By Dr. Alexious Mulemba Business Transformation Executive in the Middle East
There is a saying that goes” WHAT YOU FEEL IS WHAT YOU ATTRACT. “WHAT YOU IMAGINE IS WHAT YOU CREATE” (Gautama Buddha). So if we feel we cannot afford free education in public schools, then we will always fail as a Country.
A negative mind of thinking it’s not possible to have free education is what holds us behind. The lack of believing in ourselves as Zambians is a serious cancer that we have. When the President says Free Education in Public Schools, is an opportunity for us all to start thinking on how we can contribute to transform our Country, than calling each other names. We Zambians in most times think Foreign is better and a Foreigner can suggest brilliant ideas that will change our lives. When it comes to ideas by a fellow Zambian, we always pull it down. Let us learn to “Contribute-Complement and Collaborate”, than always “Criticizing-Complaining and Comparing”.
The critics of the President that he is a liar and should give free education at day one of his tenure, are not serious or do not understand how processes work. They are the true letdowns of our country with most of them having held public office and failed us, hence being voted out. Yes, Zambia can afford to offer free education from Grade 1to 12 in our public schools, which covers most of the poor and vulnerable children. What we need as citizens and the government, is a mindset change that will drive better accountability and resource utilization. We should also learn to love one another and believe in ourselves, that it is Possible, We can Offer Free Education.
If I say Gulf countries do offer free education for their citizens in public schools, most of us will jump and say YES” Because they have Oil. Sure they have Oil, but we also have Copper which is found in every electronic component including cars and other machinery. SO WHY SHOULD ZAMBIA BE POOR AND NOT AFFORD FREE EDUCATION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS? Copper is just one of the Minerals that Zambian has. What about other products and services like Tourism? We are a Rich Country disadvantaged with previous bad leadership that has failed to diversify and manage our resources.
The difference with our Arab friends is “Visionary Leadership”, which we now seem to have. The other strength our Arab brother have is their Resources or Asset Management strategy. They protect their market and what they have. That’s the opposite of we Zambians, accustomed to leaders that are careless, corrupt, with individual greed that puts a blind eye on resource control and monitoring hence, the foreign organizations including the mines benefiting Billions from Zambia as citizens get poorer and poorer. Most of our leaders, past and some in government know what is wrong but have not bothered to fix the issues because they and their families are benefiting at the expense of all Zambians. Citing the President “Next Time Know Who You Vote For” (Hakainde Hichilema).
Another examples from our Arab brothers and sisters. They have invited and attracted foreign Gas and Oil giant to invest in the Arabian Gulf Countries. All big oil companies are represented in form of Joint Ventures or Private Public Partnership (PPP). But, they are never allowed to sell Gas or Oil products out of the Gulf. The partners produce only and then sell to the Government, who then using their local Government-Owned companies like; The Qatar Energy of Qatar, Aramco of Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) of UAE, to mention a few, are the ones mandated to sell outside on behalf of their governments. That alone brings better control, from what is produced, to cash inflow back into these countries.
Zambia can transform, if we revise some of the mining and other foreign investment agreements, to enable us control the foreign companies on what they export, specifically copper and other minerals, for a better cash injection back into our country. The current free hand given to these mines and other foreign companies has a negative impact to our economic growth. It also allows foreign companies to parallel tax evasion, creating a foregone cash inflow back into Zambia. Some transmit the revenue from our resources to their native countries instead of Zambia.
As a Nation, we also have a lot of loopholes in our government operations, despite investing heavily in smart and expensive IT Systems like SAP and Oracle, by Smart Zambia under the Ministry of Finance.
The return on Investment on such initiatives benefits individuals than the citizens because the electronic online automated platforms, e-government services are nonexistent. Services like passports, driving licenses, vehicle registrations, other government services and even Toll gates, should be digitized with The Postal Services getting transformed to play a role that can make it profitable again.
The lack of innovation and diversifying business mindset makes one wonder if truly executives running these strategic institutions qualify to run them. We need a different leadership with a mindset that will make decisions and contribute to help the government close these loopholes. Just that will help us collect more money so that we can have excess revenue to offer free education in public schools.
Big Organizations can also help through their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) to help fund some of the free education initiatives. Maybe some Tax relief to companies to genuinely help, maybe a motivator for many to do the same. The likes of ZCCM, Colgate Palmolive and others did the same in Uncle Kaunda Era.
All we need is right people with a positive mindset, who believe that free education is attainable, to help the President and his government, to come up with a proper strategies that can deliver the free education, which is POSSIBLE.
God Bless us all as we innovate and contribute, to helping the President Transform our Beautiful Country.