Wednesday, July 24, 2024

My answer to the German Ambassador is that resources without knowledge and technology do not create wealth




By Edward Chisanga

Lusaka Times of April 2, 2022 quoted Germany Ambassador, Anne Wagner–Mitchell as saying, “Zambia has enough resources to realize its development agenda.”

My niece, Gemanini was quick to respond to the comments.

She quipped, “There’re two parts in the Ambassador’s statement. The first which I agree with is that Zambia has enough resources. The second, ‘To realize its development agenda’ is what I’m at variance with. I would not combine the two parts. Abundant resources on their own mean nothing as we have witnessed for many years about Zambia and other African countries like DRC. They must be converted into wealth. Among others, two factors are responsible. One is human capital with enough quality to convert sleeping resources into wealth creation, poverty reduction, good health, abundant food for each Zambian family and a good smile on each face. There’s an old story: Singapore had no natural resources like Zambia. But its quality human capital has created massive wealth that has almost eliminated poverty and integrated the country in global manufacturing and ICT and networks.”

What else would you tell the German Ambassador?

It is no accident that Singapore’s manufacturing sector, accounting for about 25% of GDP is the dominant industry. The countries relies on exports of products such as electronics, chemicals, biomedical sciences, logistics and transport engineering. Singapore is also specialized in financial services whose industry has only known growing due to pro-business and political characteristics of the country. Experts say, ‘Singapore’s’ financial services market place facilitates the transfer of knowledge, processes, technology and skills between global, regional and domestic markets. All this seems to have been based on planning from many years ago.”

I interrupted and asked her, “What do you mean, based on planning?”

Singapore’s educational system provides for students to learn about things that they will end up doing in future when they grow up. I read a text from Government that explained the main characteristics of education. One was that all the school experiences ‘help to cultivate in our students qualities such as creativity, collaboration, compassion – life skills that are essential in a rapidly changing world. Through nurturing the joy of learning and encouraging entrepreneurial dare, our students can develop the intrinsic motivation to explore and discover their interests as well as pursue their passions. We also want to inculcate in them values such as respect, responsibility, resilience, integrity, care and harmony, all of which are important for a cohesive, multi-racial and multi-cultural society.”

Then I asked, “So, one can argue that their school system teaches students skills like manufacturing, innovation and how to make products?”

Absolutely. Singapore includes in their students’ schooling system practical things like learning about industry and other entrepreneurial sectors. Children learn from their parents and take over business when they grow.”

What about Zambia?“ I asked.

Meanwhile, Zambia, our country with unbridled resources that we gasconade about keeps sliding back in development. Our school system is questionable. It doesn’t focus on skills development and innovation for jobs. It is no wonder many would like it changed“

Is there anything else you would tell the Ambassador?” I asked her.

I would tell her that resources too need technology to transform them from raw to processed items for exports. Singapore is a technology country. It is that technology that has largely helped it to bring structural change and transformation leading to integration in the global economy.”

Then, I asked her, “Why does all this matter to the German Ambassador?”

She retorted, “Let me begin by stating that Zambia has an Embassy in Germany aimed at, among other things, promoting trade and investment. But do you know that in 2020, according to Unctadstat data shown in Table 1 below, Zambia’s total exports were only US$50million and imports only US$52 million while Germany’s exports were only US$47 million and imports US$ 80 million? Different sources of statistics provide variations in trade numbers but they are not far from each other.”

What do other sources say?” I asked.

Well, for example, OEC source says Zambia’s exports were US$78.5 million while Germany’s exports to US$60.9 million. Zambia Development Agency, then acting Manager for Investment Promotion, Samson Simwanda was quoted as saying in 2021 that goods worth over US$, 9,000 were in the last six years exported to Germany, signifying the need to enhance collaboration between Zambia and the EU. He observed the need to increase exports to Germany. During a German-Zambia Business Webinar, he called on German investors to explore the vast investment opportunities in Zambia.’ But I don’t know if Germans have since responded. What I heard from the Ambassador was, ‘Germany is supporting government through implementing various projects in the fields of water and sanitation, good governance as well as food and nutrition.’ I don’t know if that is what Mr. Simwanda was asking Germany to invest in.”

Table 1: Trade in all products between Zambia and Germany in US millions


Germany from Zambia Imports


Germany to Zambia Exports


Zambia from Germany Imports


Zambia to Germany Exports


Source: Unctadstat

So, what is your main point that Zambians should listen to as you advise Germans and their partnership with us?” I would be excited if the Ambassador highlighted what Germans are doing to help us integrate our economy in the global economy. Global integration creates wealth through exports and investment. If we are integrated, we will be able to do on our own what Germans are helping us to do, like on water and sanitation, good governance and food and nutrition. Our German partners should be looking at the bigger picture that has multiplier effects. The German Ambassador is certainly aware of the Chinese saying, ‘. Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a day. Teach a Man to Fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’ Developing human capital is our own internal matter. We must do better to do this. In terms of technology, the Ambassador will do well to advise us on what attracts foreign direct investment in manufacturing from Germans to Zambians. She should feel free to tell us why we have not been able to convince Germans to come to Zambia and share with us their extraordinary manufacturing skills and how we must cajole them. Like the USA, China and others, Germany is the hub of manufacturing.”

But what are we Zambians asking Germans to do to help us move towards economic structural change? Our Eastern Province Deputy Permanent Secretary thanked the Ambassador for her country’s support to the province adding that issues of nutrition are critical to the province. He said, ‘I’m glad that you are tackling issues of nutrition.’ Was he right?”

He was right but this is a short- or medium-term solution. He should be asking from an advanced country like Germany support that would provide multiplier effects to development. He or she should be asking for capacity building, technology transfer, capacity building for human skills development to enable us to handle our own problems like nutrition. Zambians wish to know what Zambia-German projects are available for enhancing human capital development and technology transfer to our country from Germany to enable us integrate in global manufacturing and networks. Of course much of this must come from Zambians themselves. But considering global inter-dependence, it is not wishful thinking that Germany can support us to learn manufacturing and production processes. That too is the only way Zambia’s exports to Germany will improve both quantitatively and qualitatively.”

Thanks niece Germanini. I think your insights will be observed and studied fully by our new Government and provides them with ideas of what manufacturing projects they can ask Germany to help us with. Surely, the Ambassador is challenged to rethink Germany’s development aid to Zambia, to include learning manufacturing processes. As usual, I will knock on your door again in future.”

Thanks uncle. Anytime.”



  1. You can theorise all you want………..

    Zambias development ain’t going nowhere , but in circles………..

    Untill you ditch the western style education system for an Asian or Chinese one in particular which is more related to old traditional African system of community bonding…………..

    50 years from now you will still be writing the same things about……….

    could have …………

  2. Zambia will maintain its beleaguered status for generations to come, as long as we continue to seek for what the world can do for us and not what we can do for ourselves. Germans won’t replicate in Zambia what they have done for themselves. This has more to do with attitude and not education. KK invested so much in education but what has that cadre of graduates done for Zambia? They’re the chaps that presided over the annihilation of Zambia’s thriving industrial base. Now today we lament that we don’t have a manufacturing industry, whose fault is it? The moment we’ll begin to look into ourselves for solutions is the time Zambia’s trajectory will have a positive outlook. What the Ambassador meant was that we shouldn’t continue to beg from them because we can do it for yourselves

  3. Knowledge and technology is not an abstract. We have these. Problem is actualization. It’s not a secret that instead of harnessing them here, we have let them fly overseas Germany included. Our people with knowledge have opted to (Spaka included), to ply their skills in foreign countries because these countries appreciate them.

  4. Lack of patriotism and heavy reliance and worshipping of whlte people under upnd is what is killing our country. Pf was patriotic

  5. Many Zambians have certificates, deploma, degrees, masters, PhDs and some are professors. Which knowledge do we lack? We are too lazy to be creative. Technology, is it wrong to copy or appreciate the existing technology and put it to good use? The meat is in our mouth and we are saying the meat is not meant for our teeth. We will be pounding sand if we fail to use our knowledge and the carrent technology. Help the country by applying yourselves. Next, you will lecture, I need technology to be a sniper.

  6. #4  Deja Vu April
    4, 2022 At 8:03 am

    Africans are the easiest people to brain wash into accepting other people’s religions and ways of life in preference to their traditions…………

    It is no a coincidence that the African continent lags the rest of the world in development………..

    Until we promote our african ways , we will remain the same………….

    The Chinese primary education system most resembles African ways of fostering extended family and close community relations………..

    The Chinese copied some education from the west , but the building fabric of Chinese society is taught at primary. We have lost that.

    Ethics and morals , labour and patronisim are taught at primary in China.

    That is what zambia needs.

  7. 1. The author with his made-up niece, is a typical Zambian with all sorts of excuses.

    Imagination is more powerful than Knowledge. It’s not the knowledge & technology that is missing. Its lack of being imaginative and creative and take actions Zambia is full people with Diplomas. Degrees and PHD’s in business studies and yet they cannot even run a market-shop-stand on the market. They cannot write a Business Pan and apply for investment loan from a Bank. They just talk. Banks in Zambia are desperately waiting for people with great investment ideas.

  8. 2. The German ambassador is saying – you have so many resources abundantly, yet you fail to use your *Minds, *Brains, *Intellects to create wealth. And basically, you are VERY LAZY, but we cannot tell you this to your faces because you will get offended.

    I am not a big fun of Fred Mmembe, but I respect his work-ethics and hard-work mindset. He grew up poor and ended up owning a powerful Media Company, Courier Company & an Airline. But greed got to his head. Fred did it because he actualised his thoughts and dreams. If he can do, anyone can do it.

  9. @ Independent Observer.

    Thank you stating the truth and the whole truth…..
    I just love your mindset towards personal development and the whole idea of
    what people or nations should focus on to develop and become a better society……

  10. There is a very simple explanation to this. You go to your neighbour begging for bread and then you neighbour tells you that you have enough land, water resources, solar energy coal. You have the ability to make your own. Then you still want to say I do not have the knowledge to make bread. How foolish.

  11. SPAKA @
    You can have ethics, morals and patriotism – if you don’t become a creative society like @ INDEPENDENT ONSERVER has beautifully stated, then you will still remain poor. China had taught ethics, morals and patriotism for centuries, but they still remained very poor and backward. It was until they opened their eyes and started adopting western ideas that’s when they become a super economic. I am not sure what you are talking about. You appear to have tangled your points of views.

  12. The real enemy of Zambia is haphazardness, expedience, inconsistence and lack of seriousness. The country has abundant resources and a friendly and peaceful people, critical ingredients for development. Deal with the first one and the country will thrive.

  13. We tried manufacturing in Zambia. The Copperbelt, Ndola, was king of that industry.
    We were making all sorts of products, especially in Ndola: tires (Dunlop); paper (Zambezi Paper); oil (Refined Oil Products, ROP); sugar (Sugar Refinery); mattress (Vitafoam); Denim/jeans, syits and army uniforms (Serioes, Luanshya). The list is long of these firms that were drowned by politicians and businessmen of early ’90s.
    Kapiri Glass Products, privatised in 1995 to a german firm (Floco) was liquidated less than two years later. We have failed ourselves, German failed us too. We therefore need a fresh start devoid of blame game.
    Our industry needs a fresh start (and it will be a UPND milestone) where we will be making not just copper products, but needles, ear buds, razor blades and tooth picks…

  14. The writer of this article is typical is a very old generation of Zambians, The ones that were Educated for free by KK and they either stayed back in the UK or Japan to work there on refugee permits instd of coming back to Zambia to discover there own small kantemba & grow it into a multinational company-Which was the primary reason KK sent them there. He also wanted them to come back & run state owned institutions but they failed him terribly as they only came back very late after most of them were deported and were shy to announce there arrivals to KK for fear of being jailed. But came back with nothing but there colored children. Some of them when they were asked why they didnt return in time with their higher Degrees,most of them were like “I could have” “if only the government…

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