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Zambian Works To Rival Imported Toys With Handmade Ones

posted 16 Aug 2013, 10:13 by Mpelembe   [ updated 16 Aug 2013, 11:09 ]

Zambian entrepreneur fights to keep local toy business making handmade toys alive, as more modern toys from Asia flood the market.

LUSAKAZAMBIA (RECENT) (REUTERS) -  In downtown LusakaKasonde Chama has displayed his handmade trucks at his stall, hoping to attract customers using the nearby road.

The thirty nine-year-old is hoping to grow his business, selling plastic cars and trucks made out of waste material collected around the city.

Chama has been making toys for 13 years now; he started out making toys out of wires that are popular among children in Zambia, and later decided to venture into recycled plastic cars.

He says he has been able to find a number of clients, but his business is yet to reach its peak.

Each truck goes for about 3 U.S dollars and on a good month he sells about 20 pieces.

"Business has been good since I started making these toys in 2000. Initially I used to make wire cars, but they didn't sell well. So I created these toys. Children like them; they say they are better than some of the modern toys in stores because they are stronger, some say toys mainly from China are not as strong because they have delicate components compared to these trucks," he said.

Chama's dream is to expand his business and improve on the quality of his toys, so that he attract more customers and discourage them from buying imported toys for their children.

But many shoppers still prefer to stick to the equally affordable high tech toys sold in city stores. Most are imported mainly from South Africa and China.

Gift Munsanje a Lusaka resident, says he worries about safety standards of toys made by entrepreneurs like Chama.

"I feel comfortable to buy these toys because if you bought elsewhere, may be locally made toys, may be the materials that might not be safe for children. Some of them use may be old oil tins; we don't know how safe those are. The younger children sometimes might even want to bite the toy or something, and if the material is not safe, then that might affect the child, so I feel safe to buy from here," he said.

Chama is one of 70 percent of Zambia's youth who remain unemployed in the country. Authorities encourage people to venture into small businesses like his to help earn an income and improve on their lives.

Patience Sakuringwa heads Zambia's Chamber of Small and Medium Scale Business Association.

"SMEs are the engine to economic growth, and for us this is happening in two ways. The fist way is that they will create jobs, by being an entrepreneur themselves, they have created one job and they will employ other people of course that will create other jobs. The second one is by their contribution to the revenue basket through taxes, as they grow, the more taxes they are able to pay and this will have a spill over effect in that more programs can be done by government, that will help other SMEs as well as just help the community in general," she said.

Zambia's government has released funds through its Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) for promotion of entrepreneurship projects, but many Zambians complain that they have no information on the program or that one needs political connections to access funds.

Though Chama is yet to make huge profits from his sales, he says he has already achieved one of his goals, getting more Zambians to embrace local ideas before looking for products abroad.