Find us on Google+

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

When poor farmers get left behind...

A new report published by various Norwegian agencies argues that Zambia's poorest farmers have been left behind by Government and World Bank support for contract farming and poor access to adequate inputs:

Zambia is quite capable of growing enough food to feed its population. The problem that the poor are too poor to buy food and that farmers do not have access to adequate inputs to raise their productivity. Agricultural policy in Zambia - of the government and the World Bank - is geared more to the better off farmers than the majority of vulnerable, hungry smallholders. Governments have taken only minimal steps to develop competitive markets that might deliver inputs to farmers at lower prices while the latest farmers are bypassed both by very limited fertilizer subsidies - since they cannot afford them - and the promotion of contract farming, which is geared towards the better-off farmers. With massively reduced extension services -not to mention poor health care and limited access to safe water - farmers have been left to themselves, perhaps to go to the wall, as a matter of policy.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

ERB scores...on the website!

The Energy Regulation Board (ERB) has a very good website. You can access it here, and it has also been added under the "statutory bodies" sidebar. Its particularly encouraging to see the ERB publish their consultation on the ZESCO proposed charges. Its a bit late now to respond (3rd October was the deadline) but you can access it here for information. Thanks to MrK for bringing the site to our attention.

The thing about the ERB is that it actually has real powers to act independently, unlike other statutory bodies e.g. Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ) or even the hapless Environment Council of Zambia. The latter cannot even preside on environmental matters relating to Mines who have signed mineral agreements, according to the
SCIAF and Mine Watch Reports. Unfortunately, because the Minister appoints the ERB board....well you get the idea. Reading the proposed ICT Bill, CAZ is headed the same way in terms of 'independence'.

Monday, 29 October 2007

State and Religion

Article 8:

  1. Zambia is a secular State without a state religion.
  2. State and religion are separate.

-Mung’omba Draft Constitution

Article 8 is probably the most explicit reason why the Mung’omba Draft Constitution may never be adopted in full. Nearly every Zambian I have spoken to has highlighted Mung’omba’s tactical error in including Article 8 in the constitution. In the words of one friend “Mung’omba seems to have sunk the whole draft constitution over one paragraph”. May be not the whole constitution, for there’s much good in it as we'll explore over the next few weeks, but certainly much doubt remains over the wisdom of including Article 8. Incidentally it has also highlighted the usual charge, that Zambians constantly borrow ideas from abroad without thinking them through on whether they make sense domestically.

In fairness, its not clear which brand of national secularism Mung'omba wanted Zambia to emulate. Is it the American or the Turkish? It’s also not clear what problems he was seeking to solving within the current declaration of 'Zambia as a Christian'. Changes for changes sake are not useful, unless we have seen flaws in the existing system that necessitates the revision. But these uncertainties should not detain us from exploring where Article 8 would take us. In particular, three questions seem immediately relevant. First, What exactly is a secular state? Secondly, what would Article 8 mean in terms of our approach to development? Third, is there a third way?

A secular state is a society that dispenses with religion and the supernatural. It can be seen either in a descriptive sense or a militant world view.

As a descriptive term, it portrays a society whose focus is this world rather than other-worldly. Values, meanings, concerns, morals and all aspects of community life are seen in terms of the material world as understood by contemporary science. Nothing is based on belief in God or any life other than this one. Most western nations are said to be secular in this sense, even though the large majority of their populations would claim to have religious beliefs. In France, for example, whose constitution is secular, over 80% of the population claim to be religious, but the impact of their beliefs on French life as a whole is very small.

Seen as a militant world-view, a secular state is a state that is geared towards destroying the influence of religion in all areas of public life. Highly militant secular states tend to be dominated by atheistic thinkers who clearly have a vision of a religion free society, and work towards abolishing religion forcibly. Militant secular states would accept that religion can be a private belief and way of life. What they cannot accept is that it should have any impact on society, politics, moral, education or any other aspects of public life. All should be based on the secular world view rather than any religious world view. The rationale given for this approach is that secularism is based on reason and science while religious world view is based on ignorance on ignorance and superstition. Building society on reason and science, it is argued, will make society more secure, happy, peaceful, strong or in others more developed. This is contrasted to societies built on religious beliefs, which are necessary superstitious intolerant and divisive.

There are a number of countries around the world that have inserted various “secular” clauses in their constitutions. The map below provides a picture – green nations are secular - grey nations are non-secular. A full list can be found
here. Interesting to see that most African nations are non-secular.

In line with anti-Sakism, the fact that other nations have gone down or have not gone down that path is useful and relevant information, but it provides no convincing reason for adopting any particular path. The question is what path is good for Zambia. I believe that Zambia's path lies in rejecting the Mung'omba draft and maintaining its current status for a number of reasons:

First, to assert “secularism” is not a neutral proposition. As we have set out above, a secular position is not a “neutral” position. To say you believe in a secular state with secular values and identity is simply to acknowledge that you have a way of life that you follow – and therefore in its own way, a form of religious worship. By declaring itself a secular state, Zambia is therefore making a positive assertion about its beliefs and identity, not a neutral one. We must acknowledge that both secular and Christian declarations are non-neutral propositions.
Second, it is undeniable that Zambia’s “mode” or “mean” identity is distinctly Christian. That is not to say every Zambian is a Christian or indeed there’s agreement what the term ‘Christian’ means to each Zambian, but it is undeniable that the majority of Zambians profess the Christian faith (something like 96%). If that is true, then we must also accept that adopting a secular identity is a direct denial of who we are as people.

Third, identity and culture is crucial for development. If we accept that Zambia’s identity is profoundly Christian in outlook, the logical question is – does it matter for development? Unquestionably yes! There are those that think that development is about economic growth, consumerism and more choice. The other view is that development is about the freedom to live your way of life to its full potential. Government policy should focus on increasing these ‘freedoms’. Culture, religious and traditions define who we are as people and therefore shape the importance we place on certain “freedoms”.

To illustrate: If you asked me, which is better - a society full of high economic growth, but with no moral basis or do a highly moralised society with mediocre growth? My answer to that question will depend on what “freedoms” I value most. Is it freedom to live in a society where everyone can be trusted and talks to their neighbour, or a society in which I can drive any car I want? These are the questions that are intrinsically personal, but they demonstrate why identity and culture are vital to meeting people’s aspirations for development. This is why development needs to be a local concept, because different local societies value different freedoms. It is also the reason why we must not abandon who we are in the quest for economic numbers and acceptance from secular states and institutions that run the world system.

Faced with this situtation, how do we rescue Article 8? It seems to me the best way forward is to recognise that Zambia indeed is a Christian nation, but to ensure that State and religion are kept separate and the religious beliefs of non-Christians are preserved. Indeed this is where we are at the moment. There’s no reason why Zambia cannot continue to acknowledge her cultural and religious identity, without necessary absolving religion within state functions.
It requires no Article 8 to achieve this.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Undermining Zambia's development?

A new hard-hitting joint report by Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF), Christian Aid and Action for Southern Africa(ACTSA) has been released today, which argues our government was blackmailed into privatising its nationalised copper industry by the IMF and the World Bank, who threatened to withhold debt relief and other aid, eight years ago. It claims that less than one penny in every pound is going to Zambia, whose health and education programmes are collapsing for lack of resources. One-third of children do not get even basic schooling, and hospitals have to make do with paracetamol tablets for pain relief.

According to the report, major Scottish investors are backing a Vedanta Resources-owned copper mining company which is selling Zambia short whilst generating huge profits from the country’s finite natural resource. It calls on Vedanta and its Scottish investors including Standard Life, HBOS and Dundee-based Alliance Trust, to use their ‘corporate social responsibility’ credentials to help rectify the situation before current contract renegotiations with Zambia are concluded. You can access the hard hitting report here.

Update (28th October) : On a related issue - The Guardian has an article on Zambia's new bid to cash in on copper. It carries this interesting observation:

Just how Zambia signed up to the original privatisation agreement remains, after seven years, something of a mystery. The contracts, which ran to over 20 bulky volumes, were never presented to parliament. At the time the country was run by disgraced former President Frederick Chiluba. Earlier this year, Chiluba, who is now gravely ill, was convicted in a London court of siphoning off tens of millions of pounds. Civil servants allege that MPs received advances on expenses as the vote came to a head, and there is widespread suspicion that government officials benefited greatly from the sale.

Others point the finger at the World Bank and its advisers. Professor John Lungu, a respected academic at Zambia's Copperbelt University, says the World Bank told the government that some of the mines to be sold had just seven years of life in them. Yet the very same mines are still fully functioning and scheduled to operate for at least another 15 years. 'How could so much investment go in with seven years' worth of copper left? It baffles the mind,' Lungu said.
Update (30th October 2007) : Christian Aid and SCIAF are calling for the companies involved not to undermine Zambia’s efforts to tackle poverty and renegotiate their contracts - find out more and take action.

Update (7th December 2008) : Vedanta have now responded to the report. You can read Vedanta's response here, and SCIAF's response to Vedanta can be read here. My thanks to the exceptional Minewatch blog for bringing this to our attention.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

The peasant girl with a rich lover, 2nd Edition

The Leader of the Opposition presented a paper at Harvard University this week on Chinese Investment in Africa and Implications for International Relations, Consolidation of Democracy and Respect for Human Rights: The Case of Zambia. Well worth the read for students of Zambia - China relations. Within the paper is this interesting observation on Zambia's apparent cold feet on reviewing the mineral agreements:

The Chinese acquired Chambishi Copper Mine and the Sinazeze Coal Mine. Due to corruption, the Chinese were given favorable terms, including generous tax exemptions for 15 years and even permission to export unprocessed ores to China. The tax exemptions had to be extended to the other mining companies that had acquired the other Copper mines, such as Glencore, First Quantum Minerals and Vendata Resources. Although the tax exemptions should have been reviewed in 2005, the Government grew cold feet, because of its close ties with the Chinese. As a result, the country and its people have not benefited from the recent high copper prices. The losses to the people of Zambia have been made worse by Government’s agreement to relieve the mining companies of responsibility for social services in the mining townships. As a result, most of the money from the exports of minerals is accruing to the mining companies, which tend to take out most of the money. Thus, Zambia has little to show for the high copper prices obtained over the last few years.
Update (27th October): On a related topic - Felix Mutati (Minister for Commerce) is worried about Chinese labourers.

Blog Comments

A new feature has been added that allows comments subscription via e-mail. This makes it a lot easier to stay in the conversational loop after you’ve commented on a post. You'll notice the new checkbox at the bottom of the Comment page, in the identity box:

In order to receive follow-ups via email, you’ll need to post your comment using your Google Account. The comments are only sent to those with verified Google Account so that someone else can’t use this feature to send you email you didn’t sign up for.

Quote of the week (Gershom Ndlovu)

The issue of senior government officials kneeling before the president has dominated the press in the last few months from the time when Southern Province Minister Joseph Mulyata was pictured down on his haunches shortly after it emerged that he had dubiously helped the release of an impounded bus belonging to another politician. Not too long after that, Defence Minister George Mpombo was also pictured on his knees talking to President Mwanawasa and just over a week ago, he was captured again kneeling before the president.......Contrast this culture of kneeling before our presidents to what we see on BBC TV of how the youthful British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, 37, appears very relaxed and confident in the company of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 57. You get the feeling that the two are equals in the service of their nation, forgetting that Brown can easily terminate the young man's job. But if you think of our Mpombo for instance and you go back to his days in Ndola where he was almost down and out, pounding the streets of the city in a sorry state for a man who had been Ndola Rural governor and MP under UNIP, you get the impression that he badly needs the job he holds and can do anything to keep it and kneeling before the appointing authority is but a small matter.

Gershom Ndlovu on the culture of kneeling before elected Presidents. A custom normally reserved for our traditional leaders.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Reflections on true independence…

Its refreshing to hear the Finance Minister Mr Magande publicly acknowledge what the ‘old masters’ have always known but refused to say. The refreshing truth is that Zambia having achieved ‘political’ independence in 1964 is still not truly independent.

“We are not independent but I think we are getting there because our economy is growing and the 2005 debt write-off has also greatly helped….My greatest wish is that each Zambian starts being proud of being a Zambian and contribute to development within the peace and stability that we enjoy”.
The idea that you can achieve political independence without economic independence is a fallacy. Political and economic independence are symbiotically linked. The reason for this is that 'political power' is derived from being able to determine your own choices and living according to how you want. Clearly if you rely on someone else to put food on your plate or forgive your debts or sell copper at prices that someone else dictates in London, that person or country can exert some political leverage on you through economic forces.

The next logical question therefore is how can Zambia break this cord of bondage, or to be more specific, how can Zambia become more economically dependent? Unfortunately, this is where Magande departs from my position. While he emphasises debt relief and Zambians’ good nature, which are all valuable things, I prefer to focus on things that really can make difference. Regular readers of New Zambia will know that it remains my central belief that the long term solution to Zambia’s development can only be found in three critical areas things.

First, we need political and institutional reform. We need a strong constitution - by strong I mean, a constitution that guarantees freedom of press, strong rule of law, limits the powers of the executive, delivers a majority and more representative Government, and would stand the test of time. Economic policies only work if you guarantee certain conditions (property rights, certainty in Governance, limits to state intrusion, etc) via an institutional reform programme.

Secondly, Zambia needs to develop a distinctly Zambian philosophy of development - what works for us. This really can only be based on ensuring that we reinforce our traditions and values within a constitutional framework. Not only do we need a national dialogue on what development means to Zambians but we also need to understand education would help us move towards that goal. Our generation of Zambian academics has failed to define what type of development Zambia should seek to achieve, or that have, have often shunned public debate. There has been no discussion on what politicians ought to be aim form in terms of the nature of local and national development. Economic growth has been discussed, but not development! Unfortunately failure to address that has meant that we have not addressed the second most important issue - the mechanisms and structures that Zambia need to deliver that development.

Finally, we need to develop credible thinkers. No development or economic renewal has ever occurred without home grown thinkers. Equally, the debate on Zambia’s future must start in the Zambian classroom - offering a Zambian centred education that encourages our children to think of Zambian solutions first before they engage a western text book. This does not mean we should ditch the whole system, nor is it practical to do so given that all knowledge is inherently beneficial. What we can do is learn some good things from outside about ‘development’ and reject those not conducive to our way of thinking.

What we need is to harness the good that is consistent with our Zambian way of doing things and reject those that are in conflict with our inbuilt idea of development. This process of harnessing in my opinion must start in our Zambian classrooms - education. Government needs to support young Zambians to learn the differences in their cultural settings from the text books they use and invent local solutions for local circumstances.

The person who started micro credit schemes that are now empowering women around the world was Mohammed Yunus from Bangladesh. Yunus who saw a problem for his people and realised that giving small loans to very poor people on credit could make a difference. Contrary to conventional wisdom at the time he realised that poor people had an untapped demand for credit and that traditional local culture ensured that they would pay back because of stigma. Today Grameen Bank is legendary. Yunus saw something unique about his culture and invented a solution consistent with it that has reaped benefits to others beyond Bangladesh.

We too if we can agree on a Zambian philosophy of development, provide the right institutions to support that development and ensure a Zambian centred education, we would most certainly come up with unique solutions for our society. In doing so we would be well on the path to true independence.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Who loves the poor most?

The Commitment to Development Index aims to rank 21 rich countries on how much they help poor countries build prosperity, good government, and security. Each rich country gets scores in seven policy areas, which are averaged for an overall score. You can read more about the 2007 rankings here.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Towards freer press?

Reporters Without Borders released the World Press Freedom Index 2007 last week. Zambia continues a positive trend, jumping from number 93 in 2006 to 68 this year. However, there's still much work to be done, especially since we remain behind neighbours like Namibia and Tanzania. Relevant to the discussion here.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Chisano wins the Mo....

In London yesterday, Kofi Annan announced Joaquim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique, as the first winner of the largest award in the world--the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The award consists of $5 million over 10 years and US$200,000 annually for life, as well as up to $200,000 a year for 10 years "towards the winner's public interest activities and good causes". President Chissano was praised for putting his country on a path towards peace and democracy and for a variety of economic reforms. He was also commended for not seeking a third term (in other words respecting the constitution). The prize is funded by the UK based telcom entrepreneur, Mo Ibrahim, who sold his pan-African company CelTel to Kuwait-based MTC for $3.4 billion in 2005.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Lumwana mine presentation, revisited

You would have seen the Lumwana video presentation, now you can enjoy the latest Equinox presentation on Lumwana released last week. You can access it here. I regard the latest presentation as superior to the video presentation because the combination of text and fantastic pictures outweigh video without sound!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Mung'omba Draft Constitution - Blog Specials

Zambia is geering up for the National Constitutional Conference that will decide the future of our nation for some time to come - assuming all the players can reconcile their differences! As you know Zambians abroad cannot take part and are not even recognised by the National Constitutition Conference Act 2007. However, we can all voice our opinion and hopefully help shape the debate from the sidelines. In the coming weeks I plan to do short blogs on the Mung'omba Draft Constitution . To discuss elements of it from presidential succession to ministerial proposals to economic rights etc.

Any Guest Bloggers who want to write a piece related to the Mungomba Draft Constitution can forward the articles - and these will be uploaded. From what I am reading from the Press many elements of the Mungomba Draft Constitution will be adopted e.g. 50% + 1, presidential running mates , political funding, etc. We shall discuss these and many other aspects in the weeks to come. So if you have not read the draft, time to start now!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Quote of the week (The Post)

Just before President Mwanawasa arrived, some MMD members grabbed a banner which had a message congratulating President Mwanawasa for his doctorate and appointing a 'hard working Chibombamilimo'. The message seemingly did not please some senior members who grabbed it, folded it leaving only one where President Mwanawasa was being praised.

Immediately, President Mwanawasa's plane touched down, Sikasote raised his MMD sign higher than Chibombamilimo and almost getting to the plane's wings. When President Mwanawasa came out, Sikasote was the first on the line of dignitaries instead of Chibombamilimo. But President Mwanawasa, apparently having been told what was happening on the ground by intelligence officers, went straight to greet Chibombamilimo before greeting Sikasote. Sikasote was the closest to President Mwanawasa and led him to the podium with Chibombamilimo trailing behind.

The Post (20/10/2007)

Political activism is alive and kicking! Sikasote [MMD Provincial Chairman] and Chibombamilimo [Provincial Minister] show how it is done as they jostle for positions, literally! Read the full article here.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Corruption Wars - Part 3 (Corruption & The Press)

President Mwanawasa during his address to the Institute of Directors [IOD] on Corruption and Corporate Governance observed:
“Government officials cannot corrupt themselves, but are assisted by business people….The Government alone cannot, therefore, fight and win the war against corruption in our country. The IOD and its members must join hands with the Government in combating the vice"
His statement raises an interesting question of just who is to blame for corruption, and therefore who is best placed to resolve the problem. I have always believed that businesses are motivated by profit and simply respond to the incentives put before them. The power lies at the door of government. Regular readers of New Zambia will be aware of the many incentives we have talked about that reduce corruption. But I thought in light of the President’s observation, I should point out the reverse – some things that governments actually do that encourage corruption. For it is there that the blame lies.

One of the things that encourage corruption is excessive legislation. The graphs above are from a recent paper by Gonzalez et al which shows the relationship between graft and various measures of excessive regulation. Svenson (2005) also found similar evidence, showing that a number of days to open a business (as a measure of excessive legislation) positively encourage corrupt activities. Its well know of course that one of the things that encourages informality and keeps small firms from developing is excessive legislation. The only way for them to keep doing business is through illegal activities, since becoming formal would lead to higher taxes and other forms of excessive requirements.

Another well known factor that encourages corruption is poor institutional environment. Where accountability of Government officials is limited, we are likely to see more corruption. A previous blog Corruption Wars makes the same point.

But the most obvious is government dominated press. A free press provides greater information than a government controlled press to the public on government and public sector misbehaviour including corruption. The best way to encourage corruption therefore is to ensure Government owns the television and owns the main newspaper. Daniel Kauffman has an interesting presentation on this. You can access it here.

The questions for Zambians is whether we think government has done enough to address the three key areas highlighted above. International surveys on
governance and business regulation seem to point the finger at the government. And of course there’s the obvious elephant of in the room – government owned press. All roads to fighting corruption lead back to government.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Boosting rural finance....

Regular readers of the blog will know that we have discussed many times the deplorable state of financial access in Zambia and ways to deal with the problem. It appears Zambia is about to get a helping hand from IFAD, to set up a NABARD style programme. The Daily Mail reports that Government has launched the Rural Finance Programme (RFP) with a concessional loan of $13.8million. A different Daily Mail article has further detail on how this $13.8 breaksdown:

The RFP has five components that include development of community based financial institutions with an allocation of US$2.3 million, US$4.9 million for promotion of rural banking services and a credit facility for contracted small scale production to be allocated US$ 4.5 million. According to an appraisal report on the RFP, US$1.5 million would be allocated to innovation and outreach facility that would provide support to financial intermediaries to reduce the initial risk of offering services in rural areas and encourage innovative financial products.
Now I tried to track down exactly why this money has come now. It appears that IFAD's loan is based on the report they released in 2004 that recommended the inception of the programme. Not sure why it has taken IFAD 3 years to release the money. You can access the IFAD report here. The report has lots of information on how this money will be spent, the beneficiaries and also the conditions attached to it. Needless to say Government appears to have had very little say on where the money should be spent and the institutional arrangements to take it forward.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Blog Search

A number of you have requested the ability to search through the New Zambia blog. The blogger search on top is poor at this. I have now installed Google Custom Search at the bottom of the blog page, specifically for the New Zambia blog. This will allow you to search through all the posts and comments on this blog. Just type the keyword and you will get all the posts and comments that have discussed that issue. You can even search by commentators!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Taxation and its discontents...

We are fortunate this month on two counts. First, ZIPPA have published their 4th Quarter Journal focusing on the important issue of taxation. This is a critical area for Zambia's development path. Secondly, Fred Bantubonse has a piece in the same journal that expands on his previously stated position that Zambia should not increase the mining taxes. The chart above is from Bantubonse's article showing Zambia's actual and projected earnings on the existing mining tax regime. There's a lot to agree and disagree with in his article, but I won't spoil your read any further.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Weeding out mushrooms....

A key problem problem with Zambia's current educational set up is that the current excess demand in higher education has led to the mushrooming of poor and unregulated alternatives to the two universities (CBU and UNZA). Kate probably put it best, responding to the mwabanomics blog:

We are now at an unfortunate stage in our national chronicle where some of the brightest students are failing to secure a university or college seat. These students end up enrolling in unaccredited academies (so many have mushroomed, especially around Lusaka) and the end result is palpable. It’s a conundrum because on the one hand, it seems almost fraudulent that these schools cash in--in exchange for an education that they know will almost certainly not result in employment or any legitimate credentialing for that matter. But then on the other hand, what is the viable alternative?

A previous blog Directing the invisible hand echoed those thoughts and suggested the solution lay in Government intervention - directing the visible hand and not necessarily in private provision.

Private provision is already taking place. It is responding to the excess demand, but the problem is that this private provision is operating in an unregulated educational market. If regulatory standards where high (and uncorrupted) then we would have a better chance of deliver an educational infrastructure that supports a growing economy. Instead what we have are cheap and low quality colleges which are not doing much to get the poorest members of our society to achieve the best returns from educational investment. This is the classic case in which the invisible hands needs some effective direction. A good start would be a clearly defined framework safe from corruption in which Government regulates some of these institutions better to ensure there’s a minimum level of good education being provided.

I am happy to report that Government appears to be leaning towards the same position. The Daily Mail [URL may disappear!] reported this positive development this weekend.

GOVERNMENT will establish a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) to address compliance and quality assurance in the education sector. Minister of Education, Geofrey Lungwangwa, said this during the official opening of the Knowledge Cube Zambia in Lusaka on Tuesday.

Prof Lungwangwa said the vision of Government was anchored on education to promote wealth creation and employment generation to transform the country into a middle-income nation by 2030. He said Government was proud and supported initiatives that provided holistic education to Zambians. “Government will continue to support efforts to ensure that knowledge is imparted to students so that they are able to deliver,’’ Prof Lungwangwa said.

He was optimistic that Government would attain the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) in education. Prof Lungwangwa also said Government will embrace the Public Private Partnership to ensure social and economic issues affecting the people in education were resolved. He said through partnerships, Zambia would ensure the Vision 2030 was realised. Prof Lungwangwa said Government strives to create a conducive environment for partnerships in higher education provision. He said his ministry would continue to support progressive non-state institutions that provide education services.

However, Prof Lungwangwa said Government was concerned about the need to maintain standards in education. He said Government would not allow the flouting of regulations in the establishment of private institutions. “It is important that they all adhere to regulations so that quality is not compromised,” Prof Lungwangwa said.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Zambia's Draft ICT Bill (2007)

We have discussed a number of times the ICT situation in Zambia (e.g. here & here). Communications Authority of Zambia (CAZ) have got round to uploading the Draft Information and Communication Technologies Bill (2007) on their website. The ICT bill should be enacted by Parliament towards the end of the year. The proposed bill does appear to strengthen the capability of the CAZ, especially with respect to Economic Regulation. The role of the Competition Commission is also clarified, and crucially, CAZ would be able to regulate tariffs and charges for the Industry. As we have previously argued, Zambia's tariffs are one of the highest on the continent.

Highly recommended weekend read.

Quote of the week (LPM)

"NCC is now law. This law is now embodied, for those who did not know, in the NCC Act. I want those who are daring government to know... those who are still doubting that this is not the law and those who want to fight government and make governance impossible, that they are committing treason......I have come back a changed person. Let me hear no more nonsense bordering on malice, they are going to be arrested and charged with treason and bail is not available to treason."

- President Levy Mwanawasa [ The Post 10/10/2007]

This week's quote is self explanatory, but in reflecting on this quote its worth revisitng a related blog on Zambia's Governance index for 2007. That blog shows that President Mwanawasa has not made progress in terms of giving people a "greater voice" and being accountable to the nation. Things have actually got worse. I doubt that threatening behaviour will do much to improve that area of the index. People need to be encouraged to think and challenge Government's actions not fearing for their freedom.

'strange' no more!

The strange case of the "missing data" is no more! A while back we spent some time trying to track the latest data on the proportion of students in higher education on various programmes, with a special focus on agriculture. We were rightly concerned when the 1997/8 picture showed a pitiful 2% of students studied the subject. It was apparent that despite having lots of land and emphasis on agriculture production, this has not been matched by investment in necessary agriculture focused education.

Luckily the Ministry of Science and Technology's new website now seem to possess some latest information. The Ministry undertook a survey in September 2005 to collect statistical information pertaining to the Technical Education Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TEVET) sector. [The survey covered all provinces. Out of 314 institutions registered by TEVETA in 2004, 243 responded to the questionnaire representing a response rate of about 77%.] The TEVET Statistics Digest provides data for the 2004 for all TEVET Institutions in Zambia - (TEVET level does not include first degree and above). The data covers all of the higher education institutions except UNZA (check the appendices for the details). You can access it here.
I have constructed a quick bar chart above to show enrolment by programme / discipline in 2004. Its clear agriculture is still languishing. Only 2.7% of students at TEVET level enrolled to study agriculture in 2005. Our earlier concerns appear justified. Very little has indeed changed in recent years.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Zimbabwe's 18th Constitutional Amendment

There was some expression of interest to see Zimbabwe's 18th Constitutional Amendment. This is now publicly available. You can access both word and PDF copies here. The extract reads:

This Bill will amend the Constitution in the following principal respects: firstly, to shorten the term of the office of President and make it run concurrently with that of Parliament; secondly, to change the composition of the Senate and House of Assembly; thirdly, to harmonise the holding of local authority elections with elections for the President and Parliament; fourthly, to abolish the Delimitation Commission, the functions of which are to be assumed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and which will also delimit local authority wards; fifthly, to provide for the appointment of a Deputy Chief Justice; sixthly, to alter the title of the Commissioner of Police and Ombudsman to those of the “Commissioner-General of Police” and the “Public Protector” respectively; and finally, to make provision for the establishment and functions of an independent Human Rights Commission. The opportunity is also taken to correct errors that have become apparent in the text of the Constitution since the last amendment.
Difficult to see anything within the bill that gives MDC renewed. The idea that Zimbabweans in diaspora might vote appears to remain a matter for negotiation. It is certainly not recognised in the amendment, and may even be contrary to the provisions of the current constitution.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Spending $2 a day, Revisted..

A previous blog Spending $2 a day, discussed how the poor still retain some choice over the little they have, and in some cases spend it on luxurious items. Little was said on the implications for policy, although a later blog Fighting poverty...Ugandan way touched on this issue. Well, Aneel Karnani's recent paper - Employment, not Microcredit, is the Solution touches on this:

The business guru CK Prahalad has said “if people have no sewage and drinking water, should we also deny them televisions and cell phones?” Writing about the slums of Mumbai, he argues that the poor accept that access to running water is not a “realistic option” and therefore spend their income on things that they can get now that improve the quality of their lives. This opens up a market, and he urges private companies to make significant profits by selling to the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (BOP).

The real issue which the BOP proposition glosses over is: why do the poor accept that access to running water is not a realistic option? Even if they do, why should we all accept this bleak view? Instead, we should emphasize the failure of government and attempt to correct it. Giving a ‘voice’ to the poor is a central aspect of the development process. That is what the civil society, for example Oxfam, is attempting to do.

In many developing countries, an autocratic government has denied a voice to the poor. Even in developing countries with a representative democracy, the political process has been hijacked by various vested interests. The business community, bureaucrats, politicians and the media are full of self congratulations on the booming private sector – for example, on the increased penetration of cell phones. However, the representative image of a developing country is not a cell phone, but rather defecating in public. For example, in Mumbai, the business capital of India, about 50% of the people defecate outside. There is no magic solution, but the starting point is passion and anger at the failure of the state to provide these basic services

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Random forecasts...

The Bank of Zambia are now confident of hitting a 7% inflation target in 2008. Read more here. Not sure what to make of this latest prediction, considering the Bank forecast a 5% inflation target for 2007 at the time of the Budget Report. That of course was revised two months later. We now know that inflation is still overing just below 10%, and of course the situation may get worse with the latest fuel squeeze.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

A case for low mining taxes?

Reuters reports that Fred Bantubonse, the Zambia Chamber of Mines executive director disputes the logic of increasing mineral royalties from 0.6% to 3.0%:

Bantubonse said allowing foreign mining firms to continue operating under existing conditions would guarantee the opening up of more copper mines, which would in turn create more employment for Zambians. "The best is to allow more money to come into the economy to create jobs. We have seen that employment has risen from 22,000 jobs in 2000 to 48,000 jobs in the mining sector because of new investments," Bantubonse said.

Bantubonse said the government would collect more taxes through personal income tax and land tax the councils collect from the mining firms, while the tourism and services sectors had also benefited from higher investments in the mines.

Bantubonse’s statement really strike at the heart of the debate: what is the best way for Zambia to tackle poverty – is it through allowing foreign mining companies to create more employment or to collect more direct mining revenue, and then use that revenue to deliver public services? The answer is not as easy as it seems.

Bantubonse is right that additional employment should create a broader tax base in the long term. However, the additional jobs cited by Bantubonse are masked by foreign employees from abroad. As
Herman discussed earlier this year, where jobs are being created for Zambians, these are often low quality. In addition, there’s little evidence on the ground of any technological transfer from the mines to local firms / sectors. Technological diffusion is critical for long term empowerment and local development.

The problem is that giving more revenue to Government is not necessarily a robust solution either. More money in Government coffers won’t do the nation any good unless we have transparency. We need a much smarter approach to the mining issue than just a revenue hungry approach. More money to central Government alone will not improve local economies, and it won't certainly translate into better pay and working conditions for workers. So we are stuck between two unwelcome alternatives.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Stop the Borrowing, Please! (Guest Blog)

In February this year, the government announced that Exim Bank of China would grant loans to Zambia amounting to US$396 million. Two-and-half months later, Zambians were informed of a World Bank loan amounting to ZMK103 billion to be re-paid after 40 years with a 10-year grace period. Now we are being told of Ng’andu Magande’s planned trip to China to borrow US$39 million.

Why is the government so determined to mortgage our country? Will our beloved country’s fascination with loans ever diminish? It does not at all augur well for the future of a country that is still in the process of getting relief from unsustainable levels of commercial, bilateral and multilateral debts to be so enthusiastic about securing additional loans.

We need to seriously and urgently consider the prospect of creating a smaller and more efficient government that will be capable of performing existing and planned government functions with a smaller number of Cabinet Ministers, no Deputy Ministers, no Provincial Ministers, no Provincial Permanent Secretaries, and no District Commissioners. And we need to create semi-autonomous provinces that will be administered by elected Provincial Governors and District Mayors.

Besides, we need to reduce the number of Zambia’s foreign embassies and missions by half by creating embassies that will serve groups of countries rather than single countries, and by enhancing the operations of the embassies through advanced Internet portals. Moreover, we need to initiate restrictions on leaders’ trips to foreign countries, among many other cost-cutting measures.

When are we going to find it necessary to get rid of leadership positions that do not add any value to efforts aimed at poverty reduction? If we cannot urgently dispense with sinecures that are draining public coffers, we will not be able to break the cycle of securing loans on a yearly basis for acquiring road-maintenance equipment, and for repairing roads, bridges and culverts damaged by floods, since torrential rains that generate the floods are likely to recur every year.

Surely, our children and grandchildren will judge us harshly if we leave them with unjustified and unsustainable levels of debts that will deprive them of a standard of living compatible with the needs and expectations of their times.

Meanwhile, our beloved country will continue to grapple with the unpallatable situation whereby 65% of the national budget is devoted to the sustenance of a bloated state apparatus, and only a paltry 35% is left for education, agriculture, healthcare, low-cost public housing, roads and bridges, and so forth.

Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger)

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Quote of the week (Jonas Shakafuswa)

We’ve got a budget which can’t cater for all the university needs and the students…..You come and try to allocate funds, you are going to see the dilemma we have. You will find that just as the universities are asking for money, so are other sectors like health…..After the budget, that’s when they come and say ‘why didn’t you allocate like so and so?’ That’s rubbish….No Zambian leader would solve all the problems in 10 years. So let someone come to a television programme, I challenge them. I will show him the reality which is on the ground….

Jonas Shakafuswa (The Post 06/10/2007)

The straight talking Deputy Finance Minister challenging those that question Government’s spending plans in certain areas. Skeptics would say that if Government reduced its size, (and missions abroad cut?), developed models that allowed greater privater sector involvement, and reduced corruption there would be a lot of money to spend.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Draft Land Policy, revisted....and now rejected...

The Draft Land Policy has been out for a while now. Actually, it was drafted in December 2006, but only became accessible once the Ministry of Land uploaded it on their new website in middle of the year. The Post (04/10/2007) reports that Zambia Land Alliance appears to have got round to dissecting, and have rejected it. I must say the reasons put forward by ZLA are well founded and it is most encouraging to see an organisation like ZLA 'think tanking' through the complex set of issues. The only downside is that having identified the flaws of the current framework and Government's proposed remedy, ZLA have yet to provide an alternative model on the way forward. Aside from that, their assessment is extremely sound. Here are couple of quotes from Henry Machina (Director, Zambia Land Alliance):

"First and foremost, civil society commends government in working toward providing Zambia with a long awaited and critically needed Land Policy. However, after due consideration and debate, civil society unanimously rejects the draft Land Policy as it now stands... The rejection of the second draft Land Policy is thus the mutual position of concerned citizens, who want to see a Land Policy which addresses the needs of all Zambians....."

"To this end, civil society is in agreement that the Land Policy must be authoritative and well-founded, providing clear guidance for land administration and a basis for developing legislation; a policy which is pro-poor and gender sensitive, and which provides for security of land tenure for all, including investors, and addresses areas of potential conflict.....This is evident as the second draft Land Policy does not provide for the needs of the citizens within the dual land tenure system in rural and urban areas.....The significant role of chiefs and councils in land administration is not addressed nor are there provisions for a democratically constituted and decentralised land boards......"

"The draft policy focuses on strengthening the role of the state in administration of land, ostensibly to reduce corruption and improve administration.......However, increasing the role of the state and reducing the role of citizens does not necessarily lead to improvements in land delivery and administration or reduction in corruption.Civil society would rather promote a policy, which strengthens the democratic right of citizens to participate in the governance of land and to monitor land adjudication processes.."

Update (7th October 2007) : The Post (07/10/2007) is reporting more backlash . This time from the Chiefs:

“Chiefs were expecting that government would call for a land conference with chiefs so that they express their opinions on the matter. But that did not happen. So, since you ignored our proposals, we are going to reject your land policy. We believe that government has some hidden agenda they want to include in the policy. ..We know that government is interested in money and your government seems too capitalistic. You have failed to take our opinions on board, so chiefs say no land conference, no land policy”

Chief Ntambu of Mwinilunga

“As you have already said, honourable Machila [Lands Minister], that a lot of investors have approached your ministry asking to buy pieces of land for their investments in Zambia. We are afraid about that. Already many indigenous Zambians have been displaced by the so called investors and it is clear from your statement that in the near future your government will sell all the land in our chiefdoms.. It is immoral to sell land and leave indigenous people suffering just for the love of money.”

Chief Imwiko of Lukulu

The Government position as stated by the Lands Minister:

“Currently, the government is using the 1958 map that is authentic. But we are still working on the issue to ensure that investors who come into the country for development do not displace citizens. Also, government does not have the legislation that authorises chiefs be given title deeds, But now that you have raised that issues, government will take into consideration to address the matter”.

Update (11th October): I P A Manning's Zambia Landsafe Investment blog carries an interesting ZLA publication on this important issue. You can access it here.

Down memory lane....

As our neighbours to the south seek to change their currency, I think it is the right time to share this nice collection of old Zambian notes sent by a friend in Lusaka.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Zimbabwe's tyranny and disease...

Africa Fighting Malaria, a non-profit health advocacy group, has issued a must read report on the current state of Zimbabwe's health care system. You can access the press release here, and the full report here.

Zimbabwe Crisis - Fact Sheet (September 2007)

One of the challenges of understanding the complex situation in Zimbabwe is that there are too many figures floating all over the place. I am therefore extremely grateful that a kind reader of the blog has sent me the Zimbabwe Crisis - Fact Sheet. It is up to date and comprehensive.

The AFRICOM Initiative (Guest Blog)

Recently, the African Command (AFRICOM) initiative seems to have generated a great deal of serious debate; the following articles reflect some of the arguments for and against the initiative: Africa: U.S. Command Reaches Initial Operating ...
U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, officially stood up today when the ... For its first year, AFRICOM will operate under U.S. European Command (EUCOM), -
Similar pages Africa: US Africa Command Will Enhance Local Skills ...
The new U.S. regional military command for Africa (AFRICOM) will have a distinctly ... AFRICOM also will help countries interested in improving government -
Similar pages Africa: Questioning Africom -1
With the nomination in July of General William E. Ward as the first chief of the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the long-discussed new command took -
Similar pages Nigeria: Stop Africom
When launched, AFRICOM will become a permanent military base in Africa, thus completing a long-desired strategic plan by the US. The stated reason was that -
Similar pages Africa: Questioning Africom - 2
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from an extensive critique of AFRICOM from the Center for International Policy, with particular emphasis on -
Similar pages Botswana: Botswana Discusses Africom
President Festus Mogae has said that Botswana is discussing the possibility of hosting the controversial U.S. African Command (US-AFRICOM). -
Similar pages Africa: Africom Can Help Governments Willing to ...
Since the announcement of the creation of Africom, a new unified American combatant command responsible for Africa, there has been much skepticism over its -
Similar pages Africa: Testimony of Dr. Wafula Okumu - U.S. House ...
Until the enunciation of Africom, the continent had been haphazardly divided into ... Africom is expected to stop terrorists being bred in Africa’s weak, -
Similar pages Africa: Africom - Wrong for Liberia, Disastrous for ...
Ordering that AFRICOM be created by September 30, 2008, Bush said, "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of -
Similar pages

I have found it difficult, really difficult, to resist the temptation of getting involved in the debate. Let me tender my observations and misgivings concerning the AFRICOM initiative, without reciting those which are presented in existing articles on the subject.

1. In terms of peace and security, African countries do not, by and large, face external threats. Zambia, for instance, is sur­round­ed by civi­lized and friendly nations which do not apparently pose any threat to the country—that is, Angola, (Botswana), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. We expect the situation to remain that way in the long term.

In other words, the problems facing the African continent are generally NOT military in nature. The needs, expectations and aspirations of citizens on the continent are clear: greater access to education, vocational training and life-saving healthcare; greater and sustained food security; greater employment opportunities; improved socio-economic conditions in rural areas; greater access to clean water and electricity; greater care for the elderly, the handicapped and both orphaned and vulnerable children; sustained protection of the fragile natural environment; and, among other things, a sustained effort to address the scourge of corruption.

We need support in addressing these and other related needs of our people.

2. If AFRICOM is allowed to create military bases on the African continent, what arguments will be advanced to prevent other countries with the wherewithal to seek to establish military bases on the continent—such as China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, and so forth? We really do not need to foster another Scramble for Africa, a military-based one this time around!

3. AFRICOM is a potentially divisive initiative; it can very easily trigger acrimony and dissention among countries that have thus far worked hard to create the African Union (AU) and such economic blocs as COMESA, SADC, ECOWAS, and so forth. Once some member-countries decide to host AFRICOM against the wishes of other member-countries, it will be the beginning of disintegration and fragmentation of the continent.

4. Would the U.S. permit another sovereign nation-state to establish a military base on its soil?

USAID, AGOA and other American initiatives are commendable. Any new programs that are benign to the continent’s people that are not yet catered for through such initiatives, therefore, need to be channeled through the same existing non-military initiatives.

Finally, it will perhaps not be unwise for African countries to eventually do away with defence ministries or departments and the defence forces they serve. We are headed toward an era of greater understand­ing among countries—an era that will make it both safe and rational for nations to relegate the functions of their national defence forces to the UN peace-keeping forces, and/or regional forces established through arrange­ments like the African Crisis Response Ini­tiative (ACRI), which France, Britain and the United States have offered to support by providing training and equip­ment.

In such an era, the protection of each and every count­ry’s territorial integrity will not be a necessary func­tion of national governments.

Update: I wish to make a few additions to the contribution I made earlier.

1. Becoming a host to a foreign military base is a permanent, irreversible and very serious commitment, which a country’s leaders would do well NOT to assent to on behalf of present and future generations—perhaps not even through a referendum!

2. It is important to delineate the generic or regular roles of the civil police and the military. In Zambia, the functions of the Zambia Defence Forces, as stipulated in Article 101 of the Republican constitution, are to: (a) preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zambia; (b) cooperate with the civilian authority in emergency situations and in cases of natural disasters; (c) foster harmony and understanding between the Zambia Defence Force and civilians; and (d) engage in productive activities for the development of Zambia.

On the other hand, the functions of the Zambia Police Force, as stipulated in Article 104 of the Republican constitution, are to: (a) to protect life and property; (b) to preserve law and order; (c) to detect and prevent crime; and (d) to cooperate with the civilian authority and other security organs established under the constitution and with the population generally.

These functions are fundamentally not dissimilar to those performed by the civil police and the military in the U.S., and of police and military forces in civilian government regimes worldwide as a matter of fact. In analyzing the stated and potential roles AFRICOM will play in Africa, it is, therefore, important not to overlook this delineation.

3. I have enjoyed reading three pieces of information about "Understanding AFRICOM" found on the following links: / Part I / Part II / Part III

Conclusion of Part III:

Africa has been through this (the scramble for the continent) before, caught in the middle of a global chessboard during the first Cold War as competing world powers sought to win friends and contain enemies at the expense of those in the way. Militaries were trained and armed to fight proxy battles or overthrow unsympathetic regimes. Rhetorical allusions to notions of human rights and democratic governments lost out to the more pragmatic ends of protecting economic ideologies. For the most part, the blood that spilled was largely that of Africa, again prevented from achieving true independence, self-identity, and prosperity. The old Cold War blew in primarily on the exaggerated vapors of ideology. This one is not so abstract.

Africa is now perceived as the final frontier for the world's energy supplies, crucial for the preservation of hi-tech global civilizations, and this new scramble will be much more serious. This is the context in which the new combatant command enters the history books, at the junction of the early 21st century and the pending flare out of the petroleum age. Expanding the military reach of the most powerful empire the planet has ever known, AFRICOM will be tasked with the responsibility of achieving full-spectrum dominance over mother Africa for fuel. Operating as both energy-protection service and strategic Cold War front, the unified command will concentrate whatever military forces are necessary to keep the furnaces of Empire lit.

Whether AFRICOM will succeed in this directive is beside the point, for, while ends may justify the means for the elite in power, their so-called "national interest" payoff, it is regular people who pay the full price at all times. And it does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa.

Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger)

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Aviation is crucial for growth....

A recent paper finds a significant link between between aviation connectivity and productivity, especially for transition economies.

The model shows that connectivity has a statistically significant relationship with labour productivity levels. It shows that a 10% rise in connectivity, relative to a country’s GDP, will boost labour productivity levels by 0.07%. The relationship between connectivity and productivity is logarithmic (i.e. based on percentage changes in both values), rather than linear. This suggests that investments in air transport capacity in developing or transition countries, where connectivity is currently relatively low, will have a much larger impact on their productivity and economic success than a similar level of investment in a relatively developed country.

The key for Zambia is to consider 'air transport capacity' in a dynamic way. Its not just a question of physical infrastructure but much more. With South Africa 2010 on the horizon, we have a window of opportunity to take important steps to grow in this area.

There's a lot that Zambia can do without spending much money. Liberalisation for example can achieve wonders at minimal cost. As a land locked nation it is extremely important that we have good air connecting services and appropriate investment in airport infrastructure. We need to fully liberalise entry into the air transport sector and grant Fifth Freedom rights when requested by third countries as set out in the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD). We cannot continue to let South Africa influence us negatively into denying rights to foreign carriers requesting to pass through Zambia contrary to our economic needs and the YD.

Another area we must certainly address is that of jet fuel pricing. According to
ZEGA, jet fuel is 55% more expensive in Lusaka than in Jo'Burg. British Airways last year noted that their fuel costs were more than 40% more in Lusaka than in Jo'Burg. In June 2005 IATA examined the Zambia's high fuel cost prices and compared them to airports in the region, it concluded that Zambia's prices were between 12 and 40% higher. With that came the recommendation that Zambia should try and reduce the jet fuel prices by 20% as an initial step towards achieving a more reasonable and sustainable price structure - no progress has been made in taking this recommendation forward. To make it worse, Zambia also imposes VAT tax of 17% and 5% import duties. There's a case for reducing these for airlines if we are really serious about encouraging growth in the aviation and tourism sectors through cheaper travel.