Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu’s State of the Nation address on the progress made in the application of national values and principles delivered to the third session of the 12th National Assembly last Friday, tackled a number of pertinent issues.
One of the issues that the President emphasised was the ‘Proudly Zambian’ campaign, which he said Government, in partnership with the private sector, encourages citizens to buy and use locally-made products.
“If we, as Zambians, do not stand proud and support products from our own natural resources, who will? Who will consume the products from our local producers? Who will stimulate our industries to grow and create the much-needed jobs? It is only ourselves. Therefore, think local first,” President Lungu said.
He reiterated that to promote local products, a ‘Proudly Zambian’ expo was successfully held in November 2018.
President Lungu said the expo attracted more than 50 Zambian producers who showcased their products.
“As a result of the expo, the uptake of Zambian products is expected to increase,” he said.
Following the President’s address, my mind went wandering around our markets and industries to give his address context.
After my search, I came to one realisation: While the will to make the ‘Proudly Zambian’ campaign is there, it is not matched with the necessary action.
There may be a number of factors hindering the success of this well-meant campaign.
The ‘Buy Zambia’ campaign can only be successful if we all walk the talk.
For example, we have the much talked-about Mulungushi Textiles in Kabwe. That company, if revamped, could encourage more Zambians to buy local products.
The result will be the creation of more jobs in the textile industry and its auxiliary industries such as agriculture and the fashion industry.
This move should also set into motion our much talked-about manufacturing sector or value addition.
It will support the cottage industry and give youths meaningful sources of income. There surely is no better way of securing our future than to have an industrious youthful population that is able to determine its own future.
“The same government should promote value addition to the current products made locally. Young entrepreneurs are making good door frames, window frames in Garden Compound. But those that are advocating for buy local are busy buying finished doors, door frames and window frames from China,” Lucas Ngulube, an entrepreneur, said.
But for the ‘Buy Zambia’ campaign to be successful, it should encompass all sectors, including service industries such as those delivering medical treatment.
As long as some citizens continue flying to South Africa and India to seek medical attention, it takes away from the campaign.
And why should this costly trend continue when Zambia has highly qualified doctors who can handle complex health conditions, which make citizens to trek outside the borders.
The country’s biggest referral hospital, the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), has in the recent past scored some milestones in medicine, including the successful separation of conjoined twins, and the first-ever kidney transplant.
We also have citizens who have developed medicines to treat different diseases, including cancer, but relevant government ministries and departments have not followed up on these discoveries.
There has also been less enthusiasm from the private sector and the general citizenry to support such innovations. Instead, what we see is a propensity to buy anything that is imported.
What we need as a country is a mindset change, which begins with talk but should surely end with action.
Our leaders themselves should take a lead in this campaign and be an example to the citizens.
If the President, for instance, wears locally made suits, other citizens are bound to follow suit.
Zambia has a few textile industries which can supply uniforms to the defence and security wings, among others.
But these institutions, instead of building the capacity of the few local textiles, such as City Clothing Factory or indeed Zambia National Service, have continued importing their uniforms from China.
Better still, these institutions can be incapacitated to the point that they are able to make uniforms to satisfy their own demand, and that of other institutions such as schools.
We also have service providers, such as the Hostels Board, which are struggling to stay afloat in the business, and why is that? Because even Government itself will rather give business to a private lodge or hotel.
Similarly, why is Zamtel not the number one mobile operator in the country? Instead, it is MTN from South Africa holding the lofty position.
Zamtel may have its own challenges but citizens should demonstrate patriotism by subscribing to their own network. That way, Zamtel will overcome its challenges and serve the nation better.
Similarly, the reason indigenous banks such as Investrust and Natsave are struggling to stay afloat is that most citizens are unwilling to keep their fortune there.
Don’t you wonder why Kopa, the FAZ jersey, is not trending? Everything being equal, it should have been a hot potato among FAZ affiliates and other sports associations.
This unpatriotic attitude permeates every sector of our society and has resulted in our own businesses either struggling to break even or have folded for want of business.
It is also one of the reasons why our own contractors have been closed out of sectors such as construction.
Of course many times local contractors have disappointed in product delivery, but sometimes we simply think our own cannot do the job the way a foreign company does it.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO