Just over 20 years ago in 1990, Zambia had a population of 8 million, Kenneth Kaunda was the president, we were under a one party dictatorship, there were no private newspapers or radio stations, we had one TV station with one channel that was only open for 7 hours, you had to queue up at one of three supermarkets (Mwaiseni Stores, ZCBC and NIEC Stores) for essential commodities like soap and sugar and the entire economy (at 2010 values) was worth $12bn (It was $20bn in 2010).
I still remember a time when you could walk down Cairo Road in Lusaka at 19:30 from one end to the other and only meet about ten cars. All public transport would stop running by 19 hours. This was a time an average bus fare was around 40 ngwee (K0.40), a Dollar was worth less than ten Kwacha, kids respected parents, we visited our parents’ villages, watched videos on video cassettes, listened to music on vinyl and audio cassettes, and men were bread winners.
There was only one escalator in the entire country, a few double decker buses were operational and there were about five proper night clubs. The idols of the day were Paul Ngozi, Ackim Simukonda, Amayenge, Nashil Pitchen Kazembe, PK Chishala and Smokie Haangala (among others). We had “Yola 2000” where all the Rhumba action was and the cinemas were playing in mono sound.
There were no cell phones, no DVDs, no computers, no internet, no microwaves, no desktop printers, no scanners, no digital cameras, no satellite TV, no Shoprite, no Manda Hill / Arcades, no Google and definitely no Facebook. Life was so simple!
Fast forward 20-30 years and the Zambia of today is barely recognizable from what it was. We now have over one hundred TV channels to choose from, dozens of radio stations, several newspapers and magazines, many supermarkets, 24 hour gas stations and cinemas with surround sound. Four million of us have cellphones, we can call any country in the world for mere cents a minute, we can communicate with anyone in the world by email / Skype, we have traffic jams on sunday nights, newspapers that openly criticise the president and a vast array of choices as consumers.
There are hundreds of street kids sleeping in drainages, 15 year old kids out late at night in skimpy clothing, women as breadwinners with their own cars and flats, an increase in divorce rates, more teen pregnancies, over 100,000 HIV related deaths per year and a political climate that seems to deteriorate every election. Women are now hitting on men and the kids of today seem more concerned with having a fancy cell phone, going to see the latest movie or hanging out at night clubs, rather than getting knowledge and developing good character.
I do not know how the Zambia of 2040 will be but I am pretty sure it will be a thousand times more unrecognizable than 2010, compared to the change between 1980 and 2010.
The one thing that is constant is change; for better or for worse….