Editor's Comment

Locals must arise

LUSAKA Mayor Miles Sampa says he will in the next full council meeting propose the introduction of a by-law that will ensure that poultry and vegetable supplies to the market are a preserve of indigenous Zambians.
This is well and good but Zambians ought to also up their act because success does not come on a silver platter. It comes with lots of hard work and sacrifice.
Further, as this thought is being considered for tabling, it must be realised that competition from all players is good for the consumer.
Another key consideration must be ability by the council and indeed all other local authorities to implement the many good by-laws they pass.
For instance, we surely should remember that in years gone by a by-law was passed to the effect that block-making business should be the preserve of locals. Foreigners who desire to go into this business must partner Zambians.
There was a long round of applause for this decision. The question today is: what is the reality on the ground? Has anything changed?  The only notable change is that there are more foreign-run block-making businesses and it is doubtful that they are in partnership with a Phiri, a Mulenga, a Kayombo, a Sitali, a Mweemba or anyone with such a familiar name.
Now we want to open a new front: that of chickens and vegetables.  Why?  Because the foreigners, who are ostensibly better financed, are dominating the market and therefore the revenue.
Indeed, this is worrisome. Local traders are being thrown out of business because they just can’t realistically compete against the better financed foreigners who have better equipment and skills to grow their businesses.
Zambia is not against investors, but there must be clearly defined areas that must be exclusively for locals and others that must require partnerships.
The bar ought to be raised high for foreign investment. And it is good that Zambia Development Agency has an elaborate process of scrutinising investment proposals.
For instance, Statutory Instrument No 1 of 2017 bans foreigners from engaging in poultry farming and domestic haulage for all public procurement work.
Government has in the past banned foreigners selling chickens, engaging in block-making investments and domestic haulage for all public procurements to facilitate the participation of Zambians in small-scale entrepreneurships.
While directives were made and statutory instruments issued, the challenge has been enforcement.
The people who are charged with responsibility to enforce these pieces of legislation and directives have largely been inactive.
This is what brings the country to where it is today. Over five decades after independence the country is still grappling with finding a place for locals to participate in the economy because we fail to implement the good laws we pass, and we blame the foreigners.
While political will has been there as witnessed by the statutory instruments issued, there is need for enforcement.
There is also need for Zambians to learn from the shrewd business sense some of these foreigners employ.
Given the general inadequacies of many Zambian businesspersons, if some of these foreign-run businesses were to be handed over to certain locals, in no time at all these thriving enterprises would be run to the ground.
We see this in the construction sector. Some Zambians given road contracts, for instance, fail to deliver even when they get adequate funding. In some instances, it is reported that they even sell their sub-contracts to foreign companies in the sectors.
Of course not all Zambians are this bad.  There are many who are very good at business and they have succeeded even in competition against the foreigners. Such Zambians must be encouraged.
The worry though is that many, if not most Zambians, need a major mindset change.
So as Mayor Sampa rekindles this matter, is Lusaka and indeed other councils ready to claim what is theirs and more importantly grow in their businesses?
The Mayor says: “I will propose to the next LCC [Lusaka City Council] full council meeting that restaurants, bars, barbershops, salons, poultry market supplies and vegetable market supplies should be a preserve of indigenous Zambians.”
The mayor wants the local authority to assess the people it gives trading licences and ensure locals are not deprived of an opportunity to generate an income.
Indeed, LCC as an entity that manages the trading places is best placed to ensure that businesses meant for Zambians are not taken by foreigners.
It is also commendable that the mayor is also going a step even further to propose a by-law that will ensure prosecution of Zambians who connive with dubious foreigners to engage in businesses that will deprive locals of an opportunity to make money.
Certainly this is a huge challenge which must be addressed. In as much as some citizens cry to Government for protection against unfair competition from foreigners, it is citizens themselves who aid these foreigners to abrogate the law by acting as fronts in the application for licences.
While it is good that policies and laws have been put in place and more are being proposed, Zambian citizens must also rise to the challenge and venture into and dominate these businesses.
It is good that Government under the CEC provides financial support to those with viable business proposals which citizens can rely on to start or build their businesses.
At the end of it all we do not want a situation where the country starts experiencing shortfalls in the production of chickens or even blocks because the locals cannot meet the demand.
It is also important for locals to partner with fellow locals or even foreigners to build financial and production capacity. This way the chances of succeeding are higher than when one goes solo.
So when these by-laws are tabled, let there be a thorough assessment, otherwise we will again have good laws that are not being implemented.

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