Commodity prices have shot up in the country following the devaluation and floatation of the kwacha, and as most people find it hard to afford certain goods and services, the effect is also trickling down to some informal service providers.
Sunganani Mkwate and Jonathan Magagula are auto electricians, and they argue that in their work, even though the minimum amount they can charge is between $ 7.3 (K3 000) and $ 12.1 (K5 000) people still negotiate for lower charges and this impacts negatively on their income generation.
With the ailing economic situation, Magagula says it is difficult for them to afford spare parts to fix their clients’ vehicles as the prices are rising every day.
“The economy is not going so well. When our clients bring the cars for fixing, we tell them what spare parts they need to buy for us to fix their cars. They in turn leave the money for us to buy the spares, but when we go to the shops, we find that the prices have gone up. It is then hard for them to believe us when we go back to tell them that the prices have increased,” he says.
On a good day, the auto electricians say they can work on three or four cars, but they also added that their job requires them to move up and down to get things done.
“We are always mobile, because we have to be where the work is. So people call us from different areas and we go to them, to fix the cars,” says Mkwate who learnt the skill from his late brother.
“My late brother told me that I needed to learn auto electrical skills. So I went to Samson Garage. I trained for a year, and it was only in 2010 that I started working on my own,” he says.
From the little they used to make, Mkwate and Magagula bought the tools that they use in their job today.
They believe that for one to excel in this business, they need to meet customer’s needs profitably.
“When the customer brings the car, we agree what time they can get it. The most important thing is not to disappoint them by ensuring that it is ready by the time they come. We also ensure that we work in such a way that satisfies our customers so that they should trust us again next time and also recommend us to others,” they said.
Among other challenges, sometimes they get their payments with difficulty because of some customers’ dishonesty. The other challenge they say, is that customers do not understand that it usually takes time to detect the problem in a vehicle.
“This work requires a lot of thinking. You can never do things in a hurry. We need time to detect the problems and rectify them, but customers do not understand. They want their cars back as soon as possible” they point out.