Saturday, March 27, 2010


How Zambia's Leaders are Failiing the People

I've watched with fascination and frustration the political discourse in my native country. I've stayed silent about it because in many respects, I didn't want to add another voice to an arena with so many players and voices claiming to have a solution to our country's woes. However, I think that my silence and those of others serves no one. So in this article am attempting to voice *some*of the concerns that Zambians have.

For starters, our Leaders have lost the heart of leadership. Leadership has become a way for people to enrich themselves at the expense of others. The heart of leadership is to serve the people with integrity and making their welfare the first priority of what a leader says and does. Unfortunately, you don't have to look further than our newspapers to find a daily chronicle of character assassinations and personal insults that have come to characterize our political discourse. We need a change in the way our leaders carry themselves. We need OUR leaders to think of US again and not themselves. We need OUR leaders to SERVE US again, the people who elected them.

Furthermore, Leadership is about vision- a clear picture of a preferred future-but where are the ideas? Where is the vision and foresight? Where do our leaders see Zambia in the next 15-30 years? We are yet to see and hear a concrete plan to create jobs and deal with our broken education system. We are yet to hear of how our leaders plan to stimulate the business sector and
create opportunities for Zambians.
Yes, some progress has been made but we've been waiting for 20 years to see some tangible results; to see change come to the common man. Enough with the talk and statistical progress. Leadership is about results and the absence of results simply means the Leadership has failed.

Though the ruling party and government take most of the blame for what is happening in our country, what is the opposition offering? Its very easy to sit in the grand stand and watch the game on the pitch and have ideas of how the players can do better and score. However, the opposition has offered nothing concrete in dealing with the challenges. How many jobs will they create if elected to power? How will they reform our education system? How will they help Zambians to create wealth? Talk is cheap and until these parties come up with very REAL solutions and a VISION, they do not deserve to be elected into power.

Last week on was asked to share my thoughts concerning the formation of another political party NAREP) in Zambia and whether there was a justification for another party. My answer in nutshell was that as long as the ruling party had failed to change Zambia and that the current opposition parties offered no solutions, there was certainly justification for another party. We are waiting to see what NAREP proposes and so we'll leave judgement for another

Leadership must be confident. It must display power without being forceful. It must exhibit strength and courage without constantly reminding people of whose in charge. Leadership must have quite strength and command respect without stepping on people's rights and ideas. This, however, has not been the case in our young democracy. Over the last 10 years we've gone back subtly to some very dictatorial tendencies. The watershed moment for me was when the government threatened to regulate the media.

First of all, what does that really mean-to regulate the media? To me that is another way of saying do not challenge us or else you will cease to exist. This is a backwards step and our leadership should not have entertained this line of thinking. Democracy thrives on free and open communication of ideas and opinions. Democracy believes that in our disagreements we're made stronger, not weaker.
Frankly, this was a display of timidity and insecurity and a lack of leadership savvy on our leader's part. Can we agree to disagree? Can we have a robust debate without insults and still see ourselves as Zambians wanting the best for their country? Our Leaders need to grow up and someone must be the bigger person. Frankly, I hope our leadership elevates the level of the political discourse so that we, the people can benefit. Mr. President we're waiting for your leadership.

Charisma in Leadership only goes so far. There must be a turning point that ushers in transformation. We've been waiting for that moment for almost 20 years. We the people also have a part to play in our nation. We need to hold our elected leaders to the fire and ask the tough questions. We easily fall prey to politicians with silver tongues promising the world but we have to
ask them; how do you plan on achieving your goals? What kind of a nation are we handing down to our children?

WE must demand that they speak our language and not the common ambiguous political jargon that leaves us scratching our heads and my uncle's friend in Mbeleshi cannot understand. WE must demand that they manage our resources well. WE must be an active citizenry. WE also must realize that our leaders will not do everything for us; we have a part to play. WE must be innovative and demand that our leaders create an atmosphere in which our innovative spirits can thrive. WE must be active participants in the creation of our national destiny.

The politics of insults don't help anyone and they certainly don't help our nation. "Everything rises and falls on Leadership". Will the real leaders please stand up?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"We" are the Solution: The case for Social Enterprise in Zambia

I have really been thinking of how Zambians can change Zambia. Social entrepreneurship is something that is foreign to our nation and has not been given the attention it deserves. For profit enterprises are the most common. A for-profit enterprise looks at the profit margin as its measurement of progress. Market share is another factor that is given much attention. There is of course nothing wrong with for-profit enterprises and entrepreneurs engaged in it should be encouraged because they are the engine of job creation in an economy though we are yet to see their impact in Zambia.

Social enterprises are driven, not by profit but rather by lives changed or improved. Their goal is to alleviate poverty or confront social ills by offering solutions through the vehicle of enterprise. These entrepreneurs should be encouraged to emerge and act on their ideas.

In an economy like Zambia, there of course many challenges for social entrepreneurs one of them being the fact that most of them do not have a steady income and, therefore, are more inclined to form for profit enterprises. This fear stems from the misconception that one cannot make a profit and solve social problems at the same time. The key to profitable social entrepreneurial ventures is to have a business model that is driven first of all by a strong social change agenda that has the potential to be an income stream.

For example, a social entrepreneur can be driven by a desire to solve the food crisis problem in a village by teaching peasant farmers how to grow crops that can yield more and can withstand drought conditions. At first glance this seems like a service that is given free of charge. However, after getting a good foundation in place and having buy-in from the villagers, the social entrepreneur can eventually offer this service for a small percentage of the harvest. He then can turn around and sell this harvest for a profit.

The other way would be to enter into partnership with the farmers in which the entrepreneur offers his knowledge of crop production and or high yield seed while the farmers contribute the land and labor. At harvest time, after making sure that the farmers have enough food supply for the year, the surplus can be sold for a profit which is shared by all involved. Again the entrepreneur achieves his goal of alleviating the food crisis and also turns a profit, however small it might be. This venture can grow if all parties involved decide to continue their partnership and expand the percentage of land cultivated.

This concept can be applied to solving many other social problems. My point is that WE the people are the solution. While I believe that government should be in the forefront of fighting social ills, we the people also have a role to play. We need to change perspective and look at the opportunities around us. We must take it upon ourselves to change our world and not rely on the politicians and technocrats to come up with a magical way to solve all our problems.

So what social ills around you can you solve? The ball is in your court.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Africa's new apartheid

The continent is doing a booming business selling diamonds, oil and coffee to China, but is it benefiting Africans? Economist Glenn Hubbard weighs in.

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- There's an irony afoot on the African continent. After years of state control of their economies, African governments are opening up to foreign business as never before.

Foreign companies are lining up to pump African oil, dig African minerals, build and run African ports, export African coffee and cocoa. But what about local companies? The World Bank's latest "Doing Business" report tells a very sad tale.
Let's take Angola. It has diamonds, oil and coffee. These commodities boomed over the past decade, and the government gave licenses to foreign companies to produce and export them.

These days, that includes the Chinese: Angola is now China's biggest African trading partner. China is also building infrastructure for the Angolan government using everything Chinese, including labor and cement. There are far more foreigners in Angola now -- European and Asian -- than there ever were in colonial times.
But what about local Angolan business? According to "Doing Business", Angola ranks now 169 out of 183 countries around the world. That means that the Angolan government essentially does not allow its own people to start and run their own businesses.

This restriction makes for a new kind of apartheid: the business community of Angola is European and Asian, not African. That might not be the intent, but it certainly is the result.
The same is true in country after country of sub-Saharan Africa. But not everywhere. Rwanda stands out as a positive model: it went from 143 on the list in 2009 to 67 in 2010. After years climbing the list, Mauritius now ranks 17.

These two countries show that it is possible for African governments to free their people to start and run their own businesses, and overcome the de facto apartheid that has spread through the African business sector.

China's role in this new apartheid is especially ironic. Twenty years ago Deng Xiao Ping freed the Chinese people to start and run their own businesses, for a very simple reason. He and his fellow leaders had become Communists fifty years before because they genuinely believed it would bring greater prosperity to their people, but over the decades it became obvious that wasn't true.

Just across the border, Korea was a clear example: the Communist North remained poor, and the pro-business South prospered. So Deng Xiao Ping switched. Today, 80% of China's employment and 60% of its GDP comes from local small and medium businesses, which barely existed twenty years ago.

In the old days, Communist China claimed solidarity with Third World peoples -- but what about today? As most countries of the Third World suppress their local business sectors, especially in Africa, China just goes right along.

Chinese leaders will argue that they do so to respect the sovereignty of national governments: if Angola wants to suppress the local Angolan business sector, China has no right to make them change.

But how is that different from South Africa under apartheid? In those days, the South African government put up enormous obstacles to prevent black Africans from starting and owning their own businesses. China joined the rest of the world in condemning South African apartheid, and rightly so. But today, China joins the rest of the world in turning a blind eye to the ongoing apartheid of the local business sector throughout most of Sub-Saharan Africa.

But of course, the western powers are no better than China. They continue to lavish foreign aid on countries that suppress their local business sectors.
There is a collective amnesia among prosperous countries about how they themselves rose from poverty: their local business sectors. They have forgotten their liberal roots -- the term "liberal" first referred to pro-business Europeans struggling against feudal "conservatives."

China and the western powers today are only half-liberal: they foster their own domestic business sectors but tolerate the suppression of the domestic business sectors in the poor countries of the world.
There is an alternative, but it requires political will and leadership among China and other prosperous countries. They can redirect their foreign aid to help foster the local business sector in poor countries.

And there's a powerful precedent: the Marshall Plan of post-war Europe. It made loans to local European businesses, which repaid them to their governments, which used the money for commercial infrastructure like ports and railways. That same model can work today.
Two decades ago, outside pressure helped overturn apartheid in South Africa. Tomorrow, outside pressure can help overturn business apartheid in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. It's time for worldwide solidarity with the struggling local businesses in poor countries around the world. The new apartheid calls for a new movement against it. Who will lead the way?

--Glenn Hubbard, a former chairman of the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, is co-author, along with Bill Duggan, of a new book, Aid Trap -- Hard Truths About Ending Poverty. He is also dean of Columbia Business School.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Politics of Insults

I've stopped reading news from Zambia of late because it does nothing but frustrate me. Our people deserve better. We do not need more visionless political parties or power hungry leaders; what we need is radical change.

Our current leadership has not been leading but rather maintaing the status quo. They have not been representing our interests but rather engaging in the politics of insults and character assassinations. This kind of political theatre does not help the ordinary Zambian. If our political leaders have no vision and plan, they should simply step aside and let others lead.

While I applaud the formation of new parties, they look like more of the same and while I applaud the efforts of other citizens forming semi political NGOSs, I am skeptical about their motives. If there is one thing we Zambians know to do is talk and a lot of talking is happening right now but I do not see any visionary leadership emerging. I am still waiting for the real leaders to stand up; Zambia's Obama if you will and we will know him/her when we see his/her vision for Zambia.

While we wait for the real leader to emerge, we the people need to remind ourselves that no one will bring the change we seek unless we demand it through our actions and words. Here are a few worthy things to fight for and pressure our government to deliver:

1. Quality education:
2. Quality Health care

These are a few of my thoughts. What do you think?

Saturday, June 13, 2009


There is a new pressure group advocating for real leadership and vision for Zambia. Visit their website at

Thursday, June 4, 2009


In recent weeks we have heard of how ministry of health workers and officials diverted funds in the ministry boost their own personal coffers. While the saying, “crime does not pay”, may be applicable in this case, we have to pose and think about the things that feeds this corrupt culture and indeed they are many. However, I would like to draw your attention to a few.

Firstly, the culture of corruption has been fueled by our country’s lack of sophisticated management systems that hold leaders and everyone accountable. For example, in the USA the president’s tax records are public knowledge because they are deliberately published. These records tell the public how much the president made that tax year and where his extra income came from if any. This is not the case in Zambia. The only time we hear of our leader’s net worth is when they are running for political office. Why don’t we institute a system by which we know how much our leaders make every year and how they have acquired that wealth. This will surely keep people accountable.

However, one can make the argument that people will simply hide their ill gotten wealth through corrupt avenues and that is a legitimate argument. However, if we ask for the cooperation of financial institutions and empower the Zambia Revenue Authority to enforce tax codes and an effective tax return reporting system, we will make tremendous headway. But the biggest problem in my view is leadership.

Our current political leaders MUST retire. They have run their course and should accept the fact that they cannot lead Zambia to a better future because they do not know how to lead in this new political and global economic climate. They continue to seek political office because of the benefits they reap through corrupt practices. Corrupt leaders should be pursued and prosecuted and pay a steep price for their corruption. Long prison sentences would help to this end because if someone faced the possibility of a 2o year prison sentence they would think twice about stealing from the Zambian people.

Secondly, poverty is another contributing factor to fueling a culture of corruption. While am reluctant to heap a huge amount of blame on this factor because of the entitlement overtones that legitimize people’s lack of ingenuity in seeking solutions to their poverty, I must admit that it plays a role in creating a culture of corruption.

If government does not make better conditions of service for civil servants a priority, people will be forced to find the much needed extra income elsewhere and corruption is the easiest way. However, this issue also has to be seen from the view of the “corrupter” because it takes 2 or more parties to make corruption work. Why do people pay other people to have certain services provided when such services should be offered upon request without further prodding? Therein lays the dilemma of civil service corruption. I think that if great customer service became a priority and the mantra of our government agencies and that this was acted upon, people would become less inclined to corrupt someone in order to have better service.

In his book “Leading at a higher Level,” Ken Blanchard says that organizations should focus on the triple bottom line: Becoming the provider of choice, the employer of choice and the investment of choice. In a nut shell, government agencies should offer such an excellent service to the public that they become the provider of choice. These agencies should also provide excellent conditions of service that people are waiting in line to work for them and thirdly, if these agencies do the first two things right, then they will attract investment from both the general public and the donor community.

Failure to do these 3 things, in my opinion, will not help the fight against corruption and if anything, this scourge will become an irreversible pandemic affecting generations to come.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


"PATRIOTIC Front (PF) leader Michael Sata has said he will contest the 2011 presidential elections despite some people suggesting that he is too old and needs to groom a younger person (TIMES OF ZAMBIA)."

The insistence of Mr. Sata to contest the 2011 elections speaks to the leadership crisis that our nation faces. For the last 18 years, no viable young politician has come to the Zambian political scene and offered a sensible alternative to the old guard. Our leadership crisis has hampered development as we've had a shortage of radical ideas that would revolutionize the way development is perceived and pursued.

It is very easy for the old guard to say young people should be involved in national leadership but their words do not line up with their actions. How can young politicians rise to leadership positions if the right environment is not created for them? There must be systems within our political parties that allows young leadership to be groomed and allowed to test their leadership skills. This only happens if the old guard creates an atmosphere in which genuine sharing of ideas can happen coupled with a firm commitment to change. If these things do not happen, then young people will continue to be absent from the political leadership landscape.

On the flip side of things, young politicians can decide to form their own political parties and formulate their own agenda for development. They, however, have to overcome a great challenge; the people of Zambia. As Zambians, we are too patient almost to a fault. We will hang on to political promises for a very long time. It takes us a while to change and see the promises for what they really are; empty political gimmicks.
Therefore, if young people are to take charge and lead, they need to be in it for the long haul. They need to devise ways to communicate their agenda to the Zambian people and do so in a convincing way. There is no doubt in my mind that this can and must happen for our country to gain economic independence.

Our philosophy of political leadership must also change. Those of us outside the established political system must begin finding creative ways of implementing change in our communities through partnerships and the harnessing of the people's hunger for change and turning it into productive energy. As Zambians, we waste a lot of time talking instead of acting. We focus so much on government's ability to change our lives instead of focusing on our own ability to change dire situations in our communities. For example, when rainy season comes, drainage becomes a problem in many communities. Why not get together as a community to clean our surroundings and implement a food for work program. We will be helping to solve 2 problems; the drainage problem and the hunger problem.

Please do not get me wrong; I am a big proponent of government's involvement in changing the course of a nation by providing the framework and infrastructure for the people to maximize their potential and create economic freedom. However, WE THE PEOPLE, also have a solemn obligation to MOVE our government when it becomes idle through our ACTIONS and words. The person who gives the people a cause and shows them a better way of life will eventually become the leader. My challenge to Zambians is to start thinking of creative ways you can change your own community.