By Dr Charles Ngoma
By the end of the week beginning 8 August 2021, Zambians will have voted either to continue with the same Captain or change. Zambians will be lost for choice amidst the cacophony of voices coming from 16 potential suitors, all out to woe the Zambian voter to give them a chance to move into the bedroom in Plot 1. You have got to hand it to them all for believing in themselves.
The 12 August 2021 Presidential election is a HISTORIC event. One of the candidates is the most experienced at winning elections and will be the only post multiparty democratic Zambian Presidential candidate to go into an election with two previous victories. Unless the constitution is changed, this may never happen again in Zambia. Another candidate is also making history as the only presidential candidate to go into an election after losing 5 times in a row. Hopefully, Zambians will never allow this to happen again if they can have true democracy in their political parties and make the party more important than a man.
I have borrowed the title of this post from the UPND Alliance’s ‘The Zambia we want’ but modified it to ‘The Zambia we NEED.’ Wants are not essential. One can do without them. Needs however are so essential that life and one’s very existence depends upon them. Whichever political party, creed, tribe or religion we belong to, we can all agree that Zambia is not where it should be. Even the ruling Patriotic Front die-hards know this and that is the reason they are campaigning for another mandate in office- ‘to finish what we started.’
This is by itself shows that they have not arrived. Where then are we going? I think we are looking for prosperity for all Zambians. We are looking for a country where no one goes hungry. We are looking for a country where every child has a good basic education and a good health. We are looking for a country where the life expectancy is long and fewer and fewer people die prematurely. We are looking for a country where there are no street children high on hydrocarbon fumes. We are looking for a land of work and joy in unity, a land of victors in the struggle for what is right, a land where we are all one Zambia and one Nation, proud and free. This is the Zambia we need, and I do not think that there is anyone who can disagree with this.
BUT, we do disagree, and we disagree on the means to get there. This is where democracy comes in. People must be free to chip in their viewpoints and tell how we can get to the promised land. We have given a chance to three political parties so far- UNIP, MMD and PF to take us there. We are not where we were in 1964.
In order to progress inexorably towards the Zambia we need, we must learn for history, and I mean the whole history of mankind in general and the history of Zambia in particular. Armed with this knowledge we must avoid the mistakes of the past and adopt what worked. We have a great cloud of witnesses to learn from. We do not need to re-invent the wheel. Those who vie for power to rule must be armed with answers to the questions before they seek office. It is futile to start learning on the job. They already know what the problems are and they should know how to fix them.
As I close, I am going to suggest the biggest problem in Zambia today and I will suggest the solution. The problem is poverty. The solution is ready access to money for all citizens.
To illustrate this, we need to go back to the primitive human being. What did he need? He needed SEED to sow. Once he had done that, everything else was not in his power. If it rained, well and good but if not, he starved. Replace that seed today with money, capital. Zambians are largely unbanked and while many have great business ideas, they have no access to seed money. It is access to money that will move people out of poverty. The richest man in Africa got a seed loan from his uncle. One of the richest men on earth borrowed money from his father. The Chinese are producing dozens of millionaires every month because they have access to money through low interest loans.
Loan sharks will never produce millionaires. Whichever government there will be after 12 August, think about this. Let Zambians access loans for mining, tourism, agriculture, plumbing, brick laying, electrical work, steel foundry, schools, hospitals etc and we will accelerate to the Zambia we need in the shortest possible time. Great innovations and inventions do not need going to school. Ideas need funding but many great ideas never see the light of the day because the thinkers, the innovators have no access to money. The government should get out of borrowing in the internal money market except under extraordinary circumstances. Poverty breeds corruption.
If one is poor, they cannot afford to maintain their car. They drive an unfit vehicle which is impounded by the traffic police. They cannot afford the fine, so they pay a bribe which is cheaper. The state is deprived of revenue, the police officer gets less pay, and the cycle repeats. If more Zambians run formal businesses, the tax base is widened, more are employed and there is more money in pockets.
The next government must open centres in every district where people can learn about how to write a business plan and to seek funding, budgeting, tax, and running a business. We have hundreds of Business Administration graduates who are unemployed who can be employed to do this. School curriculums must include investing in stocks and shares and cryptocurrencies.
Give seed to the sower and you will be well on the way to alleviate poverty.