On my first weekend in Lusaka I took the chance to get around in town. Together with Zambian-born Chibesa (currently on a Credit Suisse assignment in education), Makaika (her sister living in Lusaka) and a colleague of theirs we were visiting the main spots in Lusaka. Even though my guidebook is quite comprehensive, Lusaka’s places to go sum up to less than a single page. Yet, the most lasting impressions were indeed those you didn’t find in the guidebook. I immensely enjoyed strolling through the less known parts of Lusaka as this is probably more of today’s “real Africa” than any of Zambia’s beautiful national parks with their carefully preserved flora and fauna.
The main transport vehicle here in town are the blue-colored minibuses. Even though you find them everywhere, it is quite challenging to get on the right one. There are neither maps nor signs to help such newcomers as me. The only somehow promising way is to ask around and to hope for – at least – two corresponding answers. As you are ready to decide for a certain minibus always search for a fully-packed one as the minibuses only leave when they are as full as one can possibly think of. The fares basically depend on the driver but compared to many other things in Zambia like accommodation, food or taxis, which all are extraordinarily expensive, with ZMK 2,000 (USD 0.40) minibuses are cheap. Most roads are unpaved and therefore fairly dusty but the trees to both sides of the roads give the town a welcoming green touch.
Our city tour included the National Museum with a selection of impressive colourful paintings and figures, the main avenue Cairo Road with lots of small shops, and some busy street markets such as City Market at Lumumba Road where you can buy everything from clothes and food to IT equipment and even gravestones. Of course, we didn’t miss to take pictures of the Statue of Freedom which commemorates the victims of the war of independence in front of the UNIP party headquarter at the Independence Road. At the Kabwata Cultural Village we found lots of wonderful handmade Zambian handicrafts. As I haven’t yet quite figured out a way to get it transported back home to Switzerland, I prevented myself from buying some very nice tall wooden figures.
Around the town centre, you find the main residential areas – the wealthy neighbourhoods with big houses surrounded by high walls with security guards as well as the so-called compounds such as the Garden, one of the oldest townships in Lusaka. Even though people are poor and have to feed 5 to 6 children on average, I was impressed how well-kept some of the huts and small houses looked like. In the Garden compound they have started to embellish the area with nice colourful wall-paintings. Moreover, it was cheerful to see how much fun the children have while playing football or dancing on the streets. Of course, their daily life is quite different. Most of them hardly get any opportunity to be properly educated, which would be crucial for improving their living standard. At best, they are able to establish small business, but many, particularly men, get addicted to alcohol and may even end up in criminal gangs.
It is noble duty to take care that Zambia’s promising economic development will succeed in trickling down to the less-privileged parts of the population.