Ana Paulino, a 40-year-old street vendor in Luanda, balances plastic cans of water four times as heavy as a bowling ball on top of her head every morning and night for quarter-mile trips to the nearest well. That’s a burden shared by many women in the capital of Angola, sub-Saharan Africa’s fastest-growing city. The country is the continent’s second-biggest oil producer yet household running water remains only a dream for most.
Now, modern phone technology is helping ease the water collection chores in the $122 billion economy, part of advancements making inroads from Angola to Tanzania and India that enable people like Paulino to find the nearest working community taps where the public can buy water at less than 1/10th the price of what suppliers with trucks charge.
That’s good news for Paulino, a mother of seven who spends 70 to 90 kwanzas (70 to 90 U.S. cents) for a container of water from private sellers because there isn’t a community tap. “It’s tiresome and disappointing to have to carry cans of water on my head every day in the 21st century,” she said.
Each 25-liter (6.6-gallon) container weighs about 28 kilograms (62 pounds) for Paulino’s eight daily journeys, an ordeal she shares with many in slums such as Sambizanga that contain two-thirds of Luanda’s residents.