Construction was excluded from the Zambian governments lockdown edict, so work has continued on our ongoing infrastructure projects. Here Andrew Tembo our Operation manager in Zambia gives a brief update on his construction work for the month of May.
The month of May has been interesting for our construction team and the communities we work with. We have seen the completion of the first dormitory at the Baraka Learning Centre, which means that we are now ready to host visitors and make them feel more comfortable. We have also completed over 80% of the construction of Baraka’s first offices in Zambia also at our Learning Centre. These are two big achievements that came with a lot of challenges, the major one being the impact of COVID-19.
Zambia being a land-locked country and a mono-economy which entirely depends on copper did not lock down completely but since our neighbours did and the countries that buy our copper were equally shut, our country went into auto shut down mode. This has had a dramatically negative impact on our economy and ensured that the inflation rate increased significantly. Our currency has lost a lot of value and prices of commodities became expensive playing havoc with our budgeting.
Rural construction in Zambia is a challenge at the best of times, but I feel we have achieved a great deal in these difficult times and we have managed to negotiate goods and services to be acquired at a reasonable cost without compromising the quality. The COVID-19 uncertainty caused a bit of panic in our temporal staff who assumed they would be abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Understandable given the whole world seemed to be shutting down. Assurance was given and they were comforted and assured their work was protected. The next issue that popped up which was how we were to convince a construction worker who spends the whole day touching mud to continuously wash his or her hands with soap! We have also trained them up to observe social distancing as much as is possible in their working environment – again a strange concept for a hardened, rural builder.
The journey continues with the month of June approaching, when we are foreseeing an office popping up and ready to be occupied. With June, July and August getting quite cold in Zambia we will see how our buildings – designed for the heat – cope with the expected cold months.
Baraka Zambia Operations Director