In Zimbabwe, plastic containers, commonly known as "chigubus" now rank among the most desired items in the country. Demand has soared, partly as result of irregular fuel supplies. Consumers facing water shortages also fill the containers when the liquid is available, ensuring they have some stored for later use. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Fazila Mohamed says the second-hand trade in plastic containers has boomed in direct correlation to increasing fuel shortages.
Lack of petrol forces motorists to keep at least one or two containers handy for storage purposes. But motorists aren't the only ones hoarding the items. Consumers desperate to avoid water shortages also hang onto the containers.
They fill up as many of the Chigubus as possible when water is
available, ensuring they have a back-up supply when taps run dry.
A pensioner who lives in the suburb of Glen Lorne says she keeps more than a dozen containers filled at all times, as the area sometimes has no water for weeks on end, “I keep Chigubus in my house is because there's inadequate water. Water comes once in a while and I'm a pensioner and I can not carry twenty five liters of water so I have them all is five liter Chigubus and I have 16 or 18 in my house and I make sure I always have water on hand.”
Innovative entrepreneurs have turned this skyrocketing need into a thriving business. Many now make a living by selling containers of all sizes, shapes and colors at exorbitant rates. One major container outlet is situated at the Mbare market. A 20-liter container costs from nine to 25-million Zimbabwe dollars. Others sell the containers on the side of suburban roads or highways.
One vendor who introduced himself only as Tafadzwa says he considers himself a Chigubu dealer. Standing under a blue umbrella, his informal outlet is situated on Lomagundi road next to a bus stop.
He says, ”There is a very big demand for all types of containers. We are selling everyday. I myself am running short ads. It's becoming expensive to find the Chigubu's. Even at the market the prices are changing all the time. But it's a good business. At least I am not unemployed. I can make some money because I am selling to the people in the suburbs so I get good prices.”
Traveling around Harare it’s hard not to see someone carrying either a two, five or 20 liter container. Also plastic buckets are becoming increasingly popular. Residents say they prefer storing food supplies -- such as maize meal, rice, sugar and flour – in buckets, making the Chigubu concept even more useful.