A new game styled after “Temple Run” depicts the hard lives of Angola’s peddler women

A zangueira vendor with her baby and her wares in Luanda, Angola.
A zangueira vendor with her baby and her wares in Luanda, Angola.
Image: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
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In Angola, the peddler women known as zungueira are a feature in every city, carrying a large plastic bowl of goods on their heads, often with a baby strapped to their backs, trying to survive the country’s difficult economy. And now there is a video game that draws on their reality.

Zungueira Run is an endless runner game, similar to the popular Subway Surfers and Temple Run. This time, players run through an Angolan city playing a zungueira vendor known as Mana Augustina. With a basket of goods on her head, she weaves through city traffic collecting kwanza coins, all the while being chased by a taxman. If your fingers slip up, the taxman snatches Mana Augustina’s basket.

Whizzing past Angolan brands like local telco Unitel, the character also encounters customers whose purchase of goods like ginger presents players with a quick math problem that must be solved for bonus points. Bantu Games, run by a group of young Angolan developers, created the game, which made it to the semifinals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup developers’ competition. The app is available for free download on the Google Play store.

Zungueira women have been a feature of urban Angola since independence in 1975, eking out a living during the civil war and then during the peacetime oil boom. Today, their numbers are driven by high unemployment.

In a bid to stop the women’s peddling, Angolan authorities will fine the vendors around 45,000 kwanza (nearly $270), which is roughly equivalent to two months’ profit. In their “tax run,” as it is described by some of the vendors, zungueira often lose their wares, or are forced to abandon them.

In their crackdown on the informal economy, authorities have warned that the woman may face up to three months in prison. Some of the women interviewed for a recent piece in the Angolan news site Rede Angola say they have been detained several times (link in Portuguese), but these women are often the sole breadwinner, and would rather risk arrest than starvation.