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The potential that never was!

Development is defined as the act or process of growing, progressing or developing; and potential as the latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.

Zambia, for a very long time, has been said to be having this potential to develop or transform into a developed country. The potential has been inherent since the country gained independence. At some point, the potential was enhanced with the good education policies that were put in place to educate its population. Some of the attributes or characteristics of economic development are growing gross domestic product (GDP), birth and death rates, human development index (HDI), low infant mortality rates, high literacy rate, longer life expectancy and low unemployment rate amongst many others. This comes about with economic growth which trickles down to economic development. The economic development comes about through the prudent and efficient use of resources through factors of production. At the centre of all these factors is the human factor because it is people who decides what level and resources to commit in order to achieve certain outputs. I would not want to bore you with my limited understanding of economics in this article, but I want to zero in on GDP, HDI and some semantics of diversification of the economy as has been the case with Zambia.

Zambia’s literacy rates stands at fifty five percent; this means that 7.8 million people are illiterate. On the other hand, Zimbabwe has the highest literacy levels in Africa with about 90% of adults being literate. Rwanda, a country that underwent very difficult times twenty years ago has a literacy rates of seventy percent. Rwanda’s main industries are agricultural based which contribute 37% to GDP; soap, furniture, shoes, textiles and cement which contributes 7% to the GDP while coffee and tea contributes about 50%. The country earns $93 million from the mining industry, mainly comprising cassiterite, wolframite, sapphires, gold and coltan. On the other hand Zambia exports about $3billion of which copper and cobalt accounts for 64%, while we import goods worth $6.9 billion. The major industries are mining and construction contributing 15% to GDP. The mineral exports are about $3billion of which only eight percent of this goes to the government coffers as total tax revenue. Agriculture contributes about 19.8% to GDP while services is at 46.8% and industry at 33.8%. Considering all factors, we generate more revenue than Rwanda and that country allocates an average of 5% to education and compared to Zambia’s 15%. Yet the question that we might ask is: why is Rwanda’s public education system considered to be the best currently on the continent? I know you might want to bring in the issue of the population; that country’s population is about 12million people as opposed to our 17million. Rwanda’s GDP is $9billion, $26billion for Zambia and $18billion for Zimbabwe. The HDI for the three countries is 0.52, 0.59 and 0.54 respectively. You will realise that we have the potential in many areas but our industries still remain the least developed. As earlier said, notwithstanding our higher allocation to the education sector, we are not utilising the money well; there are so many leakages in the system as revealed for a long time by the Auditor General’s annual report. The problem with ourselves is that we do not act to remedy those unfortunate findings annually. I am so worried about our dwindled education system because without education, we can dance and sing that we are doing fine when in actual fact, we are stagnant or going down as can be seen by the low literacy levels as compared to the other two countries. We know that we are living in the last days as indicated in the second book of Timothy 3:1 where he said that the last days will be critical, hard to deal with. This is contended by 2 Peter 3:3 who said that in the last days, ridiculers will come with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires. Our colleagues as well in Rwanda are living in the last days but they are doing pretty fine than us who even declared a country to be a Christian nation and have a day dedicated for prayer. I believe that we can do much better if we can have that heart of service to human kind as the bible commands and remove that greediness in us. We need to serious look at our education system and seal all those leakages in the resources that are allocated to that ministry.

Lastly, as I have written before on this platform, there’s need to diversify the agriculture sector and integrate manufacturing activities in the sector. I will repeat myself like a skipping record. This country’s land mass is 752,600km2 while Zimbabwe is 390,800km2 and Rwanda at a partly 26,300km2. If you consider the terrain of the other two countries; they are mostly hilly with less land to practice field crop production like wheat and other crops. They have looked at what crops can be grown competitively with the kind of terrains they have. I will also want to add Malawi and Kenya to the list at this point. These countries are amongst the highest producers of tea in the world. For instance, Kenya is the largest producer after China and India. If we consider the areas where the tea is produced, we will find that these are hilly and mountainous areas like those of Luangwa, Nyimba and parts of Northern provinces. They did their homework and because of the limited land masses, they had to effectively utilise the available resource while we let our people in Nyimba and Luangwa to be charcoal burners and poaching. We used to produce tea in Kawambwa and we don’t know how many times that tea estate has changed hands, whilst countries like Malawi have developed a 2020 tea revitalisation program to try and increase production. Zimbabwe, South Africa and Malawi have gone a step further to develop and implement a macadamia strategy because they have realised that the price of that commodity is more than copper. Yet, we still are singing about increasing copper production when we are failing to effectively collect taxes in that sector. We are aware that currently, it is cobalt which is fetching better money in mining but we don’t even talk about it just because a few of us are benefiting from the kickbacks we are getting. For me, this potential that we have is a curse and it never was. We need to put our acts together now and try to better our lives. Why do we hate ourselves like this?

Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians at 5:6-7, encouraged them not to sleep on as the rest did, but they should stay awake and keep their senses because those who sleep, do sleep at night and those who get drunk do get drunk at night. In verse 12 and 13, he requested to respect those that were working hard among them and to give them extraordinary love because of their work. With this, I am appealing to the authorities to look at how best the country can benefit from the mining, agriculture, energy and tourism sector including manufacturing as opposed to being lazy to develop these sectors by only concentrating on over taxing the little salaries and incomes the workers and limping industries are making. We are killing innovations and we will have ourselves to blame very soon.

This author is an agribusiness management consultant. ftembo2001@gmail.com

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