Dear President Lungu,
Re: The Implementation of a New Development Model for Zambia – The Twenty Percent Generation Plan (TPG)
I am compelled to write to you openly and transparently to convey a burden that has been on my heart relating to the acute suffering that is being experienced by the majority of Zambians, particularly those at the lowest end of society. Unfortunately, it has been impossible to gain direct access to your office to discuss important matters of national development such as this. At the recent Labour Day awards you indicated that you regularly communicate with various opposition political parties. This is not true of NAREP. In spite of our various efforts to engage with your office, we have not been able to present our recommendations to you directly on ways that we can take our country forward on a truly developmental path that leaves no one behind. So we write to you now, openly. We do this not to curry favour or seek kudos – that has never been the NAREP way – but out of a burning desire to see the suffering of our people come to an end.
I believe that while there is (and has to be) a time for politicking, there must also be a time for nation-building. NAREP strongly believes that this is a time to put partisan politics aside and focus on harnessing the collective capabilities of all our people to deliver the goals of development that every peace-loving Zambian seeks.
As a member of the Opposition in Zambia, my goal is to see the liberation of every Zambian from the sense of dependency that has plagued our existence and rendered many, victims of a hierarchy that has not helped them to progress beyond the now familiar expectations of handouts in exchange for political support. I believe this is old politics. It has worked for a time to sustain power for those that have relied on it. It cannot and must not be the path that guides the politics of Africa’s future. Our goal must be to compete with ideas for the hearts of our people – those we would seek to lead.
For once, Zambia has a golden chance to break free of the dependency syndrome that has plagued our politics and to foster abundance and economic growth within each community that will be sustainable and free from political manipulation. For once, we have a chance to fulfill the lofty aspirations of the global development agenda as articulated most recently in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Nearly all the SDG’s will be captured by the initiative we are writing to you about, today. This also fits into the African Development Bank’s High 5’s, particularly the component dealing with improving the quality of life for all the people of Africa.
I believe, Mr. President, that we can achieve all this through what we are calling the Twenty Percent Generation Plan, or TPG. Briefly, TPG intends that through a proposed law to be enacted as part of the TPG initiative’s outputs, 20 per cent of all public procurement contracts will be reserved for women, youth and other vulnerable groups and administered through economic sector incubators that will ensure that the target supplier groups are formalised, trained, mentored and supported to raise their standards of competence to deliver to world class levels.
While this may sound similar to ongoing government initiatives on empowerment, the TPG concept is very different. Under TPG, a manageable portion of the considerable public sector contractual supply opportunity will be used to proactively and deliberately build the target groups’ skills in accordance with a curriculum and support framework that will be administered and monitored with the help of the private sector, civil society and public and private tertiary skills training institutes. To cite an example of how this would work, we can look at the case of Dzitandizeni, a skills centre that for years has trained ordinary Zambians in carpentry and sold furniture to the general public. TPG would work on developing a modified model of this but would anchor it on the regular supply to government not only of desks and furniture but also uniforms (police, army, air force, national service, ZRA, immigration etc.), foodstuffs, stationery, building materials and anything that the government departments and public institutions purchase throughout the year.
Contract allocation will be specifically tied to an economic cluster of suppliers from the target groups (i.e. welders, carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, stationery suppliers, marketeers and other food suppliers, tailors and seamstresses; service providers in the tourism, transport, education and training sectors etc.). It will also involve training, developing and contracting individuals with higher skills sets such as electronics, mechanical and electrical engineering, architecture, quantity surveying and others. All these groups will be incubated in ‘training silos’ or ‘training clusters’ that will be fully serviced with support systems from professional services firms and training institutions that will help manage, amongst other things: sourcing and procurement of raw materials; skills training; financial management, reporting and accountability; and compliance with global delivery standards for products and services.
Rather than work against existing initiatives such as the Citizen’s Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) and Youth Skills Training Centres, TPG will not only complement them but will attain, in a sustainable manner, the very goals these initiatives have failed to achieve over several years. If the system that TPG is proposing was administered in the road sector, for example, by now there would be many quality Zambian-owned road contractors and construction companies that would not sell contracts to foreign firms but would see through the contracts and deliver to the highest standards.
If properly implemented, TPG will bring economically excluded and disadvantaged groups into the mainstream economy and result in major employment creation; formalisation of the informal sector; reduced poverty; far greater wealth generation amongst all communities across Zambia’s social spectrum; reduction in the disparities between rural and urban dwellers; greater income equality opportunities; better service delivery in the nation (particularly but not only in the artisanal, construction, tourism and food supply sectors); reduced social delinquency; better and more inclusive national planning and development coordination; an expanded tax base; and significantly reduced corruption.
Mr. President, we believe that the following steps need to be taken to ensure the success of the TPG initiative:
(a) a review of the TPG plan in the light of the Seventh National Development Plan (SNDP) and the ongoing efforts towards empowerment already being undertaken;
(b) facilitation of direct engagement with existing governmental stakeholders that are primarily or exclusively engaged in empowerment initiatives such as CEEC; and
(c) co-ordination of Government Ministries and agencies that would have a role to play in such an initiative such as the Ministries of Youth Sports and Child Development, Gender, Commerce, Finance, Labour, Education, Higher Education, Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, Community Development, Tourism, the Zambia Public Procurement Authority and the SMART Zambia Institute.
We believe a national indaba should be convened to coordinate these efforts and ensure that we can deliver:
(a) a draft bill to put this initiative into law; and
(b) an implementation framework that would ensure that all stakeholders are engaged in the delivery of this programme and that there is no political interference in its implementation.
We believe that we are all stakeholders in the development of our nation and would urge you to actively and committedly consider this progressive initiative, which can be implemented immediately. If we as politicians choose to put Zambia first, above partisan affiliation, not only will we succeed in helping to break the poverty cycle but as a nation, we will thrive. With TPG, poverty will really be a choice and not an inevitability.
Mr. President, this needs your specific and public commitment. The Zambians facing severe hardships and those that know they deserve and can have a better life today need your specific endorsement of this cause. We know that there will be those who, out of a sense of fear and uncertainty about their own future or connected status, will oppose this plan. It will not be right for you to sit idly by while those within your support base who will no doubt feel threatened by such a plan insult and vilify our efforts to build a national consensus around an idea that will in the end benefit them too. You can exercise the leadership needed by guiding them instead to engage with us in a rational and non-threatening manner for the sake of our nation. After all, if this is a plan whose time has come, it will not be us they will be fighting – they may end up fighting God and we do not need to point out who the winner of that contest will be.
On a final note, Mr. President, notwithstanding our commitment to seeing a better Zambia, we are not above criticism. We want the transparency of a well-debated outcome – one that explores all the things that can go wrong with TPG. Where the plan needs improvement, we must all work towards ensuring that the intended goals are achieved in the spirit of cordial and humble dialogue that seeks to heal a nation that is in deep pain, whether those around you care to admit it or not.
Elias C. Chipimo
National Restoration Party (NAREP)