March 16, 2010

Alive & Kicking in Zambia

Posted in Advance Trip tagged , , , at 10:39 am by kampala2capetown

In Lusaka, Zambia, the road show advance team has found inspiration and collaboration in two organizations which are  creating  jobs and incomes in Zambia by locally manufacturing products often imported from outside the continent.  The first visit was to a group hand stitching the very object that makes the beautiful game of football possible. Alive & Kicking is social enterprise which produces footballs for Africans, by Africans. In Kenya, we had briefly met with Joel, the country managing director, who offered us words of wisdom and urged us to visit their factory headquarters in Zambia.

In Lusaka we met up with Chand Conaty, a former member of peace corps in Zambia who has returned to become the managing director of Alive & Kicking Zambia. He toured us through the operation and explained how Alive & Kicking uses the game of football as a vehicle for employment and to spread messages of good health and empowerment among the local youth.

Local and international NGOs, as well as government agencies order balls from Alive & Kicking and specify logos and messages they want printed on the balls. Everything, from the printing to the stitching of the balls is done by Alive & Kicking in house. The balls are also available for purchase in local stores and markets.

We visited and spoke with a few of the stitchers, and learned Alive & Kicking is the only organization in Africa which hand makes footballs. They pay their stitchers nearly double the minimum wage in Zambia and the footballs they create last longer than the factory produced imports from outside the country. Many of the hand stitchers are also peer educators, so when balls are delivered they also bring the messages on the balls to life.  When the Road Show heads to Lusaka for the quarterfinals, Alive & Kicking will be on hand to distribute footballs, spread  the message of healthy living and showcase the benefits of a  home-grown social enterprise in Africa.

The second organization the road show toured in Lusaka was Disacare, a wheelchair and mobility center just outside of Lusaka. Like Alive & Kicking, Disacare is a group that is locally manufacturing and trying to boost the local economy and compete against donated imports flooding the market.

Casserdy Magaya, the production manager at Disacare, toured us around their workshop, which has two very important machines, a lathe and drill press, which allows them to manufacture almost all of the wheelchair parts in house.  We spoke about why locally producing the technology was so important. The mobility aid market in Zambia, is often saturated with donations from the US and Asia, but the wheelchairs that arrive are often not well suited for the African terrain, and are often wrong for the recipient in the size and design. At Disacare, all recipients are fitted and evaluated before distribution. Problems with that arise with the technology can be fixed locally.

We were then introduced to the workshop manager walked us through the special design of their standard wheelchair, which is maximized for comfort and use on the often rough African terrain. He was especially proud to explain how the hub piece, recycled and modified from used bicycles, increases the life of the wheelchair by months.

Casserdy then had the Discare sales and marketing manager show an example the importance interviewing and understanding the wheelchair recipient. In the case of an urban user who works as a street vendor, the hand cranked tri-cycle wheelchair is the most appropriate solution. The hand crank makes it possible to cross longer distances and the carrier installed into the back makes it possible to carry goods to market. Giving such an urban user a standard wheelchair would be a huge point of frustration for the user.

The comparison of the wheelchair on left donated and imported from China, to the right, manufactured at Disacare highlights one of the points that the road show hopes to bring attention to through our event. When technology is locally produced it stimulates the economy and is almost always the more sustainable in terms of use and maintenance. The imported wheelchair lasted the user 6 months and then started to fall apart. There was no cushion on the seat, and led to sores on the backside. The future user for the Discare wheelchair on the right will be visited at home, interviewed and measured for best fit before receiving the mobility aide.

With everything technically in favor of Discacare, the imported wheelchair still has high prevalence on the market because of the price point.  Financing and cost, again and again, has come up as an issue to the advance team, and one that we will explore more in the days ahead.


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