Reasons for perpetuated poverty in Zambia

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By Wesley Ngwenya

soweto market
soweto market

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.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Well written article and in addition, these problems in Zambia are so deep rooted live a computer virus which even controls the anti-virus which is supposed to clean it. After such a good, factual and sensible article, I will not be suprised to see someone still supporting the like of Sata and other old and ill educated politicians – its a cancer!

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  2. #2 No No my friend , you are not aware because if you were aware you would have done something about it. I hope you are not in govt, God help us. You can’t be seating in a house that is smelling and somebody walks in and tell your your house is smelling because your sewer is blocked, and if your response is am ware what next..then you need to be taken to Chainama for an examination. You need a deep understanding and acknowledgment of your problems, their context and interdependencies before you can even begin to solve them. And this is what Wesley is helping us here. Good article Wesley, Keep it up

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  3. #4, You are spot on my Bro, the “do nothings” like #2 are part of the problem in Zambia. No matter how much information they are given, they still dont get moved or change for the better. That was my point at #3!

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  4. Well tried, quite fair analysis. I could also add corrupt and undemocratic political system which starts from internal party politics that allows one person to lead the party without ensuring democratic elections/convention or representation to as far as a mal-functioning electral system that never allows a free, fair and corrupt free democratic election. I guess in here there is bad leadership and policies, iliteracy and poverty and whatever else you can squeeze in….

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  5. The reasons outlined above are more of symptoms to me. Let’s face the facts, the main reason why not only Zambia but the whole of Africa is poor is because WE WERE ROBBED!
    Infact we continue to be robbed. By now, every educated black person knows that there is a system designed to keep the Africa and Africans underdeveloped. Modern day (economic) slavery has it’s grip on us and unless we emancipate ourselves from western imperialism which manifests itself in form of capitalism and globalismin, we shall continue to carry the “poverty” tag as defined by the west.

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  6. Let me clarify my point @ #2.

    What am simply saying is we have heard this over and over again and indeed, we know the root causes. What next? Well, let’s talk of implementing solutions. How? by opening the floor for a healthy debate on how.

    Yes, I do agree with you Chipondo we need to do something about it. How? You just answered my question. Oh an I forgot to mention…..I am not in the government and of course yes, I am doing something about it .

    Have a pleasant week!

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  7. Yes the west are partly to blame for our problems but 70% of our problems are of our own making. For instance why can’t we grow enough food when under KK we always used to have surplus? The answer is simple, under KK we had systems in place. we had famers colleges where my father went to learn effective farming methods. we also had extension officers visit us at the maize fields to check how our crop was doing and gave advice. the raod network was good for delivery of inputs and selling of produce. the market was available through Namboard and farmers were paid on time. all these systems are now history. surely you can not blame the west for failing to grow enough food. our leaders are simply not pragmatic enough. they are more concerned with protecting there jobs. we cant even save money

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  8. I think Zambia was not ready for independence in 1964.The colonialists messed us up bla bla bla but we did not have the skills and experience to manage a country. Look at how beautiful Zambia was in in the 1960s 1970s early 1980s( from pictures) and look at Zambia today.I think the calibre of people KK educated were ready to lead and manage Zambia effectively but a lot opted to go abroad and those who stayed were subjected to bad policies in which they had to operate under.the brighter Zambians get the more they leave the country(self included).Zambia is indeed left with alot of mediocre leaders to run(down) the country.

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  9. I agree with you Nine Chali on that score, however, reasons or symptoms (call them what you like) those points are spot on. It is now upon us as a nation to figure out what we are going to do about it. Mind you, it requires collective efforts and not just a few individuals like Chibamba Kanyama!

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  10. When Zambians wake up, things will start unfolding positively. If you just sleep and when you wake up the only thing you do is talk, you will find yourself in the same circle each and every year. He came, saw and conquered, is the strategy.
    Know whats up and make policies that fit the present.

    Iwe Nine Chale look at the wardrobe of a Zambian compared to ours in diaspora! Most of the stuff/Clothes we buy hear in diaspora are hand made by children in the third world who can not even afford to go to school. This is a cycle that has to be broken. Labour is very cheap in the third world and the industrialized world in making huge profits using that labor. We can also use the same labor wisely (exclude children!) and make huge profits. I would continue but I do not want to create confusion.

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  11. Oh Boy. This is a big topic.

    Quality of leadership is cardinal in any society. Compare Obama and RB. Miles apart. Levy Mwanawasa and RB. Miles apart. KK and FTJ and LPM and RB. Miles apart.
    Secondly our political system does not favour the best minds. Its dog eats dog. How do you get the best brains to be president and ministers thru this system. We have enough able Zambians. May be we need think tanks, and the govt to be genuinely be willing to listen to the think tanks. If we can have selfless leaders, that will be a good start. We cannot always blame the West.

    We need a political system that can churn out desired results ie quality leadership and management in high offices.

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  12. Uk-Zed fimo fimo, hi. I think to blame the political system is a bit unfair. You see. poverty in its various forms is a serious factor here. We, the electorate are the masters of our own doom. baba, njala iyi, we cry about RBs bad leadership yet we the same people will be giving him a vote after being promised cheap fertiliser, mealie meal and a road. After the election, its back to square one!

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  13. Why is it that in Africa leaders cant resign even when they know they cant lead. Leaders should be able to inspire those that they are leading. You dont need to have money to inspire. It’s what u stand for. What have we done fo others without expecting any favours? We need to do something for the nation not when u want to aspire for office in the next few months.

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  14. 14. Ba Moze

    I know poverty is complex. Political Leadership is just one aspect. But it is one of the most powerful tools to sort out poverty because these leaders are can make decisions that make or break a nation eg economic policies, job creation, monetary & fiscal etc. On the other hand we the elctorate have responsibility not only to do the best we can to reduce poverty at home but also to elect leaders who can genuinely enhance our ability to do so. A lot of our electorate is not that well informed. Somethings are within our powers, even at national level, before we go out to face international forces such as obstacles to international trade. Access to foreign markets help reduce our domestic poverty. All these require quality leadership.

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  15. UK-ZED fimo fimo, what would it take for our electorate to be well informed? there are times i feel tichitila dala! For how long are we going to keep complaining and yet repeating the same mistakes? It boggles my mind to such an extent where i feel that what is required maybe (with due respect) is to have an entire generation of pre independence citizens to die before sanity is restored.

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  16. Ba Moze

    One way could be voter education. NGOs can help here. Not just educating people on the voting process but also on what to vote for. We would need NGOs who areimpartial and objective, the way teachers & lecturers teach. Subjecting political candidates to debates can help people see who’s got the goods. Access to impartial media can help too. Villagers are not as informed as urban dwellers. And some politicians exploit this gap.

    Poverty itself is a cause of further poverty, that’s why some people sale their vote for a bag of fertilizer. Yes the best is to start afresh, a whole generation. Wish it could be done. For now lets just help educate our families so they can have skills for jobs, and have some piece of land to grow food. Some can do business – whatever can reduce…

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  17. I agree with you on most of the points but let me just have my opinion also. 1. Politicians/Leaders: I remember at some point there was talk of having a minimum of grade twelve for MPs or degree for presdient, there was an uproar. While we can agree that education may not be everything to amke a good leader but the level of analysis differs once you have a sub A president when you needed to have a masters degree holder. Some leaders are currently seen as being practical when in fact they fail to exercise simple logic in many instances. The logic I am referring to can only be appreciated if one has been tested e.g. thru M110 basics such as induction principles or has at one time used terms like “hence the proof”.

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  18. Contd from 19. In other words, I am actually agreeing with #3 Engine BBloko’s point. Whatever we do, please let us not allow ba sub B to rule us. You can even note in the comments about the councillors in Choma who are believed to be incompetent. It goes for the MPs we have. How many of them spend quality time analysing or even thinking of Zambia 20years from now? How many have spent time in a library on on the internet researching on issues before they debate on them? I guess if they do, the majority just go there to read about Ka Tona and Ponyax because most of the time they are just jesting.

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  19. Spot on bro!!! I agree with you 100%. I would like to place emphasis on the last point (Nigerian movies and TV generally). TV has not only robbed families of time to think of productive ideas but also of the quality time needed to establish healthy relationships which are cardinal if our country is to succeed and face the challenges that we are facing these days, whether relational or economic!! Families need to realise that importance of spending time and sharing ideas! This is the back-bone of every healthy family. Apart from this we are headed towards disaster. Parents should not be too busy to parent their children by giving them over to TV to do the job for them.

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  20. Great listing of issues. I must add that we as Zambia need to take more interest in issue that do not necessarily have political angle. I attribute this to the lingering effects of the centrally planed society of the 2nd Republic when we were so dependent on Government. We look to Government for solutions, guidance, investment, when we the people have the ability to collectively advance our agendas. Government will follow. Forgive me but I believe in the power and ingenuity of private enterprise.

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  21. I also like you comment which pretty much refers to the misalignment of the interests of the ruling class and that of the ordinary people.

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  22. many zambians have the opportunity to study abroad, but people even when they get on that plane,they have already left home for G, this is a person with no notable responsibilities per say except for him/herself but we have no idea what it means to sacrifice for our countries future generations, no country ever got where it was without significant sacrifice, , yes it was We also seem to lack innovation, i heard someone with an MBA and business add degree say they can’t go home because they probably wont get a job there…MBA yapa ma pepala fye we hold paper education so high up we don’t even develop many analytical skills. Zedians esp those of us abroad just get off your high horse and come down to earth…it aint heaven yet..

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  23. I need a day off to read all that Wesley Ngwenya has said to day. Seems a good posting too.

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  24. The articles and the comments have left me happy. One because none of the twisted bloggers have typed yet. Two you are right on point about alcohol being retrogressive. I also hope the introduce DNA testing. To end my post other churches apart from the Catholics, Seventh day Adventists, UCZ should invest in education as well. As a Christian I know most of us Protestants just talk too much and provide no works. Thankyou all for sending Euros and dollars home for our families education.

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  25. Hi Ngwenya,
    I wish every Zambian would borrow your spectacles throgh which to wvie Zambian poverty. I agree with you wholely and congratulate you for the insight. Once agin we need more Wesly

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  26. I wish you where right but the reason is even simpler than you outline. Zambians just don’t know how not to be poor. Yes. Not being poor is a set of skill that we neither have or have been taught. All you’ve done above is listed the symptoms of poverty. From blaming politicians to watching too much TV… these are things done by poor people around the world… black or white.

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  27. I’m sorry but as a Black American I take great offense to the claim that Black families don’t know where the OFF button is on a television. Whereas white families are just the models of all that’s good and right in the world.

    First off, visiting one or two families does not make a trend, nor do your observations make scientific fact. I understand you are speaking about the sever poverty in your country, but please don’t try to drag another population you obviously know nothing about into your article. Especially when there is no research or evidence to back up your claim.

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  28. u rite my dear,we nid a God fearing leader,well qualified n well established not some who jst wokes up today and decides to say he will stand as president,attitude is wat drives us at times our leaders of today do not have a positive attitude.

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  29. spot on…even kids now wld rather sit and watch TV instead of running around or playing creative games…..imagine. love this article

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  33. I WISH TO THANK WESLEY NGWENYA FOR TAKING HIS TIME AND EFFORT TO RESEARCH ON THE VERY IMPORTANT SUBJECT OF POVERTY PARTICULARLY IN ZAMBIA.

    INDEED, WESLEY, THE ISSUES THAT YOU HAVE RAISED IN YOUR ARTICLE CALL FOR SERIOUS ATTENTION FROM BOTH THE ACADEMICIANS AND PRACTITIONERS IN OUR BELOVED COUNTRY, REGARDLESS OF THE FIELD OR INDUSTRY IN WHICH THEY OPERATE. POVERTY IS A DEEP ROOTED, CATACLYSMIC AND CATASTROPHIC PROBLEM THAT SHOULD NOT ONLY BE LEFT WITH THE GOVERNMENT AND NGOS TO ADDRESS BUT, EVERY ADULT IN OUR COUNTRY NEEDS TO BE RESPONSIBLE ENOUGH BY JOINING INTO THIS FIGHT.

    ZAMBIA IS NATURALLY ENDOWED WITH A LOT OF RESOURCES, THE LAND IS GOOD, WEATHER IS FINE, THEIR IS PEACE AND MARKET POTENTIAL. SO MANY FACTORS FAVOR US TO DEVELOP OUR NATION. LET US DO IT. LETS UNITE AND FIGHT…

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