Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
BY NOW, the Patriotic Front secretariat is probably flooded with thousands of letters from people intending to work in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates UAE).
Maid centres and driving schools may also be bidding to send their clients abroad.
Minister of Finance Margaret Mwanakatwe said at a PF interaction forum on Sunday that Kuwait and UAE have requested Zambia for 1,000 people to work as drivers and maids.
The workers are expected to have a pay cheque of about K13,000 including their commission.
Ms Mwanakatwe said Government has engaged a recruitment agency to facilitate the programme.
This announcement has undoubtedly drawn a lot of interest from the unemployed youths – including the employed and under-employed who see this as an opportunity for a breakthrough.
This is so because there are individual benefits for potential migrant labour of upgrading by learning new things such as new cultures, interpersonal skills besides earning cash.
The country, on the other hand, stands to benefit from forex inflows as the migrant labour to Kuwait and UAE will be sending money to support their families.
The children and relatives of the employees to be exported stand a chance to go to school, better medical care and better life generally.
I must say this looks good.
“It’s like you build a mine in the middle of nowhere…the multiplier effects of benefits are immense,” a colleague told me.
He sees the announcement by Ms Mwanakatwe as an attempt to address unemployment in Zambia. This is so because the amounts payable are well above what drivers and maids are being paid here in Zambia.
However, there is need for such workers to adhere to cultural rules in the Muslim world so as to avoid being sent back.
A former colleague at the Zambia Daily Mail who has spent a very long time in the Middle East thinks exporting labour to The Gulf is tantamount to government signing off its citizens to slavery.
“Kenya and Ethiopia have since banned their citizens going there. Citizens were coming back home in body bags, many in jails, others on death row.
“And K13,000 is nothing when cheapest rent here is like a US$1,000 for a one room if you are lucky to find that room. Many end up living with employers who make them work 20 hours a day,” he said.
Another Zambian who lives in the diaspora said although The Gulf market offers great opportunities for migrant Sub-Sahara African resources to work, it has its own unemployment scourge and some rigid religious constraints to thoroughly think about.
“Documentable reports of some African and East Asia labour that has moved there have given reprehensible experience on many accounts. None has been assuring other than bring out some replete of harrowing ordeals. We are talking of abuses, injuries and at times even death poor countries are unable to pursue,” he told me.
He said the many restrictive religious edicts aside, the whole recruitment process has been opaque and not insulating our people from abuse and inequitable pay.
He said Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, The Philippines, Indonesia among many have taken a stand of partially or totally banning their nationals from going for these job offers due to known maltreatment people face.
“Time for a dispassionate debate with an open-mind to drive a debate that answers all tough questions and help in the birth of a policy document tied to any bilateral Memorandum of Understanding if any exist with receiving countries,” he said.
The debate is on.
The recruitment agency should answer the many queries surrounding the fate of Zambian employees once in Kuwait and UAE.
The recruitment agency should take out insurance for all the citizens who may wish to go and work in The Gulf with a provision for any aggrieved worker to return at their pleasure.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO