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The Perspective, with Edward Bwalya Phiri: Making Zambia a great country, nation-Part 2

Former POTUS Theodore Roosevelt on July 4, 1886, during his Independence Day address in Dickinson, North Dakota, posited that, “But we must keep steadily in mind that no people were ever yet benefited by riches if their prosperity corrupted their virtue. It is of more importance that we should show ourselves honest, brave, truthful, and intelligent…it is not about what we have that makes us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.”

On the perspective today, the conversation is on Zambia’s want of a virtuous citizenry; one that can appreciate and leverage its endowment. The Oxford University defines virtue as behaviour or attitude that shows high moral standards. Today’s discourse has four critical segments discussed under four identified traits.

Firstly, a look at good citizenship as an imperative to national development. Ronald Reagan once said that, “Good citizenship…means living up to ideals and values that make this country great.” Here Reagan suggests that a great country consists of a citizenry that subsists, under a strict adherence to its ideals and values in order to be great. It’s a no contestable fact that a good citizenry is a requisite for greatness.

Secondly, a look at ability to rally behind a common creed as one of the constituents that can propel the country into greatness. Barrack Obama once opined that, “John (Brown) understood…that part of what makes our country great is that our membership is based not on our bloodline (kinship), not on what we look like, what our last names are, it’s not based on where our parents or grandparents came from…but on adherence to a common creed: that all of us are created equal.” A great country therefore, has a foundation of brotherhood, with no racial or tribal tinge. Zambians therefore need to be united as one tribe.

Thirdly, a look at true compassion as a key trait to greatness. In elucidating what compassion is, Martin Luther King Jr. said that, “Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation…. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Zambians are good at giving alms, but true compassion is not necessarily dishing out money. Let this be clear; it is about a deliberate transformation of the systems, the creation of an enabling environment, and the provision of equal opportunities to everyone in society.

Fourthly, a look at competence in hoarding and frugal expenditure of the county’s resources as a way of propping up the country to greatness. It’s a notorious fact that Zambia has been blessed with a natural bounty, visa-a-viz a predominantly youthful and healthy citizenry, mineral deposits, wildlife, livestock, woodlands, fossils and heritage sites, abundant water, arable land with well-drained soils, and favourable atmospheric conditions for various social and economic activities. Rehman Tungekar and David Reed wrote in 2013 that, “Zambia is one of the world’s richest nations, as long as you measure wealth by natural resource.” The Million Dollar question is; how is she utilising her resources in building and developing herself? This article will concisely talk about mineral reserves and timber. Only five kinds or resources will be discussed here namely Copper, Gemstones, Gold, Uranium, and Rosewood.

Copper mining has been the mainstay of the country’s economy. And it has remained the major export for Zambia. Rehman Tungekar and David Reed wrote in 2013 that, “Mining companies have extracted nearly $30 billion worth of copper from Zambia in the past 10 years, a period of high prices for metal.”

Zambia is home to Kagem Mine, which at present is the world’s single-largest producer of emeralds, accounting for approximately 25 per cent of global production. According to Tao Hsu et.al, “Emeralds from Zambia are rich in iron and have higher refractive index and specific gravity.” This has made the Zambian emeralds to become popular in the recent years. And Gemfield, the majority shareholders in Kagem, revealed that, “Zambian emerald crystal has remarkable clarity and a perfectly balanced golden green hue…. We are experiencing increased demand for high quality Zambian emeralds from the major brands.”

According to Mining for Zambia website, “Colour is an area in which Zambian emeralds are distinctive. Their highly-desirable bluish undertone comes from the presence of iron in these emeralds. This addition of a little blue adds to the overall depth of the stones. Zambian emeralds tend to be naturally stronger than others, rating between 7.5 and 8 on the Mohs scale of hardness. This puts them just behind rubies and sapphires (both of which score 9 on the Mohs scale) and diamonds, which score a perfect 10. Zambian emeralds are also less brittle and porous than emeralds from elsewhere in the world.”

In February 2010, the world’s largest 6,225-carat emerald was discovered, weighing about 1.2 kilogrammes. It was named Insofu (Elephant) for being a rare discovery. It was subsequently auctioned in 2017, in Singapore, at an undisclosed price. Again in October 2018, a 5,655-carat or 1.1 kilogramme emerald was unearthed from Zambia’s Kagem Mine. This one was named Inkalamu (Lion). It was auctioned a month after its discovery. While the exact price of the highly publicised gemstone has not been revealed, experts have estimated its value to be about $2.5 million, making it the most expensive emerald in the world. It was reported that, “In 2018, Kagem produced a staggering 35.5 million carats – approximately 7,100 kilogrammes of emerald and beryl. A weight like 35.5 million carats is almost impossible to comprehend.”

Gold deposits have been discovered in a number of places across the country. Exploration started in the mid-1990s in Mumbwa by Billiton, but the major discovery was only realised last year in North-Western Province. The Mining for Zambia wrote on its website that, “a burgeoning gold mining sector could provide Zambia with the diversification away from copper that it so badly needs.”

Mining for Zambia also reports that, “Uranium mining was officially formalised in Zambia in 2008, following the discovery of large uranium deposits in various parts of the country.” And in July 2018, Zambia signed an agreement with Russia to construct a Centre for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST) in Chongwe. It was further reported by Mining for Zambia that, “the centre could afford Zambia a number of economic benefits, such as enabling scientists to determine the precise nature of precious metals in rocks. This would mean that before any copper ore is exported, its quality can be determined, ensuring Zambia gets the best price possible. As well as promoting the growth of national education and science, the CNST is also intended to allow for a wide application of radiation technologies in medicine, industry and agriculture.”

Timber is yet another valuable resource. There is high demand of Rosewood (Mukula). On the international market, it fetches about $17,000 per tonne, beating copper by far, which fetching at least $6000 per tonne. Zambia can benefit from Mukula.

Zambia is not a poor country. Borrowing Rehman Tungekar and David Reed’s 2013 question, “so why is Zambia one of the world’s poorest nations, with high unemployment and 64 per cent of the people living in poverty?” She lacks a virtuous citizenry. Virtue is indispensable to any person; either public or private, in leadership or in a subordinate position. Zambia needs good citizens. A great country has a foundation of brotherhood. Zambia needs compassionate citizens, and citizens who can prudently horde and leverage the resources. For today I will end here, Au revoir.

For comments: elbardogma@yahoo.com

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