Just two years after the independence of Zambia, in March 1966, the then first Zambian president had this to say. “Most of our weaknesses, is derived from lack of finance, trained personnel, etc., etc., etc. We are left with no choice but to fall on either the east or west, or indeed, on both of them.” What Kaunda did not state was that the weaknesses that he spoke of were, first and foremost, products of European colonial strategies and, second, the failure of all (including him) and other independent African nations to fully serve the interests of their people through brave and innovative development programs.
Zambia missed the point way back in 1964. Since then, we have been building a nation on wrong foundations. But Zambia is our land. Zambia our large country, with a unique butterfly shape. As beautiful as the colours of the butterfly. A country that can be hot in the lower valleys but with beautiful weather with most land across the high plateau where temperatures are more pleasant. Zambia the beautiful.
The Zambia of today and the mess we face under the current government, is a total sum of all collective decisions and behaviours of both citizens and leaders who ever ascended to leadership before and after 24th October, 1964. However, the Zambia we want post 2016 should be a careful consideration of all factors that define the nation we now call Zambia. We must be students of history to be relevant today and strategic tomorrow. My fear is that what I hear in all the campaigns now does not attempt to address the real problems Zambia faces.
Rebuilding Zambia: The August 11th 2016 Elections will be different from any other in the history of Zambia. Not only because the sixth President of the Republic of Zambia will be elected, but because up to now, Zambia has been damaged by reckless financial policies, lax regulations and failed political systems. Our country boasts in imported products and is a large supermarket of the rest of the world. Unless we get a leader who will reconstruct the economic outlook of the country. We are headed nowhere.
Grounds for a new start: Developing the new Zambia will require a paradigm shift; certainly what needs to be avoided is to pour new wine into old wineskins. The salvation of Zambia from the current door drums requires a complete deconstruction of the current Zambian state and constructing a totally new paradigm shift on which to build.
In terms of policy making and execution the Post 2016 Zambian government must accommodate other integrative forces at work at different levels, whether at the form of micro-regions, cross provincial operations, regional public goods, and non-state actors in Zambia’s development agenda. That is, a multi-pronged approach, including the reconstituted state, would better reflect reality and be more useful.
In practice it means, that Zambians become students of our own country history and focus not only on the current government that has made so much mess. This article is not an attempt at attacking the government in power but using what we know from all the historical issues that subject our country to perpetual poverty, for the way forward. In this article I am simply using the history of Zambia and Africa to date to spring up development in Zambia. I just cannot understand why a rich country like Zambia should be poor.
Zambia needs reconstruction and repositioning for growth. Zambia has listened to too many lies from the external forces for too long. This country is dying because of the foreign capital “trade-off”. Zambia has over relied on foreign investment instead of balancing the two and investing in local human capital. It is Zambians and only Zambians with a heart for the country that will develop this nation. The government must facilitate every Zambian to become an asset in the building of the nation. Everyone is important and must contribute to a better Zambia. As long as Zambians do not own Copper mines and other means of production, this nation is doomed.
In order to rapidly acquire the requisite capital and skills, previous Zambian governments especially the second republic generally opted to realise their resource endowments through attracting foreign resource companies (TNCs & JRCs), rather than mainly relying on domestic capital. However, this “trade-off” comes with several possible “threats” and has not developed Zambia. Zambia is a living example that there are limits to Foreign Direct Investments and such development agenda must be dealt with caution. We drunk and imbibed the doctrines of IMF and World Bank to the point where Zambia was praised by the two institutions. But Woe unto a nation if it is praised by the IMF and World Bank, for it is finished. Zambia got finished when we got some of the best ratings with the IMF and World Bank. It was not because we were doing well, but it is because we had sold our own very lives and economy.
The Wrong Economic Policies we pursued: – These are some of the lessons I can pick that we should have learnt by now from our economic history in Zambia:
- Trans – National Companies have often used global purchasing strategies which have been least likely to develop local suppliers (linkages), as we have seen. All companies sold out by the Zambian government to foreign investors have since changed hands several times and are unrecognisable for the worse. Many jobs have been lost and no new ones created.
- TNCs tend to optimise their global processing (beneficiation) facilities which can deny local downstream opportunities; all companies that relied on ZCCM externalities have all since disappeared.
- TNCs locate their tech development (R&D) in OECD countries,, thereby denying Zambia the development of this critical side-stream capacity;
- TNCs also have tended to locate their high level HRD in OECD countries (often linked to their R&D university partners), which could deny Zambia the development of this seminal capacity;
- In the longer term there are clearly political downsides to a resource sector dominated by foreign capital;
- Finally there is the TNC “core competence” conundrum.
Zambia’s short to medium term potential lies in our natural comparative advantage: Namely, resource & resource-based industries (provide a competitive platform for finished products in the longer term, and an immediate market for resource inputs industries.
Zambia has so many mineral that we can exploit, but we have over relied on copper and we do not even manage those copper mines. They are with foreigners and they are not benefiting us. We have power blackouts when we have coal in Mamba and 40 percent of Southern Africa’s water is in Zambia. Help local Zambians generate micro power schemes and we will have enough. Why borrow for infrastructure development when you can borrow to invest in local Zambians to become entrepreneurs.
What about the land we have. We will cry one day for this land we are letting foreigners take.
The need to delink from the past: – All governments since the first republic have been omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. The common qualities usually attributed to Zambia as a state are that it must have territory, people, government, and authority for the legitimate use of coercive force. The Public Order Act which belonged to the colonialist has continued to be used against opponents to date. Arguably, this is not always been applicable to us in Zambia.
- Post-colonial Zambian political elites attempted to build on the inherited colonial Zambia and in the process transform it into a replica of the Western model. The results have been disastrous as the latter had distinctly different origins and reference framework. We tried going East, came back to the West and go lost in the process.
- Political independence attained in 1964 was not accompanied by a reconstruction of the colonial Northern Rhodesia, a European construct, to make it more relevant to the environment and better respond to the needs of the indigenous peoples of the independent Zambia. The post-colonial Zambia remained not as an alternative but as a successor to the colonial state – Northern Rhodesia just renamed Zambia. No wonder the problems we have.
Manifestations of the colonial Zambia that were inherited by our Post independence governments:-
- First, the colonial Sir Raphael “Roy“Welensky government was authoritarian and repressive state and we changed nothing after 1964.
- Second, Welensky’s government played a major role in the economy, with an all-dominant public sector and we followed suit.
- Third, the Welensky bureaucracy, as a major component of the state, was highly centralized.
- Fourth, the colonial government system coexisted with indigenous governance systems and models and we tried to modernise them into house of chiefs and so on.
- Fifth, vast amounts of government resources were directed at eliminating all contending political authorities or divesting them of any meaningful functions. This included not only opposition political parties but non-state actors of all hues, traditional institutions and socio-economic bodies. This has continued to date punishing opposition parties at will using state resources.
- Sixth, the spread of the Zambian government resulted in its presence being felt in all areas of socio-economic life. Not only within what was traditionally the public sector but also in most parts of the private sector. Remember we had Mansa batteries in Mansa, Pineable factory in Mwinilunga, Livingstone Motor Assembly in Livingstione etc. Mindeco, Findeco and Indeco and the list goes on.
In terms of performance the successful governments in Zambia have fallen far short of the basics:
- All successful government so far have not proven to be developmentalist – in our area the government is more of a part of the problem than a solution to the problem of development. All the works of successful governments since independence have not impacted positively on the vast proportion of the populations; rather, poverty has deepened.
- Capacity for policy implementation has been considerably limited and substituted by non-governmental and faith-based organizations, and an informal sector growing at exponential rates.
- The sovereignty of the post-colonial Zambia is compromised by the fact that it is so deeply dependent on the ex-colonial powers (donor aid) and the international community to solve its developmental and other problems including those directly associated with regime survival.
- The inability of any successful Zambian government to prevent, manage and resolve most internal tribal conflicts, has been a burden and a drain in development efforts.
Grounds for new government thinking include: – First, it is important that the previously dominant model of governance which almost exclusively concentrates on formal institutional frameworks should be challenged if for no reason than that the previous governments have all proven themselves not fit for purpose, as glaringly shown earlier.
Second, older approaches do not reflect what happening on-the-ground is but accept without questioning the ‘often optimistic and unrealistic accounts of what government and their ministers say they are going to do to build Zambian provinces and districts including villages. The government cannot develop this country. It can only put in place policies that will enable Zambians thrive and development will follow. How can we still believe in this era that a government can bring development to our villages?
Third, these other approaches do not have any relationship with the realities of Zambian development besides demonstrating the chasm between ideal and reality.
The New Zambian thinking should be grounded on the need to ‘unpack’ the old traditional Zambian state ridding it of Western conceptions and making it truly Zambian. We are a unique people and operate uniquely. We cannot be a copycat of other nations.
I conclude by saying, that the conventional ‘top-down’ preoccupations of the institutionalists/inter-governmentalists need to be domesticated through a ‘bottom-up’ emphasis. Let the people run the nation through a strong constitution and empowered citizens. Zambians, August 11th 2016, Vote wisely.