>>Never Smiling, Proud & Free In Poverty<<
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
We cannot cheat ourselves any more that our mere beliefs in progress can produce best economic development realities.
Beliefs, like slogans, are just desires that do not give the country the best economic choices that can ensure the country do the right things to raise the money needed to build schools, build hospitals and ensure youth employment for thousands leaving secondary schools, colleges and universities.
We cannot cheat ourselves any longer that it is normal to have a country that completely insults the 12 years of schooling to be nothing.
Most of the young people of this country leave secondary school ready to lead independent lives, yet their certificate are useless because they have no value on the job market and 12 years of school was empty theory, without a little hint of starting a business or do practical choreography.
The founding President of this nation, Kenneth Kaunda (let me praise him for once), had the big idea of national service for grade 12 school leavers, but for our foolish democracy that insulted and destroyed that idea.
Yes, Zambia National Service had its shortcomings that were authoritarian in many aspects. However, this country did not need to destroy the ZNS programme for school leavers; it needed to refine the programme and turn it into National Prosperity Service.
Today the NPS was supposed to be a rigorous institution that does not just focus on basic military training and agrarian skills. It was going to be up with changed times—delivering the most important skills in Information Communication Technology, training refined music and cinema artists, fashion designers and artisans.
Construction is one of Zambia’s growing sectors and it needs artisans who can forge steel, copper and other precious stones that feed the needs and wants of this industry. NPS was supposed to deliver these, but instead the country imports most of its interior fittings from the middle-east and far-east.
Zambia also still has a problem of making its villages liveable with opportunities for youth.
NPS was supposed to deliver skills to the rural school leavers to modernise village housing, roads construction and water reticulation in rural areas. It was going to motivate ideas of adding value to abundant village rattan to produce exquisite furniture and other products for sale in towns and export.
This was going to be one way of moving the village or rural economy out of subsistence farming.
Out of NPS, school leavers were going to acquire know-how to install and run bio-energy plants. This was going to cut on insatiable use of wood that lead to deforestation and other hazardous fuels that contribute to tuberculosis and other debilitating health conditions.
There is no question of who was going to pay for this. The costs of treating the diseases and managing environmental degradation were going to be forgone receipts released to run these bio-energy operations, thereby creating jobs for young people.
Then Zambia would not need Forestry officers getting millions of kwacha in Lusaka, burn thousands litres of fuel to go and make futile appeals to villagers in Kaoma to stop forest degradation that stands at 250,000 hectares every year. Allowances are a failure of how our institutions operate.
The compulsory one-to-two-years of NPS were supposed to be part of the education system to bring the school leavers to realities of the national patriotism.
It was supposed to shape them into future doctors, engineers, teachers, chemists, biologists and communicators ready to cut the size of their cloth in real life. It was supposed to make them realise the values of citizenship, in terms of the rights and responsibilities that go with those liberties.
It was going to instil a culture of saving and participation in the financial market which is still shallow and cannot provide the needed credit to sectors constrained of finances for expansion. No one of the January 20, 2015 presidential hopefuls is coming to the fore on this one. Thinking on these requires more time than election campaign vote-oriented ideas that start promising heaven on a clear path to hell.
To refine the NPS further, ensuring it does not turn out utopia or a path into futility, government was going to heavily to invest in high value skills training and research, instead of a wasteful defray of Youth Development Fund and other social money transfers that are not productive-oriented.
Economic Empowerment Fund, like CEEC, was going to be used to finance start-ups for these young people who have undergone the mill of NPS. It was not going to fund basic dairy and citrus farmers, but train them how to increase production and invest in technology to deliver high quality processed products into our shopping malls.
Further the country was going to substitute imported luxuries, while the national hard-earned revenue was supposed to purchase licences to manufacture patented technology that cannot be innovated locally. Slowly we were going to be industrialising—an important step into becoming a developed country.
This is unlike today when our shopping malls stock more of foreign goods from South Africa, China and the Middle East, exploiting the Zambia’s middle class and high consumption appetite for imports. We now pay for manufacturing jobs in South Africa, Malaysia, Taiwan and China.
With a refined and focused NPS, today Zambia was supposed to be advanced, boasting a leather tannery factory, supplying designer shoes making enterprises.
It was going to be our own Chileleko, Cholwe, Mabvuto and Mulenga or Kabwe from the mill of NPS who could have been designer names on industrial, fashion and sports shoes. There was going to be no need for President Edgar Lungu, President Hakainde Hichilema, President Nevers Mumba or President Edith Nawakwi and Peter Sinkamba or Elias Chipimo Jr to sneak out on an international trip to shop for Italian or British shoes.
We cannot continue to cheat ourselves that we are a middle income country, when that cannot be sustained once our copper prices plunge on the world market and when the cost of producing our maize is so high due to imports, while our citrus fruits is so inferior and rots on the roads and shelves because appetites do not eat them.
We import almost everything. We wear low quality imported shoes and underwear because we emerged out of wanting more freedom in order to takeover, quickly, the luxury of the colonial British minus knowing how to manufacture a single thing. As such, up-to-date, we consume the legacy of colonialism than the need to own our means of production.
Today, we are spending everything carefree on imports and have become a nation that is a market that dresses in foreign underwear.
We need a President who will come on the platform and tell us that he no longer feels proud wearing imported underwear and strut in imported shoes.
We cannot afford to cheat ourselves that what is best for us is a President who thinks development is dishing out youth funds to makeshift stalls.
Instead, we cannot be cheating ourselves if we ask and demand for a President who will invest in the potential of a villager entrepreneur from Mansa in Luapula who has an idea of turning tute—cassava chips—into a fast-food or farmer from Kalomo in the Southern province who makes mabisi—sour milk—a desert on the country’s hotel dinner tables.
It does not make sense to condemn our people to produce these farm products and yet have no economic value for them.
We are not asking for more than we cannot afford or for less value, but solutions that will enrich our capabilities to realise our full potential to contribute to building the prosperity of our Happy Nation.