Has Zambia Made Strides?
By Chanda K. Chishimba
Many people in Zambia have voiced their opinions on the direction that the country’s economy should take in order to raise the living standards of its people. Endowed with natural resources and blessed with a peaceful citizenry, the majority of people are still confined in the shackles of poverty. A greater part of the population is not in formal employment, agriculture remains predominantly peasant, education standards never seem to improve, infrastructure development and maintenance is an eyesore, income levels are low, and hopelessness is the order of the day.
Intellectual voices in the country have decried the lack of capacity for the government and the citizenry to turn development goals and objectives into practical realities. But the question I beg to ask is: What is Capacity Building and how is it relevant to development? My simple understanding of this broad concept is, ‘it is human resource development, equipping individuals with access to information, skills, understanding, and training. It is also organizational development, management of relationships between organizations and sectors, development of an institutional and legal framework, enhancing government regulation and oversight, and laying a foundation for economic and social progress.’ This to me can be summed up as development of a ‘standard way of doing things.’ Does Zambia have a coordinated system of developing the country?
In light of the above, is Zambia then capable of developing a standard to which its citizens can identify themselves? The answer is yes we can. We need the political will of our leaders as well as the citizenry to achieve high levels of development. Zambia needs to develop a cohesive system that is home grown and takes into account the skill sets of ordinary Zambians, the cultures of its people, and the available resources. We need a standard which many people understand, is not complicated and is easily implementable. This idea of trying to copy everything western has led to our current situation. We fail to note that each country has its own traditions and cultures, its own standards, and its own objectives, goals and priorities. Zambia needs to invest heavily in its human resource by upgrading institutions of learning, computerizing schools so students can have access to information and increase their computer skills, providing continuing education to those entrusted with policy formulation and implementation, introducing legislation that requires licensing for any person wishing to engage in financial advisory, teaching, insurance, engineering, medicine etc. These must be licenses renewable every 2 years or else can be revoked. It is not enough just to be a member of, say, the Engineers Institute of Zambia. We need a well knit system that monitors, evaluates, and makes recommendations based on its findings.
We cannot rely on our foreign partners to develop our own system. As long as they provide funding for some projects, they will always have a role to play in how we implement our objectives. Only we know what our priorities are and we are better situated to resolve them. Donors can still be our partners in our efforts, but we need to place them in check. Farfetched as this may seem, if we have the will to do this, our lives and those of our children will surely be improved. It takes commitment and courage to achieve these goals and I am positive that Zambians can take up this challenge with the right political will. Let us realize that we owe this as much to our future generations as we do to ourselves. Development in Zambia will not come without breaking sweat. We can all play a role in the progress of our country. This should not be left to politicians alone because we have seen what happens when we do this. The choices we make today, will determine our future.