TODAY, Zambian workers join most parts of the world in commemorating International Labour Day. This is a day set aside annually to celebrate the accomplishments of workers.
This year’s celebrations are being held under the theme “Building Partnerships for Sustainable National Development Through Decent Job Creation and Social Justice’’.
This year’s theme speaks to Zambians on the need to build partnerships to accelerate development and subsequently create more decent jobs.
True to this year’s theme Zambia’s development progress and job creation agenda has been to some extent impeded by a culture of individualism in Zambia.
Unlike other countries whose citizens find it easy to team up in pursuit of projects and opportunities, most Zambians would rather go it alone even when they lack capacity to handle such. Actually, some individuals would rather let the opportunity be lost rather than calling for partnership.
This is the mindset that has stunted businesses and slackened the country’s development process.
On the other hand some foreigners come poor and before long they are running big businesses and are rich.
One example is that of Indians. Indians are known to have a culture of unity and partnership; this explains their success in business.
One does not need to conduct research to know that foreigners command a larger business share in our economy because theirs are huge businesses worth millions of dollars while most Zambians are clustered in “tuntemba” kind of businesses. One of the reasons foreigners tend to be successful is that they have mastered the secret of partnerships.
On the other hand, Zambians are still struggling with petty jealousies and competition among themselves.
As long as Zambians still remain self-centred, we will not make much progress in our development agenda and creation of decent jobs will continue being a fallacy.
Good policies alone are not enough, there is need for mindset change.
Let this Labour Day, reignite the spirit of unity in our business community as was exhibited by our founding fathers during the liberation struggle.
While our forefathers played a key role in liberating the country politically, the current business men and women have the obligation to bring economic emancipation. This is the only way to bring about decent job creation and social justice.
Economic liberation will only come when Zambians stop looking at themselves as competitors and embrace partnerships to penetrate sectors which need huge capital like mining and construction.
As long as Zambians cannot embrace partnerships to enhance their capacity there are business opportunities they will never be able to cease.
There is a Bemba saying that, “Umunwe umo tausala inda” translated, one hand cannot pick out a louse. This saying emphasises the importance of partnerships and that one person cannot do what many can do together.
Time and again we have heard lamentations by supermarkets when pressured to have local produce that some Zambian farmers fail to meet demand consistently.
This indicates failure by farmers to form partnerships with others growing similar crops to build capacity to be able to meet demand consistently.
This kind of attitude has prevented many businesses from growing to a level where they can create more and decent jobs.
Take for example malls, most of these, probably over 90 percent are owned by foreigners. Does it mean we cannot have even 100 Zambians or more coming together to build such infrastructure? Why do we have to wait for foreigners?
This also applies to mines, don’t we have Zambians with money which if put together can successfully run the mines.
In the construction industry it is the same story. Currently all the big contracts are being won by foreigners because they have the capacity while Zambians pick the crumbs due to lack of capacity. This is because each company wants to go it alone out of sheer greediness.
Unfortunately the failure by Zambian businesses to partner in pursuit of opportunities has robbed the country of development and job opportunities.
This is because the money earned by foreign companies is externalized to develop their countries and create jobs for their people leaving Zambians jobless.
As we celebrate this important day let all Zambians ponder on how they can contribute to sustainable national development where decent jobs and social justice will be a reality.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.