Justin Phiri, a 25-year-old young man in Kasungu rural, strongly believes that people do not literally have to wait until their cattle come home before receiving a speedy and satisfactory service.
He is hooked into a rare idea of making his motorcycle, a tow machine for any cart. He has proved that a cart does not necessarily have to depend on the slow-paced speed and mood of bulls to be on the move.
Hailing from Chagwa Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Nthunduwala in Kasungu District, Phiri recently thought about giving the cart some respectable speed on the dusty roads in his community. Currently, carts are pulled by oxen, hence the pair the name ox-cart.
So, when a customer needs to take his newly-bought cart home, Phiri hooks his motorcycle to the cart, securely fixing the cart’s pole to his machine.
“I had never tried this before, but something kept telling me that if I stretched my creativity, it could be possible to multiply the cart’s speed and remove the drudgery of depending on bulls, as we normally do,” says Phiri.
It was amazing to see an ox-cart whizzing past at 30 kilometres per hour, or so, with a beaming Phiri on his pulley motorcycle. A sheepish smile was also on the cart-owner, who rode in his cart.
Some people at Thunduwala Trading Centre could not help, but cheer and salute the businessperson-client pair as the ‘scooter cart,’ or ‘motorcycle cart,’ registered history.
After Phiri and his bemused customer sped by, this writer realised that a rare photo opportunity was about to be lost. So, he literally chased the fast-disappearing drama, frantically honking his car horn, signalling Phiri to stop his motorcycle.
When he finally stopped, and this writer clambered out of his car, Phiri looked visibly shocked and was close to tears.
“Forgive me. Have I broken any road regulation? Please have mercy on me. I will not do this again!” he said sounding apologetic.
Apparently, he thought he would be arrested. The fact that there was a fluorescent yellow jacket around the driver’s seat accentuated the young man’s fright. He thought a traffic police officer had finally caught up with his experimentation!
It took four traditional leaders, who were riding in the car and were going to a local event with the writer, to assure Phiri that he was not a villain, but a hero, who needed to be photographed because of his innovation.
After he warmed up, the young man said he is a father of two and a successful tobacco farmer. He says he bought the motorcycle with tobacco proceeds in 2013, when he fetched over K500 000 (about $700).
“I dropped out of school while in Standard Eight due to financial problems and farming is my only option for survival. My farm profits have since shot up, because I work hard and I like believing that if you put your heart to it, the sky is the limit in life,” he chuckled.
Phiri has not stopped dreaming. He plans to add value to the innovation and maximise its capacity.
“Many people in this area buy their ox-carts from Kasungu Municipality, some 70 kilometres away from here and rely on bulls to bring their carts home. This is hectic. My dream is to offer these people my unique new service of faster motorcycle tows,” he said.
Currently, Phiri says he only pulls empty carts with a small load because of weight. He says he is looking into ways of pulling a cart loaded with harvest or any other goods.
“The burden is the weight, but since it is an innovation, I am still looking into how that weight can be managed using a motorcycle,” says the visionary young man.
Phiri’s journey into this is not accompanied by any history of being a Kabaza operator, the business of transporting people by bicycle. He says the idea started after he bought the motorcycle.
“People have welcomed my services. I am getting orders and I am currently the option in terms of transporting carts,” he says, adding that the man in the motorcycle-cart paid him K12 000 (about $18).
As this was not enough, the customer gave him an addition K1 000 (about $1.4) as a token of appreciation.
“I am normally at home doing other chores. But I have a cell phone on which most people reach me. I, therefore, serve customers on their requests. Judging by how busy I am kept, I think I have a good reputation for helping people, including charging fairly for my services,” he said.
If he succeeds in turning his motorcycle into pulling loaded carts, Phiri’s name will join the likes of the windmill genius William Kamkwamba and the inventor of the Padoko Charger Creation, a bicycle phone charger among other innovators whose innovations have changed the lives of many people in the country. n