How much do police roadblocks cost the nation? “Let’s do the Math”, as the Americans say. The number and frequency of roadblocks has reached ridiculous proportions. Between Lusaka West and town on Mumbwa Road there oftentimes 3 of them. Between Lusaka and Kabwe on Great North Road, there are 5. By the time you reach Kitwe, you have been through anything from 8 to 10. You can drive through 6 of them just within Lusaka in a single day.

Let’s assume you spend an average of 5 minutes going through a roadblock. Four in a day means you lose 20 minutes of productivity. Going through 10 sets of 4 roadblocks a month at 20 minutes each set is 2,400 minutes a year or 40 hours, which is a full working week lost each year! Think about that. A person who earns around K4,000 per month will lose close to K1,000 in productivity per year as they go through roadblocks. And these are conservative figures since they don’t factor in people in buses.

If 10% of the approximately 15m Zambian population fit into the calculations above, that is K1.5 billion ($150 million) wasted every single year! That is enough to turn the Lusaka Kabwe road into a dual carriageway or build a hospital like Levy Mwanawasa Hospital. You can build dozens of schools and hundreds of rural health posts with K1.5 billion. You can also lend money to 15,000 medium scale farmers at K100,000 each. And K1.5 billion can buy more than 800,000 tons of maize at K85 per 50kg bag.

One night I was stopped around 22:00 hours by two lady cops just to check for road tax, fitness and insurance discs. Surely, isn’t there a more sensible and efficient way to ensure compliance than checks at such hours of the night? As a programmer, I can tell you that there are very simple technological solutions to solve the compliance problem. Our company took part in a tender years ago at RTSA in which we wrote a proposal on how to increase compliance. To this day the ideas have never been implemented.