Listening to a radio programme one Monday evening, there was a topic on work culture and economic development. One participant asked why Zambia is not developed when the country has all the resources needed for development. After attentively listening in for a good twenty minutes, I posed the same question to myself; why Zambia is not developed and what is development? Development is defined as a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic components to a community or country. The whole ideal of developing is to improve the quality of life for everyone.
For instance, if the country had developed, we could have better health infrastructure such that we could stop sending people to South Africa or India for specialist treatment. You may agree with me that sometimes we spend over $20,000 to send someone to India when that particular illness one is being sent for could be treated if the hospitals were equipped with a specialised medical equipment that may be costing $20,000; we could actually have been saving if we bought such equipment. Quoting one great son of Africa, Paul Kagame, he once said, “I would rather argue that we need to mobilise the right mindsets, rather than more funding. Africa has everything it needs, in real terms but Africa remains mentally married to the ideal that nothing can get moving without external finance. We are even begging for things we already have. That is absolutely a failure of mindset.” I guess only a foolish person would not agree with this statement because if you looked at countries like China, Japan, German and many other great economies, over 60 per cent of the raw materials that they used and are still using to advance their economies are coming from Africa.
We always want to be ‘cry babies’ that we do not have the right technologies to utilise the abundant raw materials but the question we dodge to answer ourselves is whether God dropped some technology onto Japan, China or Israel and only gave Africa the raw materials – not at all! They worked hard to develop those technologies through putting up good education systems and invested massively in research and development. We heard last month that Rwanda sent a satellite into space, which will improve internet access to schools, that is development. This writer is not saying that there is nothing that has happened in Zambia, but the rate at which our development is moving is at a deceleration rate. This led me to pose a second question; why Zambia or Zambians? I think the biggest problem that we have in this country is negativity and lack of support for one another.
Those that have dared travel in other countries have seen how citizens of such countries support each other. For instance, how many Nigerians are working in UN agencies? So many, and how many Kenyans are working in the UN agencies? So many, so are the Zimbabweans and other countries but if you dared take a census and count how many Zambians are working, even heading local organisations like AU, it will be three or at most four. We are enemies of ourselves; Zambians are too jealousy of each other and it is the reason that after so many years of independence, we are still struggling to even fix our own constitution. South Africa, a country which got independence only 30 years after us, and using our legal minds have a constitution which even developed countries like Russia don’t have. The same people we denied an opportunity here went to South Africa and advised them how to fix it.
The educational system of Botswana literally depended on the Zambian teachers but today, people are sending their children to be educated in Botswana and Namibia because the educational system here is crumbling. We have a very toxic culture of not wanting to see our own brother being successful. Just look at how we have demonised one individual that has tried to make business in the agriculture sector; we have called him names and associated him to devilish acts but yet when foreigners came to set up just a plant for cement that has employed less than 200 people, we praised them like angels yet our own person has provided employment opportunities to over 500 people. In international business, there is a theory that you have to be successful at home before you can go international but we have failed to provide the platform for our own citizens and we shall remain slaves to the Chinese and all other countries that are helping us with money to buy our own food.
The Business Dictionary defines culture as an organization’s expectations, experiences, philosophy, as well as the values that guide member behavior, and is expressed in member self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations. Culture is based on shared attitudes, beliefs, customs, and written and unwritten rules that have been developed over time and are considered valid. As a country, we have developed this negative perception that we can’t allow our colleague to be successful, if one has to be successful, it must either be ME, a Chinese, a Nigerian, a Congolese or a Briton and NOT a fellow Zambia. What we fail to comprehend is that once these people we are helping to make money leave, they will leave with their money and if they dare go with our sisters that they have married, they will go and ill treat them and afterwards, send them back home like the Senegalese that we helped mine our emeralds did in Lufwanyama.
I think we all need to have self-introspection and endeavor to stop hating our own brother in preference to foreigners. Kaunda sung and sung that we must love our neighbor as much as we love our self. Can we for once do the right thing and start developing the right culture? We have been a laughing stock for a long time in the region that we can’t even afford to sit around one table to iron out our differences – what a greedy people we are! Surely, even Rwanda that was at war 20 years ago is now more developed than us? I am thinking of sending my child to do secondary education there. The next time I am siting to write another article, I want to hear about the good news that CK extended an olive branch to ECL, as well as ECL to HH and many others in our work places. Let’s stop stoning each other.
This author is an agribusiness management consultant. email@example.com/SM