The sticker on the metallic green Toyota Sprinter caught in an early morning traffic jam in Zambia's capital of Lusaka is a familiar sight: "There goes another vehicle donated by Transport Aid Japan."
Over the past four years, hundreds of Japanese used cars have come to this poor southern African country, purchased by Zambian companies and individuals over the Internet through Transport Aid Japan, a charity organization.
For many ordinary Zambians, the dream of owning a car has suddenly seemed attainable and they have been spending hours on the Internet, filing out applications for a free or cheap used car from Transport Aid Japan.
So popular have become the used cars here that they are commonly referred to as "dotcoms" because they are purchased over the Internet.
"I never thought that one day, I would own a car," says Jack Bwalya, a civil servant who is one of the beneficiaries of the donated second-hand vehicles from Japan, where used cars are discarded.
Transport Aid Japan donates used vehicles that are between eight and 12 years old but are in good condition to be used in various parts of Africa.
Those who do not qualify for a free vehicle such as private businesses can still buy used cars from the charity at a reasonably cheap price.
"I bought my car for only US$250," said Peter Mwale, a newspaper vendor, who is a proud owner of a grey Toyota Carina, which he bought from the charity.
The only major cost, he said, was freight which cost about US$1,000 to ship the car from Japan to the port of Durban in South Africa.
"I feel rich to own a car and everyone in our family is excited," Mwale said with a smile.
Prices of new cars are skyhigh in Zambia. The cheapest Toyota model sells for more than US$10,000.
The Japanese "dotcoms" have even generated spinoffs for locals like Chris Mutale who charges a fee to help Zambians fill out the applications.
"If you want a free car just go to www.transportaid.com," Mutale said.
The founder of Transport Aid Japan, Julie Berg, recently told a local magazine, that her organization donates vehicles to charities, government departments, farmers, councils and individuals involved in humanitarian work.
"The biggest problem most African agencies and individuals face is transport and that is why we came up with this organization to make transportation a reality for many poor people," Berg said.
The used cars are also fueling traffic problems in Lusaka but on that score, the Japanese have also stepped in to help.
Under an aid program from the Japanese government, some of the main roads in Lusaka have been expanded from single lanes to three lanes in an effort to get rid of traffic jams in the capital city.
Meanwhile, car salesmen complain that sales of new cars have dropped as a result of the "dotcoms."
"There has been a reduction in the sales of motor vehicles by recognized dealers as a result of the easy access to vehicles from Japan," said Kenson Simwanza, sales manager at Motormart, a dealer in brand new vehicles.
"Despite this, we have our own clients who want to buy brand new vehicles because they are durable and reliable," Simwanza said.
Driving a "dotcom" in Zambia however is also a symbol of your status as one of Zambia's millions of poor.
A former British colony, Zambia ranks among the world's poorest nations.
"I can't drive a dotcom car. I'm above that," said Fred Mwebe, a computer scientist, who drives a BMW.
The Zambian government is also trying to cash in on the influx of the Japanese used cars by introducing in its last budget a 20 percent duty tax on cars that have a seating capacity below 14.
Despite the high taxes, Zambians have not been discouraged from acquiring the dotcom vehicles from Japan.
CONSOLIDATION? Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive-general Doong Sy-chi said Beijing’s intimidation tactics are further alienating those who identify as Chinese Only 2 percent of respondents to a poll on constitutional amendments and national identity identified as Chinese, while 62.6 percent identified as Taiwanese, the Taiwan Thinktank said yesterday. Legislators have proposed amendments to the Additional Articles of the Constitution (憲法增修條文), which would change the definition of the nation’s territory, remove the Taiwan Provincial Government as an entity, prioritize the use of “Taiwan” for national groups at international events, and remove restrictions on defining the national emblem, national flag and national anthem. The poll showed that 80.5 percent of respondents agreed that the nation should participate as “Taiwan” at events organized by world
NO SIGN OF WAR: Only if Taiwanese showed determination to defend the nation would others be willing to help in the event of a Chinese attack, the premier said Should China launch a war against Taiwan, the military would fight to the last standing person, Minister of National Defense Yen De-fa (嚴德發) said yesterday, adding that the nation has fully fleshed-out defense strategies. “Beijing has continued its acts of provocation against Taiwan, but there are currently no signs that it is ready to launch a full-scale war,” Yen said at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. Asked how long Taiwan could withstand an attack from China, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said: “Taiwan will not fall.” Any belligerent force that initiates acts of war would pay a heavy price, and so too would Beijing,
MISTAKE: The Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is not a UN body, and the government is committed to protecting the nation’s name, Joseph Wu said The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday condemned the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy for listing Taiwanese cities as belonging to China on its Web site, and asked that it correct the error. The organization was inaugurated in Brussels in 2016 as a global coalition of mayors committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Six Taiwanese cities at the time joined the coalition as cities in “Taiwan,” the ministry said. However, officials from the Kaohsiung City Government — one of the organization’s members — last week noticed that the city was now listed on the organization’s Web site as a
MOTHERLAND? Taiwanese who take part in China’s National Day celebrations could be fined NT$100,000 to NT$500,000 if found to have contravened Taiwanese laws The Ministry of Culture yesterday cautioned China-based Taiwanese artists against breaching Taiwanese law by taking part in China’s National Day celebrations. The ministry issued the statement following media reports that Ouyang Nana (歐陽娜娜) is to sing a popular Chinese patriotic song titled My Motherland (我的祖國), and Angela Chang (張韶涵) is to sing Protect (守護) with Chinese entertainers at an event to mark China’s National Day on Thursday. The Mainland Affairs Council is investigating whether such behavior contravenes regulations in the Act Governing Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), the ministry said. If the behavior involves matters