Zambian youth turn to car washing to beat unemployment

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Jones Nyirenda earns his income from washing cars on the streets of Lusaka, Zambia, on Sept. 21, 2020. (Xinhua/Lillian Banda)

As unemployment levels continue to soar, some youths in Zambia are seizing opportunities created by the influx of motor vehicles into the country to engage in informal car washing businesses.

For these young people, the car washing business is one of the easiest undertakings because it requires very minimum investment capital. All that one needs as start-up capital is a bucket, a piece of cleaning cloth, and a pack of detergent.

The majority of youths involved in this business earn an average of ZMW 80 (about 4 U.S. dollars) every day just from washing vehicles that are parked around busy workplaces and trading areas as well as designated motor vehicle parking spaces.

“The most important thing is to find a place that usually has a lot of motor vehicle as that increases one’s chances of having more clients,” said Zachariah Kalupeteka, a motor vehicle cleaner.

Kalupeteka explained that a lack of formal employment opportunities compelled him and other youths to venture into car cleaning where they could earn some income.

He said that offering car cleaning services has been his main source of income and that he has through earnings from this initiative, been able to provide for all his family’s needs.

Compared to well-established car washing businesses, informal car cleaners offer affordable and competitive rates for their services. It is for this reason that many vehicle owners prefer the services by informal car cleaners particularly now that people have less disposable income.

“Our fees range from ZMW 10 to ZMW 20 per vehicle regardless of the type of cleaning needed. On the other hand, established car washing businesses charge not less than ZMW 40 just for basic exterior cleaning works,” explained Jones Nyirenda.

According to Nyirenda, informal car washing services have not only provided many youths who would otherwise be unemployed with some source of income but also helps vehicle owners to reduce their expenses, particularly in the prevailing harsh economic times.

His sentiments were echoed by another youth Bright Banda who added that more youths need to be encouraged to be innovative and creative and to seek employment opportunities.

According to him, youths are slowly realizing that job creation need not be the task of government alone but that they too can play an active role in the employment creation process and help counter high unemployment levels.

Banda who is employed as a car park manager around the Lusaka central business district revealed that he also turn himself into a car washer after work.

“During lunchtime and after work hours, I wash vehicles to earn extra income. I realized that being choosy could make one lose out on opportunities that could provide great financial independence,” he said.

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