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November 2003
Our Man in Zambia - Earning a crust
A woman sells bananas by the roadside
A woman sells fruit and vegetables by the roadside in Lusaka, capital of Zambia.

So, you think you work for peanuts here in Nottingham? Try working for less than two dollars a day...

Jamie Baldwin explains the difference between life in Lusaka compared to Nottingham.


Our Man in Zambia

Our Man in Zambia : Part Two

Our Man in Zambia : Part Three

Jamie Baldwin
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.
Population: 10.8 million (UN, 2003)
Capital: Lusaka
Major language: English (official), Bemba, Lozi, Nyanja, Tonga
Major religions: Christianity, indigenous beliefs, Hinduism, Islam
Life expectancy: 33 years (men), 32 years (women) (UN)
Leader: Levy Mwanawasa
Monetary unit: 1 Kwacha = 100 ngwee
Main exports: Copper, minerals, tobacco Average annual income: US $320 (World Bank, 2001) Internet domain: .zm
International dialling code: +260
View a printable version of this page.
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In Zambia, two-thirds of the 10.5 million people here live off less than $2 US dollars a day.

People do all sorts of weird and wonderful jobs just to earn a crust and feed their family.

Zambian bus driver
A Lusakan mini-bus driver.

Take the 60 year-old man whom I pass every day on my way to work. He owns a pair of weighing scales that he sets up on the pavement and charges 100 Kwacha a turn – about one and a half pence. He even has a special mat to place on the scales so as not to wear through the cork. Such things are precious when it’s your only source of income.

Then there are the numerous women selling homegrown fruits and vegetables by the roadside. A banana here will set you back 300 Kwacha – about four pence. And when they're finished for the day the women pile their produce into a woven bowl before balancing it on their heads and strolling off.

The buses also provide an important money-maker for many young men.

As well as the drivers, each minibus has a conductor who sits precariously half in and half out of the vehicle as it hurtles down the streets. Good cash handling skills and a certain persuasiveness with customers to entice them on to your bus is vital.

There is no such thing as a half full bus in Lusaka. The conductors even pay other young men at the busy bus stops to shepherd passengers together to ensure a quick and fruitful process.

Lusakan man
A Lusakan man sell his wares.

Every where you look there are people doing, making and selling things just to make ends meet.

For a country that is so in debt and a population submerged in poverty, Lusaka is a city obsessed with money. But this is not some Western capitalistic fascination, this is far more important, this is life and death.

As you move away from the city the significance of money becomes more inconsequential. The rural economy is based less around hard cash and more around sustainability.

Villagers grow their crops, catch their fish and breed their chickens. Jobs exist as a means of living and not just as a way of earning money. It is often cited that it's rural Zambia that has been hit hardest by poverty. Maybe this is the case if you judge poverty on pure economics, but it certainly doesn’t feel the most poverty-stricken.

As a wise old Zambian grandmother said to me:

"In the cities everything is to buy but in the villages people sustain themselves, they grow their own food.

"Zambians like the cities because they can chose and they think there is everything. Yet, in the villages there is still food. There is not the same problem with food in rural areas as there is in Lusaka."

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