Behind an assortment of small sachets filled with sexual stimulants at Lusaka Chemist, one of the busiest chemists in the Zambian capital, sits a young woman. She signals one of the passersby to come closer. The man approaches her makeshift stand.
By Mwansa Pintu, Lusaka
The young trader called Mary Mulenga (23) immediately begins to explain more about her products. He seems to be in his late sixties and he pays close attention to her. Occasionally he asks her questions and takes a taste of the powder as she frantically tries to convince him to buy some. According to the woman her powdered herbs are capable of boosting men’s libidos if added to tea or to Chibuku, a local opaque beer. Each sachet costs ZMK 15,000 (about 2 US dollar).
Mary is just one of the many young Zambian women who have recently started to openly sell herbal aphrodisiacs, particularly to men, as a way to make a living. The women display their ‘products’ every morning along the city streets and bars where they can capture the attention of as many clients as possible.
“Lazy in bed”
Moses Kanj’ombe (33) a Lusaka resident doesn’t know the reason for this new trend. He jokingly speculates: “it could be that most men have become too lazy to perform in bed.”
“It is difficult to really tell what has brought about the trend because no research has been done,” he says.
However, Mary states there is an increasing demand for sexual stimulants, especially among men, and that the suppliers are simply trying to meet that demand. But she doesn’t know the reason behind that increase.
Taboo on sex
But Derrick Mweemba, a senior medical officer, thinks he knows why. He explains that most people selling herbal aphrodisiacs on the nation’s streets are simply abusing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between government and the Traditional Healers and Parishioners Association of Zambia (TPAZ) to allow licensed practitioners to openly practice their trade and sell their herbs.
“But people have taken advantage of the agreement and are busy selling all sorts of roots and herbs on the streets, even the unlicensed ones,” he says. “Most people selling these products are young women who are obviously not in formal employment but have to earn a living in one way or the other.”
In Zambia, like in most other African nations, aphrodisiacs and other sex stimulants were only sold privately because culturally, sex and anything related to it was considered private and a matter which could never be discussed publicly.
Change in the air
But more and more people are coming forward and are able to discuss sex and related matters in public. And with the introduction of products such as Viagra and its aggressive online marketing, the situation in Africa is slowly changing.
Although Felix Nyambe (45) a local journalist, thinks there is nothing wrong in discussing sex openly or in having the herbal sex stimulants sold publicly, Lubinda Tafira, a marriage counsellor blames the new trend on poverty and the loss of family values in Africa.
Lack of male energy
She said most people are trying to take advantage on the lucrative sex industry to make money in the name of modernisation.
Lubinda condemns men who purchased herbal aphrodisiacs for using “medicines” of which the effects have never been scientifically tested or proven.
“Most of these men have two or more women and do not have enough energy to satisfy both of them. Therefore, they decide to go against natural law and resort to relying on herbs to prove that they are still capable,” she says.
Various types of herbal aphrodisiacs are sold in Zambia ranging from tea herbal powders known as “kafupa” and “mutototo”, intended to give someone strength. Roots such as ‘vukavuka” and “nvukwe” are chewed for potency and is said to increase the amount of sperm.
But according to Lubinda, “they are all basically intended to play on people’s minds making them think that they have enhanced sexual powers.”