IMPETUS TO ACHIEVE: ZAMBIA NEEDS MORE HEROES

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EVERY time you get frustrated with how things work (or rather do not work) in your environment, you must take it as your duty to change the system or culture. We need a sense of responsibility inculcated in our citizenry.

When something is not done, the first to notice must be in a hurry to fill that void. If majority of our citizens were proactively so, then our country would be as advanced as South Korea.

Unfortunately, the sobering reality is that citizens who are proactive are by far in the minority, almost insignificant as a percentage of the population.

Group of colleagues

The other day, I was telling a group of colleagues that a place like Kafue has so much tourism potential. This was after I saw an advert for 10 acres at the roadside going for K450, 000 in the classifieds of the newspaper.

I told them that if I had the money, I would surely snatch it up. The piece of land is sizeable enough to build a decent stop for road users on that busy route. I figured a decent lodge or hotel can later be developed there as any site close to a river tends to have immense tourism potential.

I told them that I personally do not believe in waiting for a Chinese national or any other foreigner for that matter, coming to snatch up the prime piece of land and proceed to execute an idea that I already have.

One gem

Kafue is but one gem whose potential is far from being exploited even in the slightest way. In fact, Kafue is but a tiny portion of the vast tourism potential that our beautiful country holds.

We have the traditional holiday destinations of Livingstone, Siavonga, Lower Zambezi, Mfuwe etc. We have numerous falls and national parks, traditional ceremonies that attract thousands all across the width and breadth of this country, yet very few of our people own decent tourism facilities in these parts.

When you do find a Zambian who does, people look at such an individual as though they have achieved the impossible. That can’t be right. It is not black magic of the highest order for a black Zambia to establish a luxurious lodge in our own country.

Entrepreneurship is not viewed as a viable alternative career path

I have always said that the problem with Zambia is that entrepreneurship is not viewed as a viable alternative career path. Our parents are more than happy to teach us how to write a job application so that we can be selected to work at the best employers such as commercial banks, quasi-government institutions, the civil service and the like.

They push us to get a formal education for this very reason, so that we can find a safe and secure job at a really good employer, and work all our lives.

Very few parents in Zambia tell their children that they can actually become employers one day, that they can build successful businesses that will contribute immensely to the growth and progress of the Zambian economy.

Indians are the best at business such as trading

What is shocking is that many parents will gladly tell their children that Indians are the best at business such as trading; that they understand it so well.

They will also tell their children that facilities like a private game reserve where fauna such as lions, elephants, antelopes are kept under management can only be done by white people.

Now why should such thoughts be instilled in our children’s minds? Whatever happened to inculcating the undying belief that children can grow up to be whatever they dream?

I will definitely concede that certain businesses are not easy, and people may fail at them. However, let it be clear that they will not fail because they are Zambians, or black people. They will fail because you cannot succeed at everything.  Moreover, if you have an iron will, failure will not be final, it shall be but a setback that will teach you valuable lessons.

Again, I remind that entrepreneurship is a viable alternative career path. But it is not viewed that way in Zambia. This is partly because entrepreneurs are not viewed as heroes that successfully pursued an alternative yet conventional career path.

Instead, they are viewed as outliers whose gambles paid off, a rare group of individuals that have made it because they either have a special talent to make money or they had some slice of luck that altered their entire future for the better.

Dreams and thoughts must not be killed

Few people understand that the same way a child dreams to be a doctor or pilot, he/she can dream of owning a factory that produces their favourite potato chips or tomato sauce.

Such dreams and thoughts must not be killed.

Instead, the child should be encouraged to actualise them. The child should be directed towards a tertiary education that will teach him/her how to produce the desired goods; a course such as a degree in food production/food processing or some kind of engineering may be a good starting point for education.

Parents can then direct the child to work in industry. This is where real learning will be done. The young adult will work to learn so as to replicate and even better the industry process in his or her own business.

To learn the accounting, financing and reporting side of business, the young adult can go and get an MBA from a prestigious school. All that is left is for the individual to now venture into his/ her own business and realise a childhood dream.

We need to create more of our own heroes. Every society has its own heroes. It is only in places like Africa where we reserve certain endeavours for Indians, Chinese and White people saying our people cannot do them.

We practically constantly tell ourselves that our people are not good enough to do these things. That is absolute nonsense. To borrow from veteran politician George Mpombo’s phraseology, it’s hogwash!

Underdeveloped

This is our country, and if we donot bring about the development that it needs, then it will remain underdeveloped for an eternity. The thing about foreign investors is they pretty much only take their money to areas where returns are high, or extractive industries whose resources are of strategic importance to the furtherance of their economic prosperity.

They donot possess that passion to see our country prosper and develop beyond the point that suits their ends. And that’s only natural, even I would not be too passionate about a foreign country when I have my beloved Zambia.

Undying belief in foreign investment

This is why others have said we need to review this seemingly undying belief in foreign investment as the main driver of our growth.

At independence, Zambia had about a hundred university graduates.

 Seeing that shortage, plans were made to develop educated people in various disciplines. Today our country has a huge number of highly educated young people; majority cannot even find a job.

Similarly, we desperately need a cadre of Zambian entrepreneurs to begin to be the drivers of our economy. The current crop we have is divided into two groups as follows: Formal and established entrepreneurs who form such a tiny percentage of the economy in terms of their population and business output.

Then you have a huge group of informal business people that are largely traders, of which few of these will ever see meaningful growth of their businesses for numerous reasons I will not go into.

We need to train to become a proper cadre of entrepreneurs

This latter group as well as others with potential in the country are the ones we need to train to become a proper cadre of entrepreneurs and move to the side of the established. 

If they can join the few that have built decent and sizeable businesses, then we will be getting closer to controlling the economy. As things stand, the economy is almost entirely in foreign hands.

Responsibility to stand up and attempt to plug the gap

Always remember that wherever there is a shortage in the community, it is your responsibility to stand up and attempt to plug the gap. Be a hero and not a spectator.

That way, we will make the progress that we so desperately need as a country. Zambia needs more heroes.

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