• 1 British Pound Sterling = K14
• A loaf of bread = K 6.5
• basic bus fare for any route in Lusaka = K5
Anyone out there who thinks things are not bad, newsflash: IT’S BAD!!! Let’s not kid ourselves, you’ve known that for some time now. You hear it every time someone is ordering a car online in recent years, “the escalating exchange rate”. And it’s no secret, our copper hasn’t been fetching that much on the London Metal Exchange (LME). Then there’s the imminent fear of skyrocketing petroleum prices as it has been steadily creeping in recent months. Let’s not even mention the outrageous power outages that are somehow supposed to be more palatable when it’s called load shedding.
But what’s different about our ailing economy this time? The blunt response is that we’ve never been this far into chaos before. In our fifty odd years of independence, our currency has never been this weak. Well, this is as far as my economics goes, we’ll leave ‘economic fundamentals’ to the economists. Well, maybe not coz too often they give us the numbers and assumptions but do not break these down to how a depreciating kwacha affects the layman from day to day. Not to take anything away from the professionals but it’s hard to demonstrate the immensity of the downward spiralling economy based on averages and generalisations.
My interest in this is to learn the effect of the current economic downturn on individuals’ lives, to put a face to the figures in order to understand how people are dealing with these day to day difficulties. To do this I decided not to interview but instead have conversations with a number of traders from Kabwata market (including my barber) in order to share in their experiences and listen to their thoughts; Peoplenomics.
Three things emerged clear from these conversations:
• people’s lives have been affected from the simple depreciating of the currency
• Indifference and passiveness by the citizens does nothing to help the situation
• part of the problem is our leaders (both opposition and ruling parties) politicking about the matter but offering no real solutions
But it’s not all doom and gloom. From my primary school social studies I learnt that the eagle on our flag represents our indomitable human spirit, our ability to always rise above the different problems we are faced with as a nation. We have shown this spirit plenty times in our history. During the independence struggle, our fore fathers rose above the colonialists to gain political independence. Our fathers rose above the problem of the one party state and returned to multi-party politics without bloodshed in 1990. Three years ago, we rose above the horror of the 1993 national soccer team Gabon Air Disaster by winning the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
But we do not simply rise coz we wish to, we cannot be indifferent and hope that someone will rise up and speak for us. The one thing that is worse than this plunging economy, is our passiveness as citizens. The rising of the eagle has to start with us the layman, the common people, the citizens. Seek answers, take an interest, read, and engage in progressive conversation online, on the buses, in our homes, workplaces and schools. It’s from this public opinion, a singular voice of reason that our leaders will be compelled act. The day we achieve such levels activism in this nation, a proactive approach that seeks the common good of all Zambians regardless of tribe or political affiliation, that will be the day we ourselves will determine our fate.
Reader(s) I implore you to share your thoughts, comments and feelings below and also share this post.Thanks for reading.