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Alba Iulia
Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Essays on Statecraft: Why Is Zambia Broke? Part 2

Columns Essays on Statecraft: Why Is Zambia Broke? Part 2

File:Pigs enjoying themselves on the flooded road that passes through Chibolia Compound in Lusaka 2013

Our politics have long been a domain of scoundrels. The most compelling personalities that lay hands on power are mostly clueless or merely louder. We major in the minors due to the lack of education. Even in a democracy, we cast our votes having considered nothing but the emotional appeal of non-issues that contribute nothing to our well-being or the well-being of the nation. In the elections after President Sata died, the votes were between a church elder as a suspected Mason (“The Satanist”), and the humble unchurched man before the elections (“The Drunkard”). Even in my few weeks muli bukatukumene in the Catholic Church as a preteen we knew that both drunkards and those in occult will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But in a non-thinking, low-information Zambia, the nation supposedly chose the lesser of two evils. But some, if not most, people I know are already in regret mode. As we continue the discourse of understanding why Zambia is broke, the problem to be addressed in this article is the impact of low information or lack of proper education as an explanatory factor for the nation’s current economic conditions.

Simply, we are a low-information society, that promotes low-information people, to run the country on low information. For instance, this past week the nation was treated to a new exposé: President Lungu is not a Zambian and is a felon of identity theft. Seriously? How does such discourse lead to the improvement in the conditions of life for our poor majority? In asking this, the goal is not to excuse the President and his disciples of their duty to defend the inconsistencies in the President’s official background that they have sold to the public. You cannot start recounting a person’s background only from high school or secondary school as we called it in those days, and either be silent on or hide their prior years. But whether or not President Lungu is an “indigenous” Zambian is, I think, immaterial at this point. We must make a different choice to frame our politics on the substance on which the current administration offers NOTHING! The substance, in this case, is finding solutions to the nation’s most important problems.

Zambia is a nation where the GDP per individual is $4,000 and the average family size is seven (7) people, therefore the average income per family in Zambia is about $28,000 per year. But our people are merely scraping around. Sixty percent (60%) of the families in Zambia live on less than $365 a year. That means, in comparison to average earnings per year, almost two-thirds of Zambian families are only accessing 1.3% of what is due to them. The question we must address is where is the 98.7% going? How can we move our poor majority into a position where they can access more of the $27,635 per year per family? We must seriously wise up and frame our politics around this devastating problem. In this article, I examine low-information decision making by highlighting the purpose of education, the role of academic research, and the deficits therein.

Purpose of Education

Our forefathers were certainly wiser than our later leaders in identifying the correct role of education. At the founding of the Republic of Zambia on October 24th, 1964, we are told that the nation of nearly 3.5 million people had less than 100 people who held a bachelor’s degree. Kenneth David Buchizya Kaunda, the founding father of our nation, and his generation of our enlightened forefathers, determined that to aspire towards nationhood we needed multiple generations of educated Zambians with a sophisticated understanding of modern life in the 20th century. They wanted to give Zambian citizens and their children access to a better life where no child, whether in Chadiza, Choma, Chinsali or Chizela, was left behind. The free education system from grade one to a first degree was instituted. Citizens were later empowered to aspire for positions and upward mobility in their own land. There was clear policy and purpose in the role of education during the 27 years rule of KK.

Unfortunately, from the dawn of the third republic to this very day, subsequent administrations have not prioritized the role or purpose of education in Zambia in the same way, save to donate books, build new schools, fight with unions over teacher salaries, and open a few more colleges offering some of the same courses as pre-existing ones with photocopied curriculums. KK and his team needed a workforce for the post-independence economy of Zambia and they made investments across the country to educate our fathers and in part some of us for free. Chiluba, Mwanawasa, Banda, Sata and now Lungu have not defined the purpose of education and access thereto for the workforce of the 21st Century Zambia. The result is that there are serious mismatches in the quality of education, the number of graduates and employment opportunities in the country.

For example, in the 15-20 years leading up to the year 2006, Zambia graduated accountants at more than twice the number of accountancy jobs available in the country. Inevitably the nation bled this critical talent into the diaspora, mostly South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, UK and Australia. This pattern was also common among Zambian trained teachers and nurses. A significant pool of the best talent in Zambia now lives and works abroad. But the real consequence of subsequent administrations not resolving the purpose of education is a majority low-information population and deficits in academic research to inform public policy.

The Role of Academic Research

Most, if not all, of the current education in Zambia since the founding of the Republic is devoid of research and only ends at “scholarship”. We are an under-researched society, that places no value on research and crafts public policy without the appropriate input of rigorous homegrown research. We are comfortable with the World Bank doing research for us and when they tell us what we don’t like, we simply assert sovereignty to justify our lack of critical knowledge. Perhaps, it’s imperative here to distinguish “scholarship” from “research” and underscore why this is connected to understanding why Zambia is broke. According to Dictionary.com, “scholarship” is defined as “learning; knowledge acquired by study”, whereas research is defined as “diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications.” Most of the education in Zambia, since the founding of the Republic, has been invested in scholarship, and almost nothing in conducting research, even though a few in the process have written research papers. This includes all of us, with our forebears, who studied from primary school up to master’s degrees at academic institutions in Zambia.

In academia, papers written at bachelors and master’s degree level are scholarly works. In most of these, students study a topic and then they make a summary of what they found. They do not provide new knowledge nor undertake original inquiry. While this type of activity is necessary, it is only a part of the academic research process. Academic research that changes the fortunes of a country demands careful methodologies of investigation that are used to unearth previously unknown information. It goes beyond recycling, memorizing and reproducing the findings of others. It involves coming up with a research design, implementing it to collect novel data, analyzing the data, and presenting results to fellow researchers for recommendation to inform public policy. This is what my friends and I on both sides of the aisle every Saturday on Zambia Blog Talk Radio are talking about when are advocating for research-based solutions to the problems of the Republic.

The value of research has been well articulated by the wise in the largest and most enduring economy in the history of mankind. The Regents of the University of Michigan in the United States of America posited that:

“University research generates new knowledge and leads to new products and processes that improve the well-being of all citizens. Research offers the promise that problems facing society today may someday be resolved.

In business, research serves a variety of roles, including the following:

· It assists in improving the quality of business, managerial practices and leadership at all levels.

· It enhances the education of undergraduate students and helps retain underrepresented students.

· It plays an integral role in the education and training of graduate students, our nation’s future managers, and CEOs.”

This is the role and value of research in the countries we are trying to be like, using academic brilliance to resolve the problems of the country. For my former friends in the pastorate, I would also like to insist that this is also the biblical way of developing a country, by consulting experts and those with exceptional ability in their field. When the young Israelites, the brightest were taken captive to Babylon around 500 BC, they were put in academic institutions to study to the highest level to make them useful in resolving national problems when called upon. One pagan observer called this learned brilliance, an excellent spirit:

“Because an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams and solving of riddles, and explaining of problems, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.” [Daniel 5:12 KJ2000B]


In summary, Zambia is broke today because we live on low information in a world where those with more information and the tools to access it have inherited the earth. Our current education strategy is outdated and based on merely producing graduates with an apprentice degree or lower in order to be employable in an economy that has not been creating jobs at the same level as graduation rates for the last 30 years. Zambia is also broke because, whereas we are keen to copy developed nations in opulence and infrastructure, we want to take a shortcut by building such assets on borrowed money without creating conditions within the economy for our people to access a credible education, economic resources, and other tools for upward mobility at personal, and firm levels.

Lest we are accused of being disparaging without offering solutions, we are confident that there are potential solutions to this problem beyond overnight prayer meetings or national prayer days. Within statecraft, funding for academic research on the recurrent problems of Zambia should be made available as a matter of priority. Interdisciplinatinary university research departments must be constituted or promoted, if already available. They should be appropriately staffed and granted direct access to the Central Statistics Office and its infrastructure under the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. The output of these institutions should be used to inform public policy and decision making. This is where the President and the cabinet should be collecting wisdom, not from drinking buddies and party cadres.

For example, this past rainy season, we had a cholera outbreak in the most important city in the country. A government of wise people should not be caught unawares every year. We have had this problem year in, year out. Instead of firefighting and always treating this as an emergency every year, we can use academic research in health sciences at our local universities to help us isolate the recurrent factors that impact on hygiene. Where prevention is better than cure, investment must be made ahead of time to consign this problem to history. Such specific investment is a more constructive use of public resources than borrowing money to go and build a gigantic hospital in Chifubu and call it “massive development”. That’s idiosyncratic. Which study indicated Chifubu is in acute need of such a hospital? Are the existing hospitals in Ndola, both private and public, well-funded and operating at maximum capacity? Which experts conducted this research, and what are the findings? If there are no answers to these questions, yet onerous public debt is contracted for such projects, then we are within our rights as citizens to begin taking a different direction and making choices that will save the Republic from this bankruptcy of governing ideas.

Thank you for taking your precious time to read. Please drop a comment so I can also learn from your feedback. In the next article I address the crisis of worldview as an explanatory factor in the financial position of Zambian families.

By Jones Kasonso

The author is a Zambian, An Author, A Consultant and Accounting Professor in Washington DC and holds Ph.D., CPA, CGMA, MBA, BSc., NATech qualifications.

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  1. This is very wordy, so I’ll keep it short.

    1. The commanding heights of production are owned by the international elites.

    Look at a map of copper producers today, and you will not find Zambia among them. Have the mines moved? No, the corporations that mine Zambian copper are transnational, if they’re not Canadian, Australian, Indian, etc.

    2. This system creates a political class of bagholders

    Whoever will take the bribe gets to stay in power. Anyone going against the IMF/WB/Anglo/De Beers/Glencore/etc. is demonized in the corporate owned press.

    Neoliberalism never developed a country, or made an economy better. So you get bagholders, who sell identity politics instead economic solutions. Worldwide.

    • Zambians cannot run a Kantemba and the confused journalist want to blame foreigners for everything.
      Who closed The Post?
      Who closed Zambia Airways?
      Who sold Mines?
      Who sold Zanaco?
      Who is about to sell ZISC?
      Who sold conscience?
      Who is corrupt?
      Who is lazy?
      Who votes for whom?

    • Very shallow article. It fails to hit the nail on the head. Zambia is broke because of the following simple reason:

      PF00Lish government’S appetite for corruption by stealing through reckless BORROWING, LOANS. Levy Mwanawasa left $3Billion in reserves, zero debt, a bugdet surplus and a corrupt-free government.

      The author should have researched on how we went from this to PF bankrupt govt whose last hope is IMF loan.

    • $3bn reserves and 1 UTH for 3m Lusakans giving birth on dirty floors. A corrupt free government that housed a lands ministry that was a conduit for swindling citizens out of land, a super corrupt ZP.

  2. Apart from putting your Qualifications please add that your are a UPND cadre that your article will make more sense

  3. A few who were lucky to go to universities and get free education during KK’s time are the ones who are letdowns.
    They are corrupt, lazy, exploitative and cruel.

    Zambia needs a man risen from Matero, Garden, Chipata or any other shanty compound to send all these thieving politicians to live in compounds for life, their all wealth, luxuries and families taken away from them.

  4. Politics.we not right or left.Stock market boosted zambia would be worth trillions.We as Africa are at the mercy of the west.We dont our control resources.Our wealth is determined in London. Why dont we?

  5. Why have you removed my comment I said it the author forgot to put his partisan credentials the guy is UPND nothing to offer but as usual worship there messiah HH who has no heart for the common Zambians but auction our beloved country to his sponsors.we say no to HH the man wants just to get to state house that’s why he so desperate even now parading Kambwili as a saint .

  6. The Author just wanted to parade his nameless misqualifications – that was Aweful reading! This is what has destroyed Zambia – the so called Educated! Sadly we have equated Education to Wisdom and anyone who can speak English is regarded as intelligent. English is a Language and by no means a measure of intelligence! Look at MOH and how your doctors steal from patients! Look at your accountants who steal through manipulation of numbers – they steal and somehow still balance their books. Look at Procurement. If you find a procurement professional who has never lined up for kick backs, you will be lucky! The Educated Zambians are the ones who have destroyed Zambia either by directly stealing or by keeping quiet when things are going wrong. Some only speak out when it is too late!

  7. This author is clueless his $28,000 GDP figures are “cooked” , our real average income is about $1260 per year. Your economics = total hogwash cuz you can’t even make sense of simple math.

    • Do not bring cheap shots to a serious discussion. $4000 of the GDP per capita is the equivalent potential potential income for each individual. In a family of 7 that potential translates to $28,000. Your real income is an estimated average check based on only those in gainful employment. Thats really half school and uneducated observation. Clearly hogwash is your mouth unbrashed and your half asleep brain.

    • Desert Fox but Mzambia wa Zamani is right though.Why use both nominal and PPP in same sentence as if they one and the same? That’s confusing.

    • Enka…in constructive debate you can’t split hairs to make a point. You can’t even read half the sentence and get excited to disprove or discredit another scholar’s work assuming you both are. Mzambia wa Zamani disputes that GDP is $4000 per individual. Read part 1 and go to the World Bank, CIA, and IMF to disprove that number (good luck if you can). Where GDP is taken as the potential income for every person then for the family of 7 that potential income is correctly $28000. Can any sane person dispute that? I think Dr. Kasonso’s point is accurate. He didn’t discuss the average real income of formally employed families as Mzambia wa Zammani (fake corward name) thats a distraction.

  8. If I took a photo in the US where Katrina or a hurricane had devastated a region and I write like you to justify my arguments, it will not alter the truth about America as a developed country!

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