Mama! give us a signal…


ECONOMIC Freedom Fighters (EFF) president Julius Malema’s speech at the farewell funeral service of the late Winnie Madikizela Mandela has been trending on social media with a lot of people using some of his phrases such as “They are here; we know them; give us a signal; how should we treat them; in their life situations and personal experiences.
Malema’s words of “give us a signal and how should we treat them” can easily be adapted to our own situation and experiences as Mama Zambia. In that case, that calls for introspection of what we have gone through, are going through and will go through as a country.
Zambia is in dire need of solutions to the many challenges and opportunities it faces in light of it being a favourable investment destination in Africa. On a regular basis, what needs to be done is already known but the status quo has been left like that. How, therefore, should we treat these national situations and experiences?
Many questions have been asked about what really needs to be done for Zambia to catch up with the rest of the world in all spheres of development, and different approaches have been tabled by way of national policies and even in the day to day discourses of citizens. Unemployment, poverty, quality of education, infrastructure development and many more are some of the issues that deserve more signals.
It must be clearly set that all these issues cannot be left to the government alone. Changing mind-sets is a key catalyst in ensuring that Zambians begin to see issues from both individualistic and national perspectives because one’s individual level of development has a national attachment to it. Development is a concept that needs the contributions of all citizens.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame put it clearly by saying development is all about the ‘need to respect local wisdom, build a culture of innovation and create investment opportunities in product development, new distribution systems and innovative branding’. While the Zambian government is supporting entrepreneurship, the signal is already given for people to open up their minds, be innovative and exercise their talents. In a global village we are living, locals cannot be shielded from competition but be supported in their talents.
There are several countries that can be used as an example of how things can drastically change if citizens change their mind-set. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo- Addo has been going round the world talking to world leaders on how he wants Ghana to develop, particularly by telling them that while development aid is good, let the world show Ghana how things are done. This is as good as saying show us how to treat our problems using our own methods.
Victor Kgomoeswana wrote in his book, Africa is Open for Business, that ‘everybody with a sense of economic matters agrees that Africa is the future. Any company that dreams of sustainable growth and return on investment knows that the greater risk is not being in Africa, but not being in Africa’. This is not different from the Zambian case as evidenced by the huge amount of interest from foreign companies to invest in Zambia. They have seen the huge potential for reaping profits. In a nutshell, they see the signal, we are still waiting.
As earlier alluded, locals cannot be shielded from competition but be supported and one area that locals need to take advantage of is the Presidential pronouncement of ensuring that we build a “Smart Zambia”. That was a very powerful signal, if you are still waiting. The economy, with all its dynamics, needs diversification and Zambians can spearhead this process through Government’s support. On the other hand, it must be stated that any sort of diversification should be strategically relevant to the needs of the country for a long time. This also applies to investors. No investor, business or entrepreneur can remain relevant for long without a strategy to do business in Zambia because of the high competition on the rise. It is far too big, way too dynamic and only needs sufficient diversification to attract more than looking for copper and other raw materials.
In an economic set-up where the drive for economic diplomacy has taken momentum, citizens must take the lead in ensuring that they have both hands on key sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and the service industries among others. Investments and innovation by locals in these sectors provide a platform for government to equitably focus on the domestic front because ultimately, in the case of domestic revenue mobilisation, it will be the local entrepreneurs that will fill the national treasury, thereby minimising the chances of external borrowing.
Zambians have all it takes to turn things around for the country. The signal is very strong but probably another signal is needed.
Mama! We are waiting.
The author is a Masters of International Relations and Development student at Mulungushi University.

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