THE presidential guidance given to existing entrepreneurs to modernise their premises in order to stay in business is indeed modern and the directive has come at the opportune modern moment.
A week ago or so, President Edgar Lungu counselled business proprietors to modernise their buildings or close down and let people with modern business acumen take over and erect modern structures.
In fact, the counsel from the Head of State was not confined to premises but was all encompassing and addressed business owners to change their mind-set to modern ways of doing business away from ancient ways.
The choice of business names, for instance, is critical. There is an eating place on the Copperbelt called “Chifi Cha Ngulube Restaurant.”
Now, think about yourself walking into this joint, recline in a dinning chair and order some food while carrying on your mind imageries of hippopotamus droppings. Mind you, man or the human being is also an animal like the hippopotamus and has droppings too.
That aside, the big question is: would you dine in a restaurant with such a name?
Well, assuming that “chifi” might be a typographical error for “chifu,” that animal part called tripe which looks like a bath towel. But how many people eat “chifu” of a hippopotamus?
Both “Chifi” or “Chifu) Cha Ngulube should only have been on the menu and not as a business name. As a name, this could have been modern in the BBC era – Born Before Computers.
This is what the President was referring to and “Chifi Cha Ngulube Restaurant,” is certainly one of the many archaic and unpalatable business names that need urgent modernisation.
Ziwa Zako Stores, Shine Shi Ileta Enterprises and Nyoza Uzalema Transporters may be among those needing change. These names appear to be aggressive and antagonistic towards the customer.
You see, in business, the customer should feel at ease and should not be prodded to mind own business, teased into going to certain shops or indeed be told that he or she would tire hating she shopkeeper.
Further and most importantly, a customer is a very important individual who is always right even when he shoplifts. The customer should be looked after like an egg and should not be put off by strange business names.
Incidentally, there were business names such as Chewe and Sons, Musa and Sons and Banda and Sons but these have gone under because some rights activists campaigned vigorously for the human rights of females including girls and daughters.
Some business houses are too old fashioned and need modernisation as the President has observed.
Look, in the business district of Lusaka one cannot walk in the corridor from Oaklet in the southern end of Cairo Road through to Tally’s in the north without once or twice kicking something and staggering because the pavement is uneven.
The situation is even worse on the opposite side of the road between FINDECO House and the Kabwe roundabout through the Main Post Office.
A few buildings among them FINDECO House itself, Society Building and its newly refurbished annex on Cha Cha Cha Road, the Protea Hotel and of course Church House are modern structures.
Mentioning individual shop buildings as being ancient is dangerous as they could attract court proceedings. Nevertheless, some shops on either side of Freedom Way still bear traces of colonialism.
Look, before gaining independence in 1964, Zambia’s first President, Agogo Dr Kenneth David Kaunda, his colleagues and fellow country men and women used to buy goods through a hole in the wall of a shop without having to enter.
The purchased goods like bicycles, blankets and baby prams which were too big to be dispensed through the hole were handed over to the black clients through the door. Mind you these shops were deliberately designed by colonisers for the natives who were not allowed to mix with whites and buy in “for white only shops.”
Now on Freedom Way and in the so-called second class trading area of Kamwala which constitute the business district of Lusaka, all the shops allow customers to enter. But some shops still separate clients on one side from the shop-keeper and assistants on the other by the wire mesh.
What is the difference, if it may be asked, between what our forefathers and foremothers experienced with the pigeonhole in colonial days and what is happening with the wire mesh to independent Zambians now? Can’t a better way be employed and do away with the wire mesh?
Never mind, indeed, these shops should modernise not only their ancient buildings but also their unpalatable business practices. They should be made to be user-friendly to the local clientele.
This scenario may not be peculiar to the business district of the capital city of Lusaka alone. It could exist in Ndola, Kitwe, Chingola, Chililabombwe, Mufulira and Livingstone. In colonial days, there were first class shops for whites only and second class trading areas for blacks in Northern Rhodesian now Zambia.
Zambia has maintained old buildings housing shops for blacks and has continued erecting new ones of similar nature. Look at the architecture of new structures coming up in Kamwala area, the designs are old and can not be said to be modern either.
However, I fall short of recommending the razing down of these new buildings and leave it to the relevant authorities to do just that.
But when modernising business houses, it is practically vital to design the structures in such a way that the escalator is provided. When completed and in operation, the new look shops would be attracting many shoppers.
Zambians love taking free rides and the escalators are suitable for this merriment. Check the happenings in shopping malls with escalators at Manda Hill, Levy Mwanawasa, East Park and the South Gate near Kulima Tower.
In some cases the devices are deliberately “killed” to prevent nuisance taking place by the free riders.
As to whether the people flocking to the shops would be buying the merchandise on display or merely taking free rides on the electric stair cases is any one’s guess.
In contrast, Government is modernising its office buildings and is aligning them to current times with the multi-storey Cabinet Office off Independence Avenue and the new Government Complex in Kamwala area being conspicuous examples.
One would wish the Freedom Statue was modernised too but how can this be done without altering its liberty meaning?
The Central Statistical Office is in the newly erected and modern government building opposite the nameless University Teaching Hospital. The new structure is concrete heavy and would not need further painting since it is already in the khaki concrete colour.
The Mass Media Complex on Alick Nkhata Road near Kalingalinga Township which also accommodates the recently digital migrated Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) is still up to date despite having been built several decades ago.
In case it is forgotten, modernising business joints may also mean changing the way business is conducted. It can only be hoped that shop owners would adhere to the newly increased minimum salaries recently announced by Government for shop workers.
Enough with modernity, how about the following anecdote:
An unscrupulous land conman was in court after being caught in an elaborate scheme to defraud people out of their money.
The judge: How many people have you cheated with your scheme?
The accused: None
The judge: You do realise that we have the proof of your activities and you will be charged with perjury if you tell a lie?
The accused: I do
The judge: Do you know the penalty for perjury?
The accused: Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, I also know that it is a lot less than the one I would face if I told the truth.
Let us do something and let God help us to modernise our businesses.
Disclaimer: This article is a parody and should be treated as such.