If the local authority cannot directly manage garbage collection, let them subcontract companies specialised in garbage management. That can even be extended to all township residential areas where it is accumulated. People must be made accountable, relevant, responsive and ethical for their own garbage accumulation. It is our garbage and we must be made to manage it ourselves, hence the need to bring everyone on board.
We need concrete slabs with proper drainages, designated garbage bins with permanent employees managing waste, while marketeers are levied a form of tax towards such services. If malls such as Cosmopolitan can be created for foreign products, concrete slabs with proper drainages can be created and sustain the livelihood of a common Zambian women and men with a small capital base.
Issues such as street vending, littering, drainage blocking, etc, can be a thing of the past if we can have market structures that are responsive in nature to a common man. To some extent, the cause of street vending is the fragmented and undesignated location of small-scale market stands that seem inconvenient for customers, hence vendors chase after clients in the busy streets of the city. However, in the event that one-stop market stalls were built in some designated places with proper drainage, water and sanitation systems, as well as parking space, the issue of street vending would be a thing of the past. A common person can do whatever possible just to earn a living. If one can push a wheelbarrow from Soweto to Chilenje market along Tokyo Road, what would stop a salaula seller from pinching a stand along Katunjila Street knowing the working class boarding a minibus from Kulima Tower Station will pass and buy?
We need to create a culture where markets are placed for specific goods and services. If someone from Kabulonga can drive all the way to Cosmopolitan for his shopping, what would stop a salaula buyer from going where it is sold.? Such is the mind we need to inculcate in everyone if the crusade against cholera is to be won.
We cannot continue to experience the same outbreak every year. There has been a lot of interruption to socio-economic activities and GDP. Interruption to normal life for a common person causes his or her child’s future to look bleak. There is need to have a policy direction and coherence to sustain the business and life of a common man instead of just focusing on foreign tailored markets. This is the reason why we can see people buying vegetables from South Africa in supermarkets at the expense of the pride of our local produce.
In conclusion, may I refer you to the words of the late African raggae maestro, Lucky Dube, in a song entitled ‘Well fed slave; hungry free man” as he sings: “Look in the eyes of the hopeless men, tell me what you see, In the eyes of the jobless men, tell me what you see, What about the eyes of the prisoners, what do you see? Now you have seen it all, it is time to make up – your own mind; Don’t try to hide it, cuz I can see it all in your face… It is the same questions that I ask myself every time, to be or not be… What is the point in being free when you can’t get no job? What is the point in being free when you can’t get no food? What is the point of going out to work when others do get for free? What is the point in being free when you don’t have no home? Now you have heard it all, It is time to make up your own mind, to be… or not to be…”
The author is a socio- economic planner.