Analysis: FELIX TEMBO
AFRICA is the least developed continent in the world, yet it is the richest with natural resources. Zambia is a country found in this least developed continent. In the region, we may rank South Africa to be the most developed followed by Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and others. Again, Zambia could be the third least developed country in the region.
However, when we consider the resource basket, our country could be second in abundance to Congo DR or third. These statistics are so annoying that they can send someone with a PhD in economic development crazy as to why we have such a status quo. Nonetheless, for those that have dared to live a little longer in this part of the world, they have the answers and do meditate on them.
Just to go over some of the problems which have led us to be where we are; they are education, lack of seriousness, corruption, lack of fear of God, and one that is overlooked is low self-esteem. We have debated these topical issues in detail to the point that if I asked my five-year-old son, he would mention all of them with ease. In this article, allow me to discuss low self-esteem for a change.
In one of my articles some three years ago, I discussed how we lost the opportunity to having a brand that was going to compete effectively against coca-cola, in the name of kwench. We developed a product that we needed to have kept refining in terms of quality and branding that could have been bringing a lot of income today. Honestly, what could have led to this so annoying act of sabotage?
We have this low esteem that development can only come or be brought by foreigners such as the Europeans, Americans or Chinese. As a people, we have sometimes climbed on hills and mountains to preach to our people that we are fostering partnerships or relationships with the fore mentioned people so that they could bring development to our country. We go as far as trying to entice foreigners to come and invest in our country, and giving them incentives of not paying tax for as long as five years.
Honestly, can you ask Bill Gates to set up operations in Zambia and ask him not to pay tax for five years? Does he need that? And if he does not pay tax, where are we going to find money to pay the police? Where will we find money to recapitalise TAZARA and some of our councils that go for years without paying their workers?
Bill Gates is the richest man in the world and why do we want to get money from the poor to give to the man who is already rich? When you see foreigners come to set their businesses here in Zambia, their motive is not to develop this country but to make money for themselves. And for the fact that they are not Zambians, regardless of how many houses and factories they will build, their money will not be kept in this country.
Suppose you rent a small field in Mpongwe and cultivate your maize. After harvest, will you store your harvest in Mpongwe or you will take it to your homestead in Mpatamatu? This is the scenario in which we have been hoodwinking ourselves that foreigners have come here to develop our country.
In Zambia, we don’t need money; wherever you look there is money! There are only two basic ingredients that we need to stir development in Zambia: Education in form of technology transfer through research and development of local technologies blended with what we can’t do and selfless management or leadership if you want to call it that way. Thereafter, empower the local people to go into productive enterprises.
Who developed Japan? It’s the Japanese. Who developed China? It’s the Chinese. Therefore, why do we want people that have developed their own countries to come and develop our ‘rich’ Zambia? Zambia is so rich that if we were to get the 60 million Japanese to come and settle here and we get the partly 16 million Zambians to go and live in Japan on a swap basis, they will make this country far much better than what Japan is today within a period of five years.
My countrymen, we don’t need loans in this country because we have all the money, all we need is technology (education) and selfless management of the resources. When we have education and technology, we will develop sustainable policies that will promote localised development and not only thinking about how foreign direct investment will develop this country.
On the other hand, if we have selfless management, we will manage our resources equitably and so much that the resources we have will go to every citizen in this country. Mind you, we have so many projects that have been working in the agriculture sector, for instance, to try and improve productivity since the early 1980s but productivity has not improved.
Our foreign brothers whom we have put so much faith in to develop this country are getting the money and taking it back to their countries. We are selling mukula logs, yet our children are sitting on the floor, if not the ground, in classrooms. We are complaining of floods in Kanyama, yet the people of Avondale are going for days without water.
We are now implementing taxes on groundwater that will increase cases of cholera and poverty, yet we have so much water 45km away from Lusaka that is wasted into the ocean. We developed Tazama pipeline, which is thousands of miles long, yet we can’t develop even a simple canal from Lake Bangweulu to supply water to Mkushi farm block for irrigation.
Come on people, Zambia will be developed by Zambians and not donors.
The author is an agribusiness practitioner.
Analysis: FELIX TEMBO