Analysis: MAXWELL PHIRI
I HAVE noticed that our colleagues from developed countries have very reliable pension schemes as compared to the ones we have in most African countries. Having interviewed a couple of tourists who visit Zambia, especially the old in age, I have learnt that their
tourist expedition is funded by their pension plans. Our colleagues can afford to visit all the Seven Wonders of the World and many other types of tourist scenery as retirees without having to stress their financial base.
In other words, an employee in the Western world looks forward to the day one retires, because the pension scheme guarantees retirees a good life after the working era. A retiree can afford all basic needs and enjoy all holidaying one dreamt of during their working life. Meanwhile, retiring in Africa is the start of misery, not to mention that it can be the beginning of a ‘retirement death sentence’.
In Africa, if you asked young people why they are not in school, many would tell you they dropped out because their parents retired and they are in the villages suffering. But a retiree is supposed to be a rich and independent person, not a source of worry to one’s family.
In this article, all I want is to change your mind-set and inculcate one of making you retire a happy man, not a burden to your children. Many a time retirees would go into a defensive mood claiming that they paid their children’s school fees during their working life, and hence they need a payback from the children. To meet school fees for your children is a financial obligation by the parents without expecting a payback, no wonder they are called your children.
Of course, I am not in any way implying that children should not look after their parents, who have retired – NO! In fact, it is biblical that children should take care of their parents but not to the extent of becoming a financial burden unless on exceptional basis no wonder the Holy Bible says in Proverbs 13:12: “A good [man] leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children.”
The point is that when you grow old or retire, your children should then be taking over the responsibility of managing your wealth, such as properties in form of real estate or other businesses; not the burden of managing you as an individual to the extent that you become an excess baggage to them just because you are now retired.
Issues of pension schemes in Africa are rarely discussed in economic development or politics as avenues for employment creation in Africa in general and Zambia in particular. We have to carry out a pensions audit and ascertain how many people who have reached the retirement period are still in formal employment.
The figures are amazing of course, the reason the retirees are still working might be that they have no choice. It could be due to the fact that some pension schemes they subscribed to did not own up their obligation to settle the pension dues or the structure of the pension scheme was not a viable one, hence the package was not too good. The other reason, which will be discussed further later, could be that the retiree did not tailor his own pension scheme.
As Africans, we should find ways of offloading the retirees by creating employment for the young graduates. The puzzle is that we can only offload the retirees completely off the labour markets if we structure viable pension schemes with the help of Pensions Insurance Authority (PIA) and other consulting firms. We should also go an extra mile by regulating all employers from both private and public sectors to structure viable pension schemes which will enable retirees live a life after retiring.
Actuaries, who are experts in proving statistics for good pension schemes, should be engaged prior to establishing a company pension scheme. Therefore, a sound pension scheme is a riddance of creating an environment where we have more retirees living successful lives, with some even becoming employers. This will in turn increase employment levels in the country.
Importance of pension plan
At first sight, pensions may not appear to be the most pressing issues for Africa. Whilst social security is to some extent discussed, private (or rather funded) pensions are rarely debated. One may well ask: why address this topic at all, given more critical policy priorities for the region such as education, health, poverty alleviation or agricultural development, and given the lack of demographic pressure in general?
I have noticed with great concern that most of parliamentarians rarely discuss issues of pension in their respective August houses in Africa, yet pension is equally a cornerstone of development for most African countries. My view is that, retirees will always be there, come what may. Hence, there is need to seriously discuss the issue of pension schemes in Africa.
Despite increasing production through opening up various investments in African countries in order to create employment, the challenge of unemployment will still be haunting our economies, not until we take care of the retirees by preparing them with sound pension packages to enable them live better lives and, better still, making them future potential employers where possible.
The author is a human resources practitioner and pension advisor.