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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.

9 comments:

  1. Lets forget about 'the mickey mouse ' or 'apartheid bantustan style' 1964 independence. Purposeful independence can only come with purposeful national drive and empowerment. At the heart of that is good leadership and vision strengthened by strategic and sustainable reforms. The admission by our Finance Minister that the GRZ has failed to advance the true principles of independence and freedom for its people should not come as a suprise. Afterall after independence there was no plan B. Possible explanations A) the ambilical cord was not cut..perhaps the 'mother' needed to continue feeding from the baby not the other way round or perhaps the baby was always going to be kept a baby...or B) those intrusted to look after the baby drunk all the milk and ate cow. There are so many complex reasons and good counter arguments. My opinion is that national freedom and independence is not about a fantasy land of extremes i.e over the top political plurarism and short sighted privatisation...What true independence should be about is the right to live and co-exist in a global world where every single Zambian of every shape, size, colour, race or creed is the primary partaker and beneficiary of the national resources. It means the freedom to make decisions without pressure or interference from other nations. National independence is when you have the right to live in peace without fear of oppression, the right to uphold your traditional core cultural values, practices and beliefs without fear of comformity to other ideologies and cultures. THAT WHAT I CALL TRUE INDEPENDENCE AND FREEDOM.

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  2. It is interesting that Botswana after getting "political independence" continued to have its budget underwritten by Britain to the tune of 60%. There's a classic case of gradual independence. Botswana accepted indpendence gradually and in the process it is more economically independent, and therefore politically independent, than Zambia.

    Compare that to Zambia which run swiftly to political independence and cut off all ties!

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  3. Delayed independence without true empowerment is the same as Death by a thousand knives. In my opinion the discovery of diamonds in Botswana was a factor in the decision for the economy to be underwritten by Britain... who could have possibly given up that..diamonds are forever. In Zambia we had political foresight but an impaired economic vision.

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  4. Cho,

    Botswana accepted indpendence gradually and in the process it is more economically independent, and therefore politically independent, than Zambia.

    I think the present situation is possibly the best thing that could have happened to Zimbabwe.

    They had 'gradual' independence too. And yet the one thing for the country to become totally focused on building it's agricultural sector, have been it's recent problems where all of a sudden cutoff of aid.

    I hate to say it, but sometimes pain is the needed motivator to economic innovation and positive change. (Not always, of course and there are better methods).

    As a result of cutting off donor aid, Zimbabwe is now making strides in agricultural development that will take Zambia forever to achieve, because of all the vested interests, the existing land ownership, the comfort of the political class, etc.

    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.

    Could you spell out what the Zambian way of doing things is?

    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.

    There are good books on individual peoples of Zambia. I don't know if they are school text books though, and the generic history of Zambia you find on the internet is very Eurocentric (they usually start either with the arrival of the Portuguese, or start with ancient pre-history and then switch to the arrival of the Portuguese. :))

    I would like to develop the three points you brought up, but I would like to know more about what you mean with the Zambian way of doing things.

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  5. " Let’s forget the Mickey mouse or Apartheid Bantustan style 1964 independence " Dr jaym.

    I say let us not! to do so would be to denigrate the memory of our courageous mothers and fathers that fought, and indeed died for our political Independence. Political independence , in itself is a laudable achievement for the Zambian people and I for one believe that : We who have enjoyed the fruits of not been oppressed by a racist and vile system should be forever grateful that we have political independence… no matter it’s imperfections.


    “ after independence , there was no plan be” Dr Jaym


    There couldn’t be , the enemy(the British) did not give us independence willingly!. They were determined to control as much of our economy as possible in order for them to protect their business interests. A look at history shows that, The British went out of their way to undermine and indeed sabotage the efforts of our then government.


    Furthermore, it is well documented that at independence we lacked trained manpower, hardly any graduates, had very poor infrastructure, was surrounded by hostile neighbors to the south(our main routes for copper) . I could go on , but my main point is that , to have a softiscated analysis of our current state, we should not ignore the factors that dictated post-independence government thinking.


    “We need to develop credible thinkers” Cho


    Couldn’t agree more! nothing dismays me more than the distrust and disdain that Zambians(particularly those in leadership) have for Zambian inspired ideals. It is almost a form a collective inferiority complex( I am speculating here) ,that makes our leadership believe that foreign “experts” are better equipped to understand the subtleties of Zambia’s social/economic/cultural life than Zambians themselves!


    To be brutally honest, After 42 years of independence , we should have credible national thinkers , and I think we do (a look around this blog will confirm this) I think the challenge for Zambian intellectuals is to develop a language that is accessible and relevant to broad range of our population. We also need interpret and demystify complex ideals so that those ideals may make sense to the ‘man in the boardroom’ as well as the ‘the man in the street’. As Jesse Jackson ounce said “If you want to feed goats, you put grass on the floor…for you cannot have goats jumping in the air for grass”

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  6. Political independence sounds great. Free at last! But we all know that a politically independent country can become a dictatorship whose citizens are deprived of personal independence. That is why each country, as Cho rightly says, needs a constitution which enables its people to defend their freedom against would-be dictatorial governments.

    It is much the same with economic independence. Not being dependent on others, in the sense of not being under their control, is wonderful. But isolation impoverishes. That is why economic independence, like political independence, can be a disaster. In times past each tribe, each clan, each village even, was to a large extent economically independent, and dirt poor. Today we in Zambia could decide to make each province economically independent. What a disaster that would be! Likewise, an economically independent Zambia would become a backwater, offering not development but poverty.

    The fact is that the world has been progressing over many hundreds of years from various forms of economic independence, and sometimes of economic dependence, towards the condition of economic inter-dependence. Economic inter-dependence involves trade and promotes development, so the countries which interrelate most with the'outside' world become the richest and most developed. Their peoples enjoy the widest choice and the best life.

    In short, we need to look at things from a fresh and more interesting perspective. Merely to contrast indepedence, meaning freedom, with dependence, meaning subservience, limits our thinking, for it overlooks the immense benefits of inter-dependence. Interdependence is the future.

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  7. Murray,

    Economic inter-dependence involves trade and promotes development, so the countries which interrelate most with the'outside' world become the richest and most developed.

    Real trade is the way forward. However, it is also how we fill in that concept that will make all the difference.

    For instance, an example where there is minimal interrelatedness between countries, but massive internal interrelatedness in the economy, would be Japan. Very hard to set up business to do what the Japanese themselves are doing. However, if you want to help them implement their economic/business model, they welcome you with open arms. If you want to start a manufacturing plant in Japan, it is nearly impossible, but if you want to help them export Toyotas, they give you all the cooperation you need.

    That is what I mean - they have a very clear concept of what kind of economic activity will help them, and what will hurt them, unlike past and present (MMD) governments in Zambia.

    Zambia should have much closer ties with it's surrounding economies, but most of all, local economies should be developed and linked up. It is the only way there is going to be sustainable economic activity, that can withstand world downturns and other economic instability.

    Also, we should learn from Japan and Korea's vertical integration of business sectors and industries. If all the raw material Zambia produces (and could produce in the future) were turned into finished goods in the country, a lot of unemployment would disappear, and most of the profits and costs would be spent in the domestic economy.

    And that is the principle that both Warren Buffett and Local Economics theorists have in comment - the emphasis on re-investment of profits over and over again, as the way to build wealth.

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  8. ”Could you spell out what the Zambian way of doing things is?” - Mrk

    By the ‘Zambian way’ I mean approaches that recognises the uniqueness of our situations. Ways that are consistent with our cultural identity.

    The ‘Zambian way’ has not yet been fleshed out academics and politicians. We need to develop this way. A new vision built on Zambian understanding of development.

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  9. "I think the challenge for Zambian intellectuals is to develop a language that is accessible and relevant to broad range of our population." - Pandawe

    I would add another challenge - the challenge to remain independent of political influence. We have seen a number of brilliant academics who have just followed the way of money and joined political parties. There's nothing wrong with that, but it does rob the nation of credible thinkers. You can't claim to be credible when you toll party lines.

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