Home » APRA 2023: My Bittersweet Experience in Lusaka, Zambia By Rahma Oladosu
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APRA 2023: My Bittersweet Experience in Lusaka, Zambia By Rahma Oladosu

Taking a break from time to time is essential, and yet many people leave their vacation time unused. Whether you plan a vacation, a staycation, or a playcation, it’s important to take a break from your job, your routine, and the demands of life in order to keep stress levels in check. Travelling generally is usually a pleasant experience whether it is a road trip within the country or jetting out of the country (I prefer the latter)

I work with Image Merchants Promotion Limited (IMPR), an umbrella brand that majors in public relations and journalism. I am a staff writer and presenter with Economic Confidential, an online business news platform owned by IMPR.

There is no denying how hectic the life of a journalist can be with most time spent on reporting, writing and presenting. The bittersweet feelings for me started when our boss Alhaji Yushau Shuaib said I would be going to Lusaka, Zambia to attend the Superior Achievement in Branding, Reputation and Engagement (SABRE) Awards as our prestigious PR organisation had won some awards this year as usual.

While the award was an expected one, it had also become an annual “ritual” for my boss to attend and take one or two staff members along. This year’s awards came with a different kind of excitement, you know why? I know you don’t, so I’ll go ahead to tell you why. This excitement was because the awards won were as a result of the campaigns my beautiful female colleagues made titled “Nigerian Ladies in PR” the campaign was in partnership with the Kogi state government and the MacArthur Foundation on gender inclusivity. I am not trying to be gender biased but now you understand why the excitement was different.

SABRE Awards, an event used to appreciate, honour and reward PR practitioners all over Africa is usually held at the gala night during the annual African Public Relations Association (APRA) conference in different countries in the continent . This year’s edition was hosted in Lusaka, Zambia.

At this point I am sure you are wondering why I earlier said the whole trip was a bittersweet feeling for me.

This is mainly because initially, Nafisat Bello and Gyem Fom of Politics Digest and Tech Digest respectively both of whom participated in the campaign were picked to attend the event but unfortunately both of them did not have an international passport at the time, though arrangements had been on going for them to obtain one but as the visa application deadline drew near and still no passport in sight for the girls, I was chosen to represent them since I had an international passport.

While I was excited to get off work for a few days, also to attend the event and celebrate my coming birthday outside of Nigeria and far from home (yes it was my birthday in a few days, in fact it was on the same day of the award, 18th of May) at the same time I was sad and very uncomfortable that the girls’ passports were still not ready as at the time the application for my visa was submitted. I prayed, I asked my other colleagues to keep praying and also urged Nafisat and Gyem to be positive as I was sure by the special grace of God a miracle could happen.

God answers prayers…He truly does!

Barely 5 hours after my visa application was submitted, information came that the girls’ passports were ready. Personally I was overjoyed but the joy intensified a million fold when our boss whom I call daddy announced that no one would be left behind, meaning the three of us would now go to Lusaka for the event. We all got our visas and prepared for the trip. For me, this came in form as an early birthday gift. Indeed, bitter leaf may be bitter at the beginning but it often end being sweet when it is turned to a pot of soup.

We left Abuja on the 16th of May to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This was because of a 12 hours 30 minutes layover in Addis Ababa where we will be spending the night. Though the trip to Addis Ababa was a smooth one, I was tired with a headache.

After a nice dinner buffet and a long warm shower, it was off to dreamland for me.

Quick warning, if you are planning to visit Ethiopia sometime in May, please be aware that the water is cold…I mean very cold and if you hate to shower with hot water like me, you have to start liking hot water.

The next day, which was 17th of May, we got to the airport early to catch our flight to Lusaka. The trip from Addis Ababa to Lusaka was a bit rough, there was frequent turbulence that reminded one of the fear of ‘Heaven and Earth’ and ‘Here and Herafter’ but it was still nice.

Getting to Lusaka, the atmosphere felt quite different, it was chilly and sunny at the same time. Then we began a 30-minute ride to the Taj Pamodzi Hotel where we would be staying.

Looking around through the route from the airport to the hotel, one can easily tell that Zambia has a very rich and captivating culture from the nice big elephant statue at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport to the unique way mothers carry their babies at their back which is quite different from how we do in Nigeria. I also noticed their three word car plate numbers like BAT, BAR, BAD, ART etc and to include that they all ride right-hand drive vehicles, which was fascinating to me as it was my first time of being driven in a car like that.

After a long rest at the hotel, I went down with the girls for a quick dinner before going to the Zambian fashion show, hosted by APRA and sponsored by Stanbic Bank. There I met my boss who had gotten to Lusaka a day earlier with his beautiful wife.

The next morning, I was awakened by a loud ringing from my phone. It was a call from my colleague Gyem telling me to open the door to my room, immediately I did and she jumped on me with a happy birthday song. Yes! It was my birthday. After plenty of hugs, songs and many wishes, I went down for breakfast. I had a very large breakfast. I kept telling myself it’s your birthday and you can trash dieting in the bin for today. Immediately after breakfast we headed to the Kenneth Kaunda Conference Centre for the APRA conference where we took a lot of pictures.

Our boss said we could take the rest of the day to go sightseeing and a tour around the city. We met our tour guide, Mr. Paul with the “funny” accent. He was a very pleasant and chatty person and he was happy telling us stories of the places and things we saw.

Our main stop was the Chaminuka Game Reserve, situated about 50 km north east of Town. Chaminuka Game Reserve is a famous tourist attraction in Zambia with over 7,000 animals that have attracted tourists from all over the world. Getting to the reception, we were given the catalogue for the activities and things we could do, things like Cheetah Walk, Lion Feeding, Elephant Interaction, Boating, Game Drive, Fishing, Cheese and Wine Tasting, Art Tour, Walking Safari and Horse Riding.

We decided to go for the Game Drive but unfortunately we had to book ahead for that and there were no vehicles available at the time so the receptionist suggested we go boating since we will still be able to see a few animals on our way. My first question was hope there are no crocodiles and alligators in the lake? The reassuring no and smile put my mind at rest.

IMPR Ladies Receiving the SABRE Awards
IMPR Ladies Receiving the SABRE Awards
I saw quite a number of animals; Lions, Cheetahs, Ostriches, Wildebeests, Zebras, Monkeys, Antelopes, Elephants, Donkeys, Cows and many more. Of all the animals I saw, there was a very fascinating one known as the Kudu, nicknamed the “Grey Ghost.” The Kudu is an agile specie of antelope with the ability to appear and disappear from sight in the blink of an eye, despite its size. Truly, this happened right before my eyes, I was looking at it from a good distance when it suddenly became a case of “now you see me, now you don’t” as it disappeared just like a ghost.

Finally we got to the lake known as Lake Chitoka, it was indeed an interesting fact to know that the lake is a ‘man-made’ one. Lake Chitoka is made of clear water with beautiful water flowers and birds of different species. Taking a ride around the lake on a boat named the Danae, made the whole boating experience beautiful and calm while having a good look around, The Danae is a spacious open boat with a canopy and well bolted doors.

After the boat ride, I quickly dashed into one of the buildings to see a few art works in the form of beautiful paintings and well-polished carved wooden statues.

While we were leaving Chaminuka, I asked Mr. Paul where I could get really good Ice Cream, it was still my birthday so yeah I got Ice Cream and we all grabbed some lunch and went back to the hotel to get ready for the awards later that night.

The Gala night where the SABRE Awards would be presented to the deserving winners started on a very interesting note as we stood up for the beautiful Zambian anthem, shortly after we were entertained with ten different groups of dancers with each group dance representing all the ten provinces of Zambia.

Then we got fully into the programme of the event and the awards started rolling out and when it was our turn to receive ours, there was a different kind of cheer in the crowd. It was indeed a proud moment for me to be receiving the awards and certificates of excellence alongside my beautiful female colleagues for a job well done. It was time for dinner and a photo session marathon afterwards. The night ended in a very celebratory mood though I was a bit emotional afterwards as this was my first birthday away from my family and it ended up being a memorable one far from home.

And then it was time to return home, Alhamdulillah we all got to Abuja safely with lots of stories to tell my colleagues.

Tourism is indeed a part and parcel of our daily lives. As individuals, we need it to cool off, rest and relieve stress. As a nation, tourism is a major money spinner for serious countries that take it seriously. While exploring Addis Ababa and Lusaka, the business reporter instinct in me kept on imagining how much those countries rake in from tourism on a daily basis. In Nigeria my country however, we seem to have forgotten our tremendous tourism potential in favour of chasing revenue from the Black Gold. We need to turn the page and return to basics as quickly as possible.

I enjoyed every bit of the trip even with the scorching sun. I still have a few Kwacha coins with me to remind myself of a wonderful experience as I look forward to visiting more countries in Africa and beyond.

Rahma Olamide Oladosu
Staff Writer, Economic Confidential

Source: PR Nigeria