Analysis: FREDRICK CHITANGALA
JUST because Zambia is landlocked does not mean our minds should be landlocked too. Our country is land-linked with immense opportunities to rise above the status quo and fly like an eagle in the sky.
Zambia is our own motherland, fashioned with and blessed by God’s good hand. However, my beloved Zambia needs a renaissance to realise its full potential.
But, this will not be possible if we do not experience not only political independence, but also economic, social, mental and spiritual independence.
We need to start valuing the most important resource we have on the land – Copper? NO. Precious Stones? No. Oil? Noooo, we don’t even have that yet. Land?
Maybe but no. Peace? Could be but No. It’s the people, rich in diversity, rich in culture. Zambia’s current culture (allow me to describe it “contemporary” because it has evolved with time) is a blend of norms, spiritual traditions, values, material among more than 70 ethnically and linguistically diverse people. This is a resource.
But above all, I look forward to a Zambia where while we will remain joined as one, Brothers under the sun, All one, Strong and Free, we need to realise that the future of this country can benefit from its past but most importantly, hugely depends on how we recognise and segment the roles that youths, middle aged and our senior citizens can play. Let me focus on the youth for now.
For a long time, we have proudly and shamelessly boasted “Imiti Ikula Empanga” (The youths are the future leaders).
The Zambia I want is one where youths, will not be leaders of tomorrow but of today. It is very misleading to assume that we have to wait until someone lives beyond their usefulness for them to be given an opportunity to lead.
In 1783, William Pitt the Younger became prime minister of the United Kingdom at the youthful age of 24.
If a 24-year-old woman or man from Senanga, Kaputa or Petauke announced their party candidacy in Zambia, how many would give that person a chance? But Pitt went on to dominate British politics over the next quarter century and today, he has the second-longest time served among Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom (almost 19 years).
Youth leadership opportunities are often ignored by over-aged and selfish adults, in most cases, intentionally which leads to a regrettable lost opportunity for young people to take the lead.
We must realise that ability to lead does expire with time and hence we need to harness the opportunity of the right time.
Today’s generation of young people is absolutely humongous: Some 1.8 billion people in the world are between ages 10 and 24. Most of them live in countries like Zambia, where majority of the population is younger than 35.
The United Nations Population Fund laments that around 175 million young people in low-income countries cannot read a full sentence, among whom, the 500 million living on less than US$2 a day, and over 73 million unemployed and for girls, the barriers to participation are even higher.
History has taught us that with the right empowerment, motivation and the right opportunities, young people can be effective drivers of change. Zambia, like many countries on the continent, gained independence largely because of young people.
Kenneth Kaunda, in his late 20s and 30s as a freedom fighter, among many change agents, without whom, the independence we are so proud of, would not have come at the time it did.
Now we have learnt, as UNFPA puts it, that helping young participate in decisions affecting them, and strengthening their ability to advance human rights and development issues such as health, education and employment is the right way to development.
However, today’s scenario is a sorry sight. Emma Horward laments, it’s no surprise then that young people are losing their sense of social value. The youths are fresh, creative and energetic to serve. They need to be given a chance today. Unemployment Rate in Zambia increased to 13.30 percent in 2014 from 13.10 percent in 2013. And of course the most affected is that young person waving his degree in front the employment office. This has to change.
You wonder why young people are only good at campaigning for older people? Because they have the numbers, the energy, the time and the brain, the features we can harness for positive social change.
While the June 2015 revised National Youth Policy has Strategies for Youth Employability and Entrepreneurship Development and Industrial Participation, I would believe that we stand more chance in ensuring this policy, together with its National Plan of Action succeed if we concentrated on youth entrepreneurship development and industrial participation.
I agree with the National Plan of Action that in order for the country to achieve a successful implementation of the Youth Policy, there is need for all stakeholders to be involved at every stage.
Hence Non-Governmental Organisations, Faith-Based Organisations, Churches, Youth Organisations, Private Sector and the community at large should put aside their political differences and act together for the Zambia we want.
This country, today, just like the Zambia we were to have few years before independence, lies in the hands of the youth.
This is good reason why the school system should be a little more purpose driven. The school should not only be centers where people gain theoretical knowledge (As they will end up doing jobs different from what they learnt) but should be places where job creation mindsets are moulded.
We have been graduating job seekers for a long time, it’s time to graduate job creators. Jobs are created by people, not angels. This is the Zambia I want, This is the Independence I want.
The author, a Public Health and Strategic Planning Consultant, is Director of the Olympic Youth Development Centre.
Analysis: FREDRICK CHITANGALA