Friday, August 13, 2010

24 hours in Livingstone

By: Sara Taylor (Lusaka, Zambia)

It begins to dawn on me with some dismay that my time in Zambia is drawing to a close and I have yet to visit Victoria Falls. I seem to be running of out of time to do everything I had planned and, as my last weekend in here creeps up on me, I think to myself that a 6 hour bus trip each way may be trying to fit too much in. Unsurprisingly, the Seventh Wonder of the World turns out to be totally worth the slightly hectic start at Lusaka bus station at 5:30 on a Sunday morning. There is a moment of weakness when I thought I might give up and go home when faced with the prospect of a long trip in half an aisle seat at the back of the bus next to a rather large lady. Luckily, I managed talk my way into a window seat and slept through several hours of religious pop, waking from time to time to an electric guitar version of “God is an awesome God”, before arriving at our destination.

The world’s largest waterfall lies nestled between Zambia and Zimbabwe, not far from the small border town of Livingstone which, in recent years, has been benefiting hugely from its neighbour’s economic and political difficulties. It is a spectacular display of nature with 1 million litres of water spilling over the 1.7km lip every second and plunging 108 metres into the Zambezi Gorge. As if on cue, while I am standing in the thundering spray of the falls (in a much needed raincoat), I turn around to see a huge, vivid rainbow disappearing into the rapids below. The significant difference between resident and visitor rates for entry into the National Park means that it has the pleasing atmosphere of somewhere that as a local you might bring your family or girlfriend for the day rather than a more contrived set-up that only tourists can afford.

While in Livingstone, I took the opportunity to visit one of our busiest agents, who runs an internet cafe in the centre of town. Although Alan was not there, I was warmly welcomed by Precious despite turning up at quite a busy time. I also stopped by to meet one of the partner organisations that works with the UN World Food Programme in the distribution of food parcels to beneficiaries with TB, HIV/AIDS and malnourished children. They have been using the Mobile Transactions system since last November to make the process more efficient so that rather than the local NGOs distributing the food themselves (and therefore having to source and store it), they register beneficiaries in the electronic system based on their national identification numbers, and hand out scratch cards. Beneficiaries can use these vouchers to collect their food at certain retail outlets which have been trained by Mobile Transactions and WFP staff to use the system. As soon as these agents successfully enter the ID number, voucher reference number and PIN number into the system through their mobile phones, their account with Mobile Transactions is immediately topped up and these funds can easily be transferred to their bank accounts using a function on their phones.


No comments:

Post a Comment