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Wednesday, 13 June 2007

A complex web of puzzles…

The recent discussions on the extent of housing demolitions in Zimbabwe sparked a natural interest to see what our own Government is doing in the area of housing policy vis-a-vis working towards the MDG goal of ensuring "shelter for all". I naturally turned to that central Government policy document called the Fifth National Development Plan 2006 – 10 for some illumination. Here are some key extracts :


“Zambia has been facing a very critical shortage of housing since independence. The lopsided pattern of development between rural and urban areas has resulted in very high rural-urban migration without a corresponding effort to provide appropriate housing in the expanding urban regions”.

“The main problem in the housing sector is lack of adequate finance. Prior to 1996, investment in housing was less than 3% of GDP”

“The national housing policy was adopted in 1996 with the overall aim of providing adequate and affordable housing to all income groups in the country…to this end the Government liberalised the housing sector and provide an enabling environment to stimulate private investment in housing in order to proving more housing units to satisfy increasing demand. Lack of finance in the housing sector has, however, hindered satisfactory performance throughout the country”.

“the ongoing efforts through the National Housing Authority, the Low Cost Housing Programme, formerly Africa Housing Fund project (AHF), and the introduction of the Municipal Bonds have the potential for improving the housing stock in the country”.

“The national housing policy shall continue to guide policy action in the housing sector during the FNDP. It shall nevertheless, be reviewed to bring it in line with the Government’s new initiatives as it targets the increase of housing stock”

“The Government shall place a high premium on the facilitation of the introduced housing bonds that provide long term finance for local authorities, obtainable on the capital market. Due to lack of credibility of most councils, a Special Purpose Vehicle has been established to guarantee repayment of such funds……”

“The vision is to ensure 1.5 million people are adequately housed by the end of the FNDP (2011)….the goal is to provide adequate affordable housing for all income groups in Zambia”

I think it is good that Government appears to admit that previous national policies (even after 1991) have been unsuccessful, if non-existent. What is unfortunate, is that the current FNDP has more chance of adding to that catalogue of failures, than making a difference to many of our people living in slums or indeed basically homeless. This is evidently so when a childlike inspection reveals three fundamental problems with the approach as stated in the FNDP:

The first fundamental problem is that FNDP approach to Zambia's housing problem does not recognise that there are several aspects to it. This has the natural implication that solutions to the 'housing problem' possibly requires various forms of interventions, within a properly coordinated policy framework:

a) The first aspect is the rural-urban migration problem that has generated pressure in the urban housing market. In other words, even if population growth was static we still face problems from rural-urban migration in urban areas, primarily induced by higher poverty levels in rural areas and high unemployment. Unfortunately, because this is a demand side problem as well, Government needs to think creatively on how to manage this problem and it does not just involve providing loans. It may for example require a government policy that actively places greater emphasis on moving jobs from urban areas to rural areas. This may be in form of a policy statement that "makes it a central Government policy to promote rural jobs before urban jobs".

b) The second aspect is simply that many of our people are living in sheltered accommodation that is actually below human standards especially in the rural areas. There needs to be a policy agenda that addresses how you can provide low cost housing to these people. 100 houses per district as suggested in the FNDP will not solve this problem, neither does it make policy sense to still have a Government driven programme that has higher cost housing as a central feature. Another key area of course should be land reform, which could help local people use land as collateral to enable them to get credit to build houses. Unfortunately this is not even discussed. The linkages between housing and land are so obvious, yet the FNDP discussion on housing completely ignores the issue of land reform. Its almost as if housing is separate from the land it sits on!

c) The third aspect is alienation from basic services even for those who live in good accommodation in rural areas. Although this is not strictly an “housing” problem, it is still pertinent since it relates to how well you can mobilise communities to ensure that there are within effective communities with access to basic services. Isolated villages are major issue in our rural areas and make it difficult to deliver any kind of development there due to remoteness. Credit here again is not the immediate solution. Rather better spatial planning intertwined with an effective housing strategy.

d) The fourth aspect is affordability. Even for those middle income urban dwellers, the fact that our urban population is growing at faster rate than housing supply creates pressures of its own. Credit here possibly helps, but with a rising urban population credit may become expensive. The key here is perhaps to look at secondary cities and think about developing commuter towns. It seems again city planning may well the way to go. Although I concede that the recent development of special "economic zones" carefully planned with housing issues in mind may help, it remains to be seen to what extent housing policy as any bearing on their development plans.

The second fundamental problem with the FNDP is that it appears to underestimate the scale of the housing problem. Yes it acknowledges that our situation is “very critical”, but just how critical is it? The FNDP does not explicitly tell us, but the clues are there : “The vision is to ensure 1.5 million people are adequately housed by the end of the FNDP (2011)”. The implicit suggestion is therefore that Zambia probably needs at the very least to generate 1.5m housing units for us to make some "progress". Starting from a 2001 base of 2.3m housing units this represents aspirations of housing supply standing at 3.8 in 2010 or an annual growth of 6% or just below over the horizon .

I am not persuaded that housing growth of 6% moves us any closer to the solution. To understand why, we have to go back to the 1991 position. Zambia had 1.5m housing units in 1991 ; with the number of people living in the slums was around 2m [
Source : UN Habitat]. Between 1991 and 2001, Zambia experienceda 5% annual growth in housing units, but the same period saw the number of people living in the slums continue to rise by 3%. So it seems that the growth in housing over the period simply fed new demand induced by population growth, and was in fact not sufficient to slow down the growth in slums.

What the Government proposes in the FNDP is a 1% increase above and beyond the natural growth trend in new housing units between 2001 and 2010 (although the FNDP covers 2006, the housing targets are between 2001 and 2010), which won’t be enough to address the problem of inadequate housing supply. The number of people living in the slums will continue to rise and even if it slowed, we wont see any reduction in the number of people living in the slums beyond 3m. It may even reach something like 3.5m or beyond. It does therefore seem that the position in the FNDP does nothing to address the plight of people in our urban and rural areas, it simply tracks the current trend in housing growth. What Zambia needs is a “step change” in housing construction.

The third fundamental problem with the FNDP is the most puzzling. Mainly because it represents an act of gross omission and illustrates a bankruptcy of ideas on the part of the authors. After telling us that we face a “critical shortage” in housing, and that most of it is due to “finance” it completely goes blank on where this source of finance can come from. The simple answer is that Zambia’s source of housing construction finance is the “direct foreign investment” coming into the country . Why not get the firms who are pouring millions into mines and tourism and other sector to actually be tied to spending some of it on housing?

I am not talking about "mining renegotiations", rather a generic model that links new investment in areas to housing provision. The model that is needed is similar to the framework that the UK has adopted under Section 106 of the Town and Planning Country Act (1995). This UK legislation basically makes it a condition that any new investment in any local area of the UK should be conditional on providing some minimum level of investment in schools, housing, transport and other things, if the Local Authority deems necessary. What you can basically say is that if a firm X invests in Mpulungu, the people in Mpulungu can require that firm X to deliver not just investment but some houses and schools as well. But there has to be legislation to back them up!

The advantage of such a system is that not only does it relieve pressure on local resources (meeting the "internalisation of externality" condition), but also helps tackle local poverty by linking the investment to the local needs such as housing. In addition, as well as helping us with funding our housing shortage needs, this system has an added advantage that it makes foreign investment in some areas publicly acceptable. Governments wants foreign direct investment, the people simply want good houses and better schools. And of course from an economic perspective such a framework also helps to raise the costs of reneging by the new investor by making it that much costly for him/her to cut and run, like others have done in the past! So we find that in this it’s a win-win for everyone, and most importantly it directly helps relieve the housing problem.

Zambia has enormous land and cheap materials for housing. Whilst the use of market mechanisms like encouraging access to credit can work, sometimes we need a "visible" hand of Government. The tragedy of the FNDP on this issue is that it fails to think holistically about the different aspects of the problem and therefore zones in on one magic bullet – which is let us fix finance. No issues of land policy, leveraging investment through legislation or spatial planning policies are put forward. In the end the policy is no policy at all, because even the "aspirational" 1.5m additional dwellings brings us no where to call it progress. Its indeed puzzling that the FNDP appears to slip badly on a critical area such housing - but perhaps even more puzzling that the media in Zambia have not really pressed Government on the inadequacy of the FNDP proposals with respect to housing. On a question of where the current housing policy is taking us, I think the answer is very much "not very far".

32 comments:

  1. Cho,

    Really excellent concept! Let me see if I can indentify some of the discrete goals involved in re-spinning the web as you describe. As you say, it is a series of puzzles, some of which must be solved sequentially, others simultaneously, and all linked together so that they support each other. Adding to the complexity of the job, you must plan to build while the existing structure is in place and working (poorly).

    Goal: Stimulate job creation, with preference for rural jobs (non-farm jobs or all rural jobs?) to slow the flow of jobless into overcrowded urban areas.

    Goal: Dramatically increase new housing stock and improve the quality of existing stock, with preference to low income persons and/or rural areas.

    Goal: Increase and improve the delivery of basic utility service to low income and/or rural households, including water, sewage, electricty and roads.

    Goal: Improve land tenancy rights so as to allow home owners and buyers to use their lease on the land as collateral against home purchase/upgrade loans.

    Goal: Establish legal rights for local governments to require compensation from investors in the form of improved housing and service infrastructure.

    Goal: Decrease the cost of home building and/or financing in order to increase home ownership among low income groups.

    Goal: Utilize spatial planning "best practices" when designing service delivery infrastructure for housing in rural or previously unserviced areas.

    Well I am sure that I've missed a few and misunderstood a few, but I certainly agree with what I see so far. A central supporting thread is land reform sufficient to provide home owners with secure tenure to lease rights on the housing stand itself. The current system of approved leasing of State Land is overburdened by a backlog of unfilled requests, due in part to insufficient capacity to perform required surveys in a timely fashion. Formal leasing of Customary Land currently results in confused jurisdiction and some summary dispossessions. I agree that simple clarity in this area would strengthen the whole housing economy almost immediately.

    Do you envision a Botswana-style network of local independent Land Boards, each vested with long term leasehold over large portions of land, which are then sub-leased to individual land users at the Board's discretion?

    While a rural homebuilding boom will increase employment in itself, what other types of reliable rural job creation would you advocate?

    Which measures to reduce homebuilding costs are most effective in the context of rural Zambia? Where can targeted investments be made to further reduce costs?

    For those areas in Zambia designated as slums by UN-Habitat, the single largest problem seems to be lack of access to clean water and/or sewerage. Should water supplies be upgraded in order to increase delivery at a rate faster than that for housing overall?

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  2. ”Well I am sure that I've missed a few and misunderstood a few, but I certainly agree with what I see so far.”

    No you have captured the seven discrete goals perfectly!

    A viable White Paper can emerge around those seven goals.
    The detail within the strands can be developed further but the goals would remain what is essentially stated there.

    ”Do you envision a Botswana-style network of local independent Land Boards, each vested with long term leasehold over large portions of land, which are then sub-leased to individual land users at the Board's discretion?”

    Yes. I have looked into this, studying the Oxfam material you provided, and other references on the web. It’s clear that the Botswana approach represents best practice. Any system can be improved of course and of course the Bots approach as some air of gradualism, but I think it can work because its localised. There’s no reason why if the system is correctly explained to chiefs they would find it difficult to accept.

    ”While a rural homebuilding boom will increase employment in itself, what other types of reliable rural job creation would you advocate?”

    There are plenty of job stimulation opportunities for rural people – the key for Government should be two fold: first, to provide an enabling environment where they can create employment for themselves because these would vary from place to place. Secondly, to help identify these “opportunities” for job creation for people….so some of the things Government can encourage that I have been checking out include the following:

    Aquaculture
    http://www.id21.org/insights/insights65/art03.html

    http://www.id21.org/zinter/id21zinter.exe?a=59&i=n3ls1g1&u=4671f69e

    Culture…

    http://www.id21.org/zinter/id21zinter.exe?a=18&i=r5jp1g1&u=4671f69e

    http://www.id21.org/zinter/id21zinter.exe?a=43&i=n4ac1g1&u=4671f69e


    ”Which measures to reduce homebuilding costs are most effective in the context of rural Zambia? Where can targeted investments be made to further reduce costs? “

    Zambia has plenty of land and the raw materials are actually cheap. If issues over “ownership” of land can be resolved and allow people to use it as collateral we are almost there.
    From what my relatives tell me the roofing materials are the most expensive part (ignoring electricity and water issue). But it is difficult to see what can be explicitly done there.

    ”For those areas in Zambia designated as slums by UN-Habitat, the single largest problem seems to be lack of access to clean water and/or sewerage. Should water supplies be upgraded in order to increase delivery at a rate faster than that for housing overall?”

    I think that would be a better approach.
    To some extent once slams are there, one has to accept that unless “relocation” occurs, people still need basic services where they are. So you absolutely right. For such areas, water must be delivered at faster pace.

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  3. Cho,

    I came across this study of four low income housing projects which tested innovative practices during the nineties. Very interesting, but not the roofing best practices I am looking for. They do review some interesting aspects of passive solar, variable water and sewage service delivery levels and costs, and the effects of positive or negative community reactions to programs and innovations.
    http://www.gdnet.org/pdf/napier.pdf

    I also came across this article from Nigeria on building materials innovation:
    http://www.independentngonline.com/?c=64&a=25097

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  4. Interesting links...particularly the Nigerian article....

    Price of Cement is a constraint as well although not as much as roofing material...but if you imagine that there lots of stones, sand and other materials in most rural areas (as I found out again in Luapula over Xmas) cement probably becomes critical..one simply has to look at the stocks of Chilanga Cement to get the idea...with a boom in construction in Zambia at the moment in urban areas...the poor are suffering a bit on cement due to the transportation costs etc to get it there.....so its not unusual to find the price of cement is more expensive in rural areas than in other more urban locations....the market forces have their own mind...
    So if alternatives to it can be found then it is good news indeed...


    Now on brick making...my brother who is well versed on this tells me the chaps at UNZA have been designing some system that would make bricks quicker and turn them round....apparently you can make a lot of bricks in a single day....

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  5. "Price of Cement is a constraint as well although not as much as roofing material.."

    CP40 (puzzolanic cement) may provide a viable alternative to portland cement for masonry work in housing applications:
    http://www.english.ecosur.org/category/puzzolanic_cement%2c_cp-40.html

    More on various alternatives to portland cement in certain applications:
    http://practicalaction.org/practicalanswers/product_info.php?cPath=27&products_id=208

    Microconcrete tiling for roofs looks promising from a cost and local sourcing standpoint, but won't work with CP40 and would depend on supplies of portland cement.
    http://www.english.ecosur.org/category/microconcrete_roof_tiles%2c_mcr.html

    I am beginning to understand why Habitat for Humanity indexes house payments to cement costs instead of more general inflation measures.

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  6. Housing leases by local authorities can be flexible to allow for both renters and buyers of program houses. The Warmsprings model also allows for a hybrid of the two with a "lease option" plan, where securing the full finance for the purchase of the home can be delayed for a few years while partial ownership equity is increased with each rental payment.

    This sort of program is especially useful for residents who are already receiving financing for small business or farm investments. An extra three years to establish higher income basis would greatly increase the ability of such consumers to finance a transition from renting to owning. The delay would also streamline the initial process of placing people into acceptable housing, full financing arrangements or other accomodation can be arranged in the subsequent years while stengthening tenancy rights.

    "(1) The Tribal Housing Department may make available to Tribal members housing on a lease option basis. The initial rental term shall be for a period of 36 months. If at the end of the 36 month term the tenant is not in default, the tenant shall have an option to purchase the home and improvements on the premises at the purchase price agreed upon by the Housing Department and the tenant, at the time the lease option agreement was executed. 40% of the principal rental payments accrued and paid by the tenant during the period of the lease shall be applied to the satisfaction of the purchase price.

    (2) If the option to purchase is not exercised, no portion of the accrued and paid rental payments will be refunded to the tenant. If at the end of the rental term the option to purchase is not exercised, the tenant may remain on the premises on a month to month tenancy until suitable alternate housing is found for the tenant by the Housing Department. The determination as to the suitability of the alternate housing shall be solely within the discretion of the Housing Department. Applications shall be submitted to the Housing Department. The Housing Department, Realty Department and Credit Department must approve applications."

    Warm Springs Tribal Code, Chapter 400.505

    http://www.warmsprings.com/images/Warmsprings/Tribal_Community/Tribal_Government/Current_Governing_Body/Tribal_Code_Book/Doc_Files/400_housing.pdf

    I am not sure that I like all of paragraph (2), as it seems overly harsh, but it may be the result of the need to apply limited financing to the most successful projects, and intolerant of waste. I think that if, for instance, a lease option renter after three years decides to build a new local house, or buy a different house closer to their workplace, or to accomodate a larger family, then they should be able to take their option equity with them as a down payment on the new housing arrangement as well. As long as they aren't actively losing money on the change, then housing departments should be generous with transfers of earned allowances which stimulate home building and ownership.

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  7. Cho said, "Now on brick making...my brother who is well versed on this tells me the chaps at UNZA have been designing some system that would make bricks quicker and turn them round....apparently you can make a lot of bricks in a single day...."

    This is good news! In urban areas, where transport costs are lower, efficiently made bricks will be incredibly useful. For rural areas it is probably best to try and use as much "on site" material as possible in construction.

    I would love to see a pilot project to develop "earthbag" construction for rural Zambians. The methodology is both low-cost and personally expressive, allowing easy adaptation to the individual needs and unique aesthetics of homeowners.
    http://www.okokok.org/index.php

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  8. ”I am beginning to understand why Habitat for Humanity indexes house payments to cement costs instead of more general inflation measures.”

    Very much so. In fact I read a letter on Friday in the Post Newspaper of a chap complaining about the high cost of cement and wondering why the nation faces such constraint when we have so much limestone. Here is the letter:

    ”Shortage of cement
    By Jenkins Chisoni,Glasgow
    Friday June 15, 2007 [04:00]

    I have read two letters on the shortage of cement in our country generally and Western Province in particular and the blame being heaped on the goverment's inability to supply the commodity.

    Whereas I do appreciate the writers' complaints on the matter, I wish to suggest that it is time for us Zambians to develop our entrepreneural capabilities into big industrial capital-based adventures.

    Zambia is endowed with a lot of limestone, why can't we set up new cement producing companies so that we can flood the market with the commodity and at the same time provide more jobs for our people and earn foreign exchange? A Nigerian did it in his country, why can't we?

    In the meantime, I would request the government to listen to the cries of the people of Western Province and do something about cement for immediate use and also provide the necessary base for joint ventures for Zambian entrepreneurs to exploit the possibility of setting up new cement companies.”


    It appears the expansions in construction in North Western around Solwezi and other areas are putting enormous pressure on the price of cement.

    ”I would love to see a pilot project to develop "earthbag" construction for rural Zambians. The methodology is both low-cost and personally expressive, allowing easy adaptation to the individual needs and unique aesthetics of homeowners.”

    Wow! That is something. I am very impressed.
    Seems very intuitive. I have to run this past my nephew who is a Quantity Surveyor / Architect in Lusaka [Herman Kunda – a guest blogger here. He wrote the University Students piece]

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  9. The latest story on the Cement shortage.


    "Smuggling of cement from Tanzania increases in Zambia


    Smuggling of cement from Tanzania to Zambia has increased at the border of Nakonda, Zambia, local press reported Saturday.

    Zambia has been experiencing a critical shortage of cement for over six months due to booming construction, according to Zambian newspaper The Post.

    Investigations at the border showed that 90,000x50kg bags of cement have passed through Nakonde border without being cleared by the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).

    All the cement illegally imported have come through the Tanzania-Zambia Authority (TAZARA) railway and have been loaded at Mbeya town of Tanzania about 110 km from the border.

    A customs officer said a 50kg bag of cement brought into Zambia from Tanzania is supposed to be charged excise duty at 5 percent and the value added tax of 17.5 percent.

    The price of cement made by Zambia has increased to 60,000 kwacha (15 U.S. dollars) from 38,000 kwacha about six months ago. (1 U.S. dollar = 4000 kwacha)"




    Source: Xinhua
    http://english.people.com.cn/200706/17/eng20070617_384996.html

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  10. Earthbag construction also seems an inexpensive way to construct farm buildings. Which would lower the need for cement, and lower costs overall.

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  11. In reading the Sophia Du Pleiss paper on "Institutions and Institutional Change in Zambia" which Cho introduced with specific reference to mining, I felt that the content also held broader reference to the Complex Web discussion here. On p.15 in the paper, I was struck by this passage:

    "If growth is the result of an institutional framework that provides the institutional incentives to undertake productivity-raising activities, and stagnation results from disincentives to engage in productive activity, the problem to confront is how to end up with a growth-enhancing institutional framework. If countries that got it right were only lucky, there is not much to do about economic underdevelopment. And due to the influence of informal institutions, successful policies from developed economies cannot be duplicated in developing countries.

    "The way to work towards an institutional framework that supports economic growth is to create an environment where experimentation and feedback is allowed. The more policymakers and entrepreneurs can experiment with different policy options, the better the chance of survival. Entrepreneurs and policymakers must operate in an environment where they can make decisions, get feedback and according to the feedback, alter their previous decisions."


    This sounds like good advice going forward. The paper further suggests that centralization of decision-making leads to gradual stagnation of the pace of policy innovation. Several forms of government decentralization have been mentioned elsewhere in New Zambia, such as:

    -forming local districts of smaller size with strict budget transfers from the central revenue authority.

    -granting local governments control over service delivery in health, education, safety and public amenities.

    -granting local districts leasehold and rights to sublease land and determine the conditions of its use via Botswana-model Land Boards

    -granting local districts rights to demand contributions to social investment programmes from investors whose operations are conducted within the district and exceed a minimum size threshold.

    -establishing a network of deposit-taking microfinance institutions in unbanked areas to safeguard local savings and provide local investment credit for housing and enterprise.

    -channel central bank funding for development through an India-model NABARD refinancing support system for projects by local credit institutions and governments.

    -apply participatory budgeting structures to the process for planning and delivery of public services to transparently include all stakeholders in decision-making.

    Do any or all of these meet the standard offered by Sophia for contributing to an environment where actors can discover positive feedback loops and alter policy to take advantage?

    What other things can be done to encourage a "growth-enhancing institutional framework"?

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  12. Yakima,

    "Do any or all of these meet the standard offered by Sophia for contributing to an environment where actors can discover positive feedback loops and alter policy to take advantage?

    I think they all do some extent but obviously with different degrees of influence. A ranking system can almost emerge.

    The only thing I would say is that whilst Du Pleiss is right, [and I certainly agree with Rodrik, Tabellin, Acemoglu and others who have probably made more comprehensive arguments for an institutional approach this kind] I would say that in developing such a framework we must work within the cultural setting.
    So I am very glad you have raised the second question

    "What other things can be done to encourage a "growth-enhancing institutional framework"?"

    So to answer your question

    I would say, that institutions that operate within a cultural framework will succeed better than arbitrary institution policies that we have discussed so far. So one of my passion is that we must look at the role of chiefs.

    Please see the posts under the "Culture" label for a broader feel of where am coming from:

    http://zambian-economist.blogspot.com/search/label/Culture

    One of the ideas I have advanced is strengthening House of Chiefs as a proper second chamber. And then link that to development on the grounds.

    e.g.
    http://zambian-economist.blogspot.com/2007/03/insights-from-chief-puta.html

    I would be very interested to hear your views on this "cultural" angle.

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  13. Cho,

    "I would be very interested to hear your views on this "cultural" angle."

    Big subject! In general I figure that traditions are there for a reason, and while perhaps not perfect, serve some functions which generations have deemed worth doing. Individual traditions often serve multiple functions, some of which provide support and reinforcement to other traditions. It is therefore extremely important to fully understand all of the functions being served by a given tradition before attempting to alter or remove it.

    While it may be tempting to try and "just go around" tradition, establishing parallel systems without integration leads to redundancy and eventual conflict between the traditional and the engineered (eg tribalism v. parliamentary democracy). Since tradition is there, and going around wastes effort and leads to just as many problems, and we have to fully examine what functions it serves, then it makes sense to leave as much of it untouched as possible while incorporating any alterations into the engineered structure.

    Jane J Mansbridge wrote in her 1983 preface to her, "Beyond Adversary Democracy", and put it better than I can:

    "Making the distinction between a unitary democracy of friendship based on common interests and an adversary democracy based on conflicting interests in turn helped me see that when democrats defended unequal power they always assumed common interests between the leaders and the led. Arguments for equal power, on the other hand, usually assumed conflicting interests. I concluded that we value equal power not as an end in itself, but as a means to the end of protecting interests equally. When interests do not conflict, equal power is not necessary for self-protection. If everyone has the same interests, the more powerful will protect the less powerful automatically. Equal power is also a means to two other ends--maintaining a community of equal respect and promoting personal growth. But these ends too are met by other means when respect does not derive from power and when everyone in a community has the opportunity to take political responsibility. Thus equal power is a conditional value, not an absolute one. Rather than opposing "democracy" to "elitism" as if equal power were an end in itself, members of a group should spend their scarce resources on making power more equal only when equal power is most needed--when interests most conflict, when equal respect cannot be generated from other sources, and when citizens are atrophying from not having enough power and responsibility. Understanding that even a radical democrat need not press for more equal power in every instance but only when these three ends cannot be achieved by other means is, in my view, the most important practical lesson in this book."

    In as much as traditional governance is providing a unitary democratic environment to serve common interests, I see no reason to disrupt it. On the other hand, I think that it is wise to include guarantees of shared interests, political responsibility, and mutual respect which are enforceable by judicial or adversarial democratic means when formalizing the use of traditional unitary democratic institutions.

    In the case of formalizing and strengthening the role of chiefs within the parliamentary structure, I can see some advantage to vesting unelected traditional local authorities with national power. I would like to see some form of Bill of Rights which would standardize the minimum expectations which citizens under traditional rule can enforce via the courts, district councils or their representative in the lower house.

    Can we generate a reasonably complete breakdown of the traditional functions which are or should be performed by chiefs and/or tribal councils?

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  14. Yakima,

    ”In as much as traditional governance is providing a unitary democratic environment to serve common interests, I see no reason to disrupt it. On the other hand, I think that it is wise to include guarantees of shared interests, political responsibility, and mutual respect which are enforceable by judicial or adversarial democratic means when formalizing the use of traditional unitary democratic institutions”.

    Its a huge subject indeed. I think this is at the core of the debate. Here is my take on this :)

    The traditional approach is to see democracy as a necessary condition to development. And indeed most of what we have been discussing (and the quote from Du Pleiss) has emphasised that open institutions are much more suited for high quality growth. And therefore we try and see that any cultural or social function must fit within that model

    I would agree with that there’s merit in that approach at the national level, but I would like to see a more sophiscated approach on the local level. The notion of “development” at the local level requires a more explicit ‘Zambian’ definition. To put it this way, the national institutional approach to development presupposes the meaning of “development” for everyone and realigns national institutions accordingly to deliver such high quality growth. It is quite feasible that an alternative definition of local development may command different requirements on the type of local institutions that delivers that development. In fact the reason why people are not experiencing the benefits of national growth at the moment is not just that the “trickle” down effect is minimal (I think it is there) but that people have a different idea of what development means to them. Now to some extent things like participatory budgeting helps, but I think more fundamental approaches are need.

    This is why I have argued that at the local level our nation needs to go through two steps:

    1. Each locality in Zambia needs to define what local development it wants to see and what it means by development.

    2. Each locality in Zambia then needs to ask itself, “What local institutions does it want to put in place to help deliver that development?”

    Now it might be the case that for area X “development” to them may mean a greater emphasis on cultural norms (less democratic openness) than economic growth. For area Y it could be the other way round (more democratic openness and growth, but erosion of culture e.g. the Swiss model of referendums) or area Z it could be both (e.g. the Japanese model). We should then allow X, Y and Z to define their “local institutions” accordingly to deliver their goals. What Government should not do is super impose its view of the world or its definition of development on people. Local people must define what development means for them. In some cases, they will reject democratic openness and in some others they’ll embrace it.

    Of course then a challenge emerges : how do you align the “macro” picture of open institutions that delivers high quality growth, to the “micro” picture of intrinsic definitions of development – with culture and development interlinked and traded-off according to the preferences of each individual locality?
    I think that is where the recognitions of culture at the macro level become important. The reinforcing of the House of Chiefs as a credible second chamber links local preferences on culture to national ideals on high quality growth. By accepting that locally, development also has a cultural perspective, our quest for national growth would not come at the expense of weakening our cultural institutions that some regard as part of the very notion of development. Rather development would come through a greater affirmation of our traditions and bringing them to the centre. If this logical premise is accepted then, Chiefs who are the very heart of our traditions must be recognised as having a primary role to play in our quest for higher national growth, and in defining that national growth.

    Now to address your more explicit question:

    ”Can we generate a reasonably complete breakdown of the traditional functions which are or should be performed by chiefs and/or tribal councils?”

    At the local level, the role of chiefs would be dictated by how localities define development and the level of emphasis they would place on using existing cultural institutions to deliver that development (or keep it as some would see it). So the role of chiefs could even be an improved version of the role they played during colonialism as “native authorities” working hand in hand with Government local administrators and members of parliament. The problem at the moment is that Chiefs looks after the people but they have no budget. Everyone in the village runs to the chief for land and food. One of the great travesties of colonialism is that it reduced these institutions that served the people so well to an irrelevant spectator. The current framework of local governance has continued that approach and no wonder we find delivering local development (of whatever shape) such a challenge – we are constantly working with two systems (Government imposed and traditional functions). A way needs to be found where chiefs can become meaningful. We would need to deal with the issue of literacy for chiefs, but it can be done.

    At the national level – the key is a much stronger House of Chiefs. This will provide checks and balances to what Parliament does – similar to the House of Lords in England. But unlike the House of Lords, these chiefs will be having direct links to the grass roots since they would operate within local “native structures” of some sort.

    If I may indulge a little bit: I think the beauty of my vision is that it neatly fuses modern principles of governance while holding onto the beauty of our heritage. In the end really we will never achieve political or economic independence until we develop a distinctly Zambian idea to solving our economic problems. We are struggling to achieve local development because there’s no local idea of development and no vision of what institutions can deliver a more harmonious route to getting there.

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  15. "1. Each locality in Zambia needs to define what local development it wants to see and what it means by development.

    2. Each locality in Zambia then needs to ask itself, “What local institutions does it want to put in place to help deliver that development?”"
    -Cho

    This reminds me of the Warmsprings model, except that their three hereditary Chiefs sit in a single hybrid council with the eight elected leaders instead of separate houses. They have certainly had success applying reasoning similar to yours to local, self-defined "development" agendas.

    What relationship to you envision between the adversarial-democratically elected Parliament and the unitarian-democratically appointed House of Chiefs, and between both/each and the Executive with the central government? For example the US requires that all spending bills originate in the lower house, but reserves the right to approve of judicial nominees for the upper house.

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  16. Yes, the Warmsprings model appears to work well. Culture and economic growth seem to exist peacefully. I was very impressed.

    "What relationship to you envision between the adversarial-democratically elected Parliament and the unitarian-democratically appointed House of Chiefs, and between both/each and the Executive with the central government?"

    All bills should originate in Parliament and be approved by the House of Chiefs. Now if the House of Chiefs rejected the Bill, they would send it back to Parliament with suggested amendments. If Parliament rejects it they then send it back to the House of Chiefs.

    To avoid a deadlock, what you do is say, that there would be special occassions in which the Lower House can overrule the House of Chiefs, but only where the vote in the lower house commands substantial majority at the third attempt(e.g. 90% in favour).

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  17. Cho,

    Would bills as amended by the Chiefs and returned to the Parliament be voted on singly, or amendment by amendment? In other words would the Parliament be able to accept say, half of the suggested amendments and resubmit to the Chiefs, or would they have to accept all amendments or none, or else withdraw the bill as written and resubmit it partially amended as if it were new legislation, thus resetting the amendment-overrule cycle?

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  18. I think a system where they can accept certain bits and reject others. The take it all or leave it delays progress.

    Once the structure is in place there would be a lot of cooperation I think because the House of Chiefs would be non-partisan.

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  19. Good news indeed.

    If this has been used for high rise buildings and is actually cheap, presumably its a cheaper way of building normal houses as well.

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  20. I think that the application of the termite mound as model for large buildings was oriented on passive ventilation layouts. The technology being used on the roads appears to be more recent, and will probably have many eventual applications as a cement replacement. I have been trying to track down more of the science, but much of the lab work appears to have been done in Brazil, and my portuguese is insufficient.

    From what I can make out, the termites carry clay around in body cavities which have very high alkalinity (pH12), which somehow transforms the surface of the clay molecule such that it will cement itself to other similarly coated molecules. The clay is much smaller than other particles in the mound like sand (also has a relatively flat, stackable shape), so the clay cement binds around the sand similar to a mortar and stone wall only at the molecular level.

    Apparently the termite mounds around Zambia average about 20% higher in clay than the soils in the area near them. Therefore if this method is to be widely employed, we should anticipate the need to identify areas of high clay concentration, and be prepared to move it around as needed. I wonder if it will be possible to combine the process of transport with the chemical treatment as efficiently as the termites do.

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  21. The article mentions 300km of road in 2007/8 and the fact that it is cheap. But it does not say how rapid the process is. Also I was not clear on whether special equipment is needed.

    Any thoughts?

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  22. I am finding a lot of evidence of using the material from actual old termite mounds, or "antbed", as material for bricks or rammed earth floors, often mixed with portland cement. So far nothing more on how they are going about reproducing the alkaline treatment without the termites themselves in this new road building technique.

    That is partly because I keep getting off on tangents, like this report I came across which I think might be of interest to you in your pursuit of traditional governance functions. While it appears that Zambia chose not to participate in followup surveys and thus is not much mentioned, many of the neighboring states are covered in more detail.

    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/species/sca/traditional_lifestyles/Africa_final.pdf

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  23. Yes it looks like an interest report. I'll dig into it - good train reading to work :)

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  24. Cho,

    I came across this proposed housing development plan for Lusaka, which looks innovative, if a bit sketchy on the details. Their goal is to build a Modern African Village which includes A Social and Commercial Entrepreneurship Centre incorporating a Humanitarian Centre, a Training Centre and an Eco-friendly Village and Organic Project. I haven't been able to find a third-party review of their idea or progress anywhere, so I have no hint how expensive it all is or how they plan to pay for it. It would be nice if a local journalist would check them out, though I suppose we will hear about it eventually if they succeed. :)

    http://www.akasuba-zambia.com/oportunities.htm

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  25. Yakima,

    Yes I heard about this. It looks very interesting indeed.

    We'll get our very own Journalist Mr Gershom to investigate :)

    If you recall the Lumwana presentation - I think it comes with some housing developments. Also the new economic zones will have master plans shortly published by Government. All those should have housing plans. It would be interesting to see what approach is being taken.

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  26. i find nothing excellent about any trials that we try as zambians for almost half a century.

    housing shortage or urbanisation? most people think on the communist lines but without realising that these things cost money and not providing who picks the tab!!?

    lets say government builds 1million units of houses, those resources put in the scheme how do you get them back for the next phase?what project is put off.

    the urbanisation is the last resort to the poor people that are left with no other choice.

    my advice is slowly increase the price of commodities. this way people can make more money and pay better salaries. this in turn will give people more money to spend and probably afford to pay some contribution to the mortgage cost.this is a rolling 20-40year program.

    any other way you are likely to end up in a culdesac and waste the little resources available. that is what's been happening for 50years. 10steps forward and 8steps back.the whole process again.

    work on the salaries of the people that you target to buy these houses. apart from that forget about this whole topic or just look to paid for the many papers that are prepared

    if our government was a corporation,the value of stocks will be low,then to make matters worse you talk about nationalising mines after selling them,what message are we sending?

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  27. Quite right Arthur,

    There isn't much more money available for public housing than there is now, and most of the people who need housing assistance are too poor to afford the nothing they have, let alone support anything more. The first goal has to be stimulating job creation, which we have tentatively subdivided into rural or urban, and farm or non-farm.

    Half of the difficulty in attempting to design a plan for job creation through Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) is that so many of the details are so specific and variable between locations and individuals. Often it comes down to, "what have you got, and what can you do with it?" It gets even harder when people have so very little and no idea how to use it any differently than they have already been, without success.

    This is why building techniques like earthbags are potentially so useful, if pretty much all you have are empty bottles and food bags and the dirt under your feet, well you can still have a house, warm in winter and cool in summer, with an oven, with a dry roof and well-drained floor. As a solution it can be applied to just about any rural family with some form of tenure rights (customary or otherwise) to the land for a house. Finding jobs for the working age people who live in it, well for that we need to know more about them and their surroundings.

    If there is sufficient farm land attached to the homestead, then most adults will likely commit their full labour to agriculture, but with a few small improvements in productivity time and resources can be freed up to diversify into cottage industries and specialty crops and thereby increase income and hedge against primary crop failure. Those without farmland must be encouraged to either start a small business which will employ themselves and one or more others, or to work for a neighbor who has done so. They will need various forms of technical and financial assistance to build viable business ventures which are self-sustaining, but again funds for such activities are already maxed out.

    So our challenge is to devise ways whereby the same amount of money for small business, housing, or other vital elements of development, produces more for more people in less time. The key to salaries which grow faster than prices is productivity, doing more with less.

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  28. lets say we create employment. and what companies are we looking at to set base in zambia?

    what we need to use is the greatest resource we have 11 million people.

    lets create zambia into a consumer country,where its people can buy plenty.

    we have a great advantage because of our good command of the global village and our conflict neighbours still killing each other.

    we have had companies before,reckitt&beckiser,kapiri glass,serioes,luangwa cycles etc.

    the people where becoming more less likely to buy the products.right now few zambians can afford to have a coke.

    some one thought its good to maintain low wages,now we have weak buying power.

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  29. Arthur,

    "lets say we create employment. and what companies are we looking at to set base in zambia?"

    This is a good question.
    Its similar to what Yakima asked earlier on.

    It seems to that Zambia has plenty of job activities that people can do in. Your question is in terms of "companies". But I would like to think in terms of "empowerment". We need to put money in people's pockets and let them take forward the very exciting opportunities that the country has. Zambia has enormous land and other things. What people lack is a few kwachas to allow them to do business and make ends meat. See for example the following blogs:

    Mushroom powered development

    Preserving the chikanda industry

    In addition we have talked about fish farming, selling cultural products, and recently I came across "village tourism".

    Across Zambia there are resources our people can use. What they need is opportunities. So we have discussed here a lot on how we could do this. Creating a string of rural banks that offered people cheaper loans is important.

    More discussion on these issues can be found here

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  30. offering loans is no problem in zambia,paying back is the issue.

    my thinking is if every zambian could be offered what they are worth,they would be no need for citizens thinking of doing business to get paid. alot of business is stealing from the popoulation.

    imagine you organise the population in zambia and use it to generate profitable businesses and able to pay their employees.

    the brilliant thing about zambia is cheap living,which equals to cheap labour.

    resources you can have but if you don't know how to use them.a person who doesn't have is much better,because they realise they have nothing and become creative.

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  31. "offering loans is no problem in zambia,paying back is the issue"

    I think it is both. Loans are on offer yes, but they are not really offered to poor because poor people cannot prove their income. So in theory the loans are their but the restrictions are too much for poor people.

    The cost is definitely an issue and as Yakima suggests I think there's considerable room to reduce the rates charged to borrowers.

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