It has been more than a week since my arrival in Lusaka. With training completed, admin work on track and all my team members allocated with their host families, it is time for some reflection on the heart of the matter, or rather on the heartS of the matter, because Zambia so far has been all about warmth, big dark smiling eyes, open arms, curious minds, and souls as big as this continent itself.
They say that nothing ages as fast as the future. Yet again, wherever I turn my gaze to, it is about the future, the anticipation of building work to be completed, of new roads to be carved into that read sandy ground. And it is happening, now and hopefully forever. There are construction sites literally everywhere, the tarmac, where available, is new and shiny, tyres of big Japan imported SUVs squeaking in the scorching afternoon sun.
Being driven in the Country Manager’s car en route to meeting another entrepreneur that needs the help of our volunteers to lift her ideas off the ground, my brain’s synaptic mechanisms are feeling slightly intimidated by the perplexing blend of PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, Knight Frank, Mobile Operators, 3G, 4G, Chinese smartphones, business parks, Florida-like gated condo style developments, and children running barefooted on the side of the road, narrowly avoiding the cars on one side and the dusty fields with scattered rubbish on the other. The heat somehow cooks this all up into some sort of surreal piece of conceptual art installation and it is difficult to deduce where is this all coming from or where it is going to. My temporary incapacity for comprehending this typically Lusakan landscape aside, it is here to show the long way that this nation has walked since independence, exactly 50 years ago, as well as the work that is yet to be done.
‘Hi, how are you (a big smile included)? Are you looking for Ms Marta’s house? Please come this way…’
Then I meet this humble, calm but yet authoritative lady who is endlessly determined to make it with her small dried fruits and veg from-the-back-of-her-house business who can be my grandmother, as well as yours.
‘I just need someone to mentor me, to brainstorm with me…marketing is not my strong side you see, not at all…’ her smile inconspicuous and old with experience of someone who has worked hard, African hard, a whole lifetime, yet childish.
This is Marta for you. This is also the Zambia that I have seen so far. Old, young, experienced in hardship, not having a clue about marketing, balance sheets or supply chain optimisation, on the way of getting there, but needing that extra bit of support. I sincerely hope that we will manage to be that help for Marta.