By Wesley Ngwenya
Here are a few reasons why we continue having poverty in
Zambia. The list is not exhaustive and each item could be a
dissertation on its own. Getting rid of poverty in a developing country like Zambia is critical and deserves our utmost attention. Feel free to add your own reasons.
Politicians/Leaders: The quality of leaders we continue to elect leaves much to be desired. Even in the business world, executives in Zambia continue to hire and promote their own in the organizations. This sidelines the most talented and leaves the mediocre to be the main decision-makers. The moment Zambia gives up the selfish ways it elects or appoints leaders we shall begin to see the difference in the way things are going to move in this country. We need quality leadership with exceptional skills and education.
Corruption and Abuse of Resources: There is no doubt that corruption in Zambia is a stumbling block to meaningful development in the country. As long as we continue to have government officers ask for a bribe to do business with the government we shall continue heading backwards. Many institutions in this country including, the police and the judiciary need to be freed of corrupt tendencies in order to create a favorable environment for development and get rid of poverty.
The few people who run the resources in Zambia end up abusing the resources whether it is authority, moneys, or vehicles. These resources that are supposed to be channeled to develop infrastructure or educate people end up being used by those entrusted to bring the development.
Bad Policies: When policies are made only in the best interest of the ruling elite or the mega foreign investors, the majority of Zambian citizens will continue living in poverty. The Zambian government has failed to create proactive policies that seek to address issues of poverty in this country. The recent closure of several companies in Zambia is a testimony of this failure. Hundreds of employees have been left jobless overnight without benefits whatsoever.
The government needs to advocate for the tax-paying citizens. Policies such as mandatory setting up of employee trust funds for new companies need to be introduced. The legislature needs to work up and start addressing real issues of poverty not debating the budget to this day.
Dependency Syndrome: In as much as foreign aid is essential for the development of country we should begin to look elsewhere to become more economically independent. Forty-four years after independence we are still dependent on the West for support. We can hardly stand on our own feet as a nation. It is not only the government who is diseased with begging for alms, but now many Zambians line up on street corners to ask for help.
Why not think of ways to make money as a country? I think government should be in the business of not only counting money generated from tax but also making money and devising new methods of creating a consistent cash flow. IMF and the World Bank have screwed us several times and maybe it is time we got out of those relationships and look for real relationships with mutual interests.
Brain Drain: Zambia has one of the highest rates of brain drain in the world. The emigration of highly skilled personnel such as doctors, nurses, teachers, scientists, administrators, business people, etc continues year after year. With this mass departure of skill for greener pastures, who is left to do the work here in Zambia? Again, it’s back to the mediocre leaders who are running things. If many of these professionals were given incentives to stay home and work in government or develop businesses then we will be taking long strides toward poverty alleviation. The government needs to come up with incentives such as all professionals who continuously live and work in Zambia for ten years will be given a gratuity.
HIV/AIDS: Like brain drain, this disease has claimed so many potential men and women of this country. If you go to any graveyard in this country and look at the tombstones, you will notice that many of the people lying there are people who were in their 30s and 40s. When a country loses so many people in their prime years, then it risks creating a generational gap that will in turn create leadership vacuum in the future. HIV/AIDS needs to be fought relentlessly in every corner of our society and by every member. We need a healthy group of citizens who can take up the leadership positioning in various circles of our society.
Nepotism/Tribalism: Unfortunately, in Zambia, it’s who you know not what you know that counts. Tribalism continues to exist in the Zambian community and it is a big contribution to poverty in this country since its equation eliminates merit.
When capable people are marginalized and not given equal opportunities simply because of their ethnicity then we are not helping in any way to curb poverty in this country. It is natural that people will generally favor their own kind after all blood is thicker than water. However, if for once we look past that and put the interests of the Zambian society at heart, then we will be breaking down barriers we don’t need. The best people will become presidents, managers, town clerks, and members of parliament.
Illiteracy: This disease is equally a huge hindrance to development in this country. When the majority of the Zambians cannot read and write it is difficult to comprehend how we can alleviate poverty. Education is a major ingredient to national development and its importance cannot be over-emphasized. The government has done very little to make education mandatory in this country. Similarly, many Zambians lack the appetite to partake in this feast. Many give up too soon. Others have good reasons such as lack of funds, etc.
Whatever the case, we need to overcome and do our best to educate ourselves formally or informally. Literacy creates confidence. The confidence needed to open your own business, the confidence needed to encourage others to go to school too, the confidence needed to run for political office and the confidence needed to aim as high as you would want to go.
Nigerian Movies: I noticed one thing in North America that I need to mention. When I visited a white family, the television was rarely on. We would sit and talk, play games, or read books. But every time I visited a black family, the television was turned on and loud indeed at all times. For some reason, we blacks know where the ON button is on the remote and can never find the OFF. The syndrome is on in Zambia especially with the flood on Nigeria movies. These movies have created couch potatoes who sit around all day and watch movies instead of being more productive by going to the library or explore ways of generating income.