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Friday, 30 April 2010

Inflation Statistics - April 2010

The annual rate of inflation, as measured by the all items Consumer Price Index (CPI), decreased by 1.0 percentage point from 10.2 percent in March 2010 to 9.2 percent in April 2010. The decrease of 1.0 percentage point in the annual inflation rate in April 2010 is attributed to a "decrease in the cost of food items". The outlook going forward looks bright indeed. With the expected bumper harvest we can expect a more robust single digit posture. More detail via the CSO Monthly Bulletin.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Street Children in Zambia

The prevalence of street children is a huge problem in Zambia, but I never understood the trend until I came across this recent paper on Breaking the Net : Family Structure and Street Children in Zambia :

The number of street children in Zambia almost doubled over the 1990s. National studies conducted in 1991 and 2004 estimated the number of street children in Zambia to be approximately 35000 and 75000, respectively (Tacon and Lungwangwa 1991; Zambian Ministry of Sport, Youth and Child Development 2004). This represents an increase from about 0.9% to 1.6% of Zambian children living on the street.  
The above is a serious indictment of MMD's policy over the last two decades. The paper goes on to provide some interesting observations on the factors that give rise to the street children phenomenon, following a study of Ndola slums :
Our analysis highlights several interesting features of the role of family structure on the street children phenomenon.

Contrary to common belief, income is not a main determinant of the street children phenomenon as most families in this setting live below the poverty line. The same applies to the impact of HIV

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Nepotism as corruption..

Sketchley Sacika recently urged the the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to broaden the definition of corruption by including nepotism :

"I want to appeal to ACC that while we appreciate what the Act says about corruption, we would like the Act on the definition of corruption to be extended to things like nepotism and favouritism...Corruption is not only about things highlighted in the ACC Act...It’s important to understand what corruption is all about. If we reduce our understanding to the four points highlighted in the Act then we may not be able to fight corruption. Corruption fight will be in futility....I have worked in the government which was efficient before, I have worked in a government which is corrupt free; the government of Dr Kenneth Kaunda was purposeful. There was corruption yes, but it was rare"
This is a confusing statement for two reasons.

First, the Laws of Zambia (ACC Act No 42 of 1996) defines corruption as “the soliciting, accepting, giving or offering of a gratification by way of a bribe or other personal temptation or inducement, or the misuse of abuse of a public office for private advantage or benefit”. This is a wide ranging definition, which suggests several vices that could feasibly qualify as corruption.  Among them certainly includes nepotism or the favouritism granted to relatives or friends, without regard to their merit (“tribalism” probably falls within the scope). By referring to "other personal temptation or inducement" it certainly makes it clear that abuse need not be financial.

Secondly, the statement that corruption under Dr Kenneth Kaunda was rare assumes that there was nepotism or tribalism. Are we really saying these things are new?  There may be some truth in the following joke told at family dinner tables whenever governance issues come up :  "Under Kenneth Kaunda , corruption was done with “dignity” and under the table. Then came along the Chiluba government, where corruption was done in a “liberal manner” and above the table. With the dawn of President Mwanawasa the entire table was stolen, with everyone chased out of the room except for the inner circle. With President Banda government, the table has gone but everyone is invited to participate!"

I discuss the various forms of corruption, including nepotism, at more detail under Reflections on Corruption.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Linking Zambia (Princess Kasune Zulu)

The website of Warrior Princess author Princess Kasune Zulu. Read about her current work, get in touch with the author and support her initiative Fountain of Life.  In short, support this great Zambian!

The Return of Industrial Policy

Rodrik argues that what determines success in industrial policy is not the ability to pick winners, but the capacity to let the losers go – a much less demanding requirement. An interesting piece, except for many countries determining the losers can be hot politics as we have found out with ZAMTEL :

The Return of Industrial Policy, Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate, Commentary :

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown promotes it as a vehicle for creating high-skill jobs. French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks about using it to keep industrial jobs in France. The World Bank’s chief economist, Justin Lin, openly supports it to speed up structural change in developing nations. McKinsey is advising governments on how to do it right.

Industrial policy is back. In fact, industrial policy never went out of fashion. Economists enamored of the neo-liberal Washington Consensus may have written it off, but successful

Monday, 26 April 2010

Warrior Princess, By Princess Kasune Zulu (A Review)

Warrior Princess, By Princess Kasune Zulu
A Zambian Economist Review 

Warrior Princess: Fighting for Life With Courage and HopeIt was quite exciting stumbling on Princess Kasune Zulu’s new book Warrior Princess. Unfortunately, just as I was about to start reading it, my dear wife beat me to the book shelf, consequently putting this review on hold. Indeed it speaks to the special nature of Warrior Princess that that every single day as I wade through the pages my wife has asked, “what page are you on?” “have you got to this page with Mrs Banda?” “Can you believe she jumped on those trucks?” and the list goes on. As you might guess my wife is enthralled by the book and she made a point of telling me about it before I finished it! Naturally that fostered high expectations, which were quickly replaced by worries after she told me that she shed a few tears reading it! Setting aside the possibility of suffering

Quick notes

A new Human Rights Watch report suggests that the government of Angola has not done enough to combat pervasive corruption and mismanagement. Even though the oil-rich country's gross domestic product has increased by more than 400 percent in the last six years, Angolans are not seeing their lives improve accordingly.

A new report from ICTSD finds that African farmers could have gained from a 3.5 percent average increase in world cotton prices, if the US had cut subsidies that were deemed unlawful by a dispute panel at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), following complaints by Brazil.

Windhoek is trying to create a backup to the vulnerable pipelines that supply the city with water. Namibia's water engineers are "banking" ground water to meet future demand, but the enormous costs might sink the project before water can be harvested.

Rwanda recently shut critical papers in run-up to presidential vote. The Committee to Protect Journalists have condemned the decision by Media High Council accusing it of practising "a thinly disguised attempt at censorship" which would do little to ensure a free and fair election. Kagame's authoritarian rule is something we continue to track on this website.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The Rule of Man

A worrying report in The Post :

Inspector General of Police Francis Kabonde was yesterday forced into hiding after MMD cadres armed with catapults and stones started stoning everyone at the station in Mufumbwe....As he was addressing the parties, over 50 MMD cadres with catapults and stones approached the police station and started stoning everyone including police officers. Kabonde could not order the riot police officers at the police station to arrest the MMD cadres but instead ran into an office, fearing the stones from the catapults.

The MMD cadres when approaching the police station chanted: “Boma ni Boma. Tamwalale lelo (government is government, you won’t sleep today).” The MMD cadres smashed a passenger window for a UPND official’s car. One of the MMD cadres who appeared to be the ring leader even walked into the police station and the police officers had to plead with him to leave. As this was happening, UPND cadres responded to the attacks prompting police led by Katiba to approach the MMD cadres and pleaded with them to stop. The MMD cadres retreated, later re-grouped and headed towards the UPND camp within Mufumbwe boma. The cadres were later seen walking along Zambezi Road shouting ‘boma ni boma’. After the meeting at the police station, Kabonde told journalists: “I am not going to say anything here, you saw what was happening yourself.”
Its an extraordinary spectacle when the Inspector General of Police is forced into hiding by thugs. One hopes this is not a prelude to 2011. I

Achieving a green revolution in Africa

Local solutions, not "blueprints" of ideas from outsiders, are needed if Africa is going to experience a green revolution, according to former DfID Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Sir Gordon Conway (Professor of International Development at UK Imperial College). In embedded interview with the FarmingFirst coalition, Sir Gordon suggests replicating in Africa the agricultural successes achieved in Asia after the food crisis in the 1960s would require a completely different approach. They would "not happen simply because outsiders come in with some kind of blueprint for a farm".

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Book Reading Goal : Week 12

It has been an hectic week. In the "missing" Week 11, I completed Warrior Princess by Princess Kasune Zulu with the associated review.

God's War on Terror: Islam, Prophecy and the BibleThis week also allowed me to finish an important book 500+ pages that I have been wading through in the last few months- God's War on Terror : Islam, Prophecy and the Bible by Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist convert to Christianity. Walid's "eastern" perspective on eschatology has altered the way many view end time prophecy. The book will naturally appeal to those with lots of time, bible students and those interested to read biblical perspectives on Islam.

Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical DefenseAfter quickly finishing that book, I turned my attention to mop up two books that have been lying on my shelf and have prevented me to cover more recent material. The first is  a nice little gem by John M Frame  - Contemporary Worship Music : A Biblical Defence. This was an important read because recently my dear wife and I have been talking about the "theology of music" a lot! I thought I arm myself with my favourite theologian' thoughts!

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and TraditionalThe other book that has captured my attention is Deep Church :  A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, by Jim Belcher. I have recently been thinking about how different churches are organised and the biblical basis for such approaches. It struck me that I had never actually read anything on the subject. So I decided to pick up what has been suggested by some to be one of the best Christian books of 2009. It is an interesting read indeed.

The outcome of the above  is that I now have about three weeks before I need to have read another book  :

Book Reading Goal Review
Books Read So Far : 16 books
Remaining Books to Achieve Target : 34 books
Weeks Remaining to Achieve Annual Target : 36 weeks

Next Month's Review :

In May we are reviewing Talakata : Tears of Africa, by Prncess Zindaba Nyirenda. There's also the possibility that we may review The Dragon's Gift : The Real Story of China in Africa, by Deborah Brautigam. I have not made up my mind on this one. Much will depend on how quickly I can get Talakata out of the way.

So until the next reading book update in three weeks!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Giving rights a bad name...

Pete Henriot, a strong proponent of ESC rights, has another piece in The Post where he bemoans the recent decision by the NCC to reject these rights. Towards the end he raises some rhetorical questions  :

And so we come at this point to some very basic questions. Are the fundamental economic, social and cultural rights of Zambian citizens simply to be ignored in the new constitution? Can Zambia go forward to become the desired “middle income” nation by 2030 by ignoring these rights? Are the NCC commissioners - especially those filled with such mirth when the rights are discussed - simply saying no, and arguing that such good things realistically have no place in this wonderful country?
The answer to these questions  is simple. There's no causal link between these rights and income. Guaranteeing these rights can not be justified on economic grounds. I am not saying, I necessarily share the NCC decision, but those that justify these rights based on achieving "middle income" status are misguided. It is better to anchor such pursuits in another philosophical framework. We have previously discussed the issue in the context of Mozambique's right to food flirtation.  I also don't think that these ESC rights qualify as "human rights" - but that is a subject for another time...

Corruption Watch (Lusaka City Council)

Times of Zambia are reporting gross misdirection of funds at Lusaka City Council. The report alleges that around K42 billion was spent on personal emoluments and administrative costs leaving only about K17.7 billion on service delivery in the financial year ending 2009 :

In the two-year period between 2008 and December 2009, the council raised a total of K124 billion but only K27 billion was used in providing services while the rest was used for personal emoluments and administrative expenses. This represents 15 per cent on service provision of the total amount while 85 per cent was used for personal emoluments and administrative costs in the two-year period.

The council collected K14,278,819,000 from rates in 2008 and K14,055,171,000 in 2009 but the total income, including other services amounted to K64,400,503,000 in 2008 and

Quick notes

In one of its last acts before the election, Britain's parliament voted to ban "vulture funds" which profiteer from third world debts. Readers will remember the famous Donegal International saga where Zambia was forced to pay $15m in British courts.

The Economist questions whether "Congo's incompetent government can make the most of new oil finds" off Lake Albert where reserves of 2 billion barrels are said to await exploitation. Some of the biggest American, French and Italian oil companies are sniffing around, with Total apparently nosing ahead.

After the flood comes the healthy fears - Lloyd Himmambo reports for the IPS on the cholera outbreak that is sweeping Lusaka. If the name sounds familiar, that is because Mr Himmambo also runs Zambian Watchdog.

Its not only Zambia that has problems with Constituency Development Funds (CDF). A Kenyan audit revealed that millions of shillings have been spent on ghost and stalled projects.

Minister Shikapwasha who has recently praised Uganda media regulation has clearly not been reading the Ugandan papers. Media and constitutional experts in Uganda have called the proposed media law a monster, with some suggesting it violates the constitution.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A hopeless generation?

Bishop John Mambo this week expressed sadness with what he has termed "government’s poor approach to social problems".  In the quote below, he offers a litany of hopelessness :

"We have an economy that can’t create jobs for our college and university graduates. Our state institutions are paralysed because politics have taken centre stage in everything. Our civil service is demoralised in every sense, and we wonder what is left for us to have confidence in. We can cite so many examples of crippled institutions: the judiciary, parastatals, the executive, and everywhere. This is not healthy for a normal society. Our civil service operates at 30 per cent because there is nothing to motivate them. And now we have also messed up our constitution making process. The National Constitutional Conference is saying that giving people a right to food and water is a joke. Now, if you have a situation where you don’t hope for anything, what do you do? I hope that the voters will reflect on this and do the right thing when it comes to voting next year.”
These thoughts have been echoed in the past by others.  It is difficult to disagree with the diagnosis. But just how do we rescue this hopeless generation? Bishop Mambo's hope is "that voters will reflect on this and do the right thing when it comes to voting next year" . I fear that may not materialise. For one thing, the problems Bishop Mambo's alludes to are not new. In fact in the main article he suggests that Zambia has been

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

TAZARA Shambles

TAZARA's Managing Director Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika (former Presidential right hand man) on the state of TAZARA :

“Of late the revenue achievements of TAZARA at best have been averaging US $3 million per month, which is still not sufficient to comfortably cover the day to day operations costs...So our immediate task is to see if we can raise our monthly revenues to at least US $5 million....Because of the backlog of indebtedness and the low capacity utilisation, it means we are faced with serious liquidity problems and we are unable to finance the day-to-day operational costs..."
TAZARA operations have continued to deteriorate over the years while infrastructure has suffered significant wear and tear. Cargo has been marooned while passengers have not been spared whenever a derailment occurs. Apart from wearing out, the tracks, which were constructed between 1970 and 1975, have been vandalised, rendering operations even more difficult. Last year Mr Chipepo and Co announced they had accumulated $60 million debt because of failure to pay pension packages for retired employees, non-remittance of tax to revenue authorities, failure to meet clients' needs resulting in litigation, and generally poor management, among other factors. Part of this appears to have been cancelled via Chinese free loans. There have been some glimmers of light which Mr Lewanika is hoping to build on.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Is active citizenship the answer?

Pete Henriot appears to think so.  In a latest post he suggests three steps ordinary Zambians should take to hold Government to account vis-a-vis the Auditor General's Report :

So what should Zambian citizens, civil society organisations, churches, international donors and others concerned with good governance issues do with this AG’s Report?

First of all, read it! The printed volume is on sale; the on-line version is not yet available on the website of the Office of the Auditor General (why not??) but can be found through a simple Google search.

Second, discuss it in public forums, private conversations, talk shows, personal questions to government officials, letters to the editors of newspapers and magazines, etc., etc.

And third, make clear demands that the ordinary path of non-compliance with strong recommendations and non-response to clear calls for criminal actions to be taken against the thieves not be once again repeated. Let’s have fewer “regrets” expressed (pious affirmations that acknowledge wrong-doings but don’t commit to specific actions for right-doings!), and more “arrests” effected (clear punishments by way of dismissals, prosecutions and punishments!).
The first step is simple - every reader of this website has seen it. The second is challenging because those who have seen it (10k plus in February) have not commented or written any letters to the Government! The third presumably relates to the clarity of demands.  If you ever write to the Government make sure it is clear.

Henriot's piece is useful but it is worryingly incomplete. Simply arguing for Zambians to  “speak out” against

Sunday, 18 April 2010

An early election?

Ng'andu Magande on the prospect of an early election :

“But that is why I am saying it is not fair because he is the one who decides with the Electoral Commission of Zambia on what date they elections are supposed to be. And I think that’s why we should put it in the Republican Constitution so that everybody knows when to start campaigning.....And he [President Banda] said ‘I am going to tour the whole country, every district’. So are we saying he has already started now, and this is his touring of all the districts? But then when are the general elections? We would like to know so that those who want to stand either as President of the Republic or as members of parliament, as councillors can also start campaigning"
I have always wondered  about this issue. There's nothing that I can see in the Constitution that stops the President from dissolving Parliament and going to the polls now to seek a new mandate. The question is

Agricultural challenges..

Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Jervis Zimba on the problems facing agriculture :

"Zambia can reach self efficiency in all the crops that it grows, if marketing issues that the agriculture faces are well addressed. For instance, for the past two years, farmers have ensured the food security of the country by producing more than enough than the country needs....We have enormous potential as farmers to produce more but the high cost of production [is] killing the industry...We have such a high production cost and this is making us uncompetitive in the region... when we have maize to export, we are losing out because South Africa is beating us where prices are concerned...As a country, we even fail to export maize to the Democratic Republic of Congo because our prices are so high...South Africa, which has to transport its maize through Zimbabwe and Zambia, lands its maize in DRC at a much cheaper price than Zambia.

Agriculture is a major source of employment and inflation goes down if the country has enough food...The setting of floor prices is disadvantaging farmers as it does not consider the production costs...This is one issue which we have raised time and again but which government has failed to adequately handle....government has been subsidising the crop that small scale farmers produce, but what happens to farmers who do not have access to such facilities...The crop marketing should therefore be liberalised so that farmers can sell their crop at profitable prices which in turn will further improve on production. We want to hear more from all stakeholders...unless problems in the crop marketing process are addressed, farmers may be discouraged from producing maize next year, as they might be worried of making losses....This has happened in previous years… when prices were bad, farmers abandoned the production of maize to grow other crops which offered better prices..."
So there you have it. All that we have said before.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

JCTR Press Release : Rising Food Costs

Press Release from The JCTR :


High food prices are increasingly becoming a perpetual challenge to many Zambian households, says JCTR during the release of the March 2010 Basic Needs Basket (BNB). The BNB has been exhibiting an upward trend in the cost of food items since the last quarter of 2009. The latest BNB shows an average nominal increase of K41,250 from K860,250 in February 2010 to K901,500 in March 2010 for a family of six in Lusaka. The increase was mainly driven by

Friday, 16 April 2010

Quick notes

ETN's Gill Staden bemoans Zambia's failure to capitalise on its tourism, suggesting that perhaps Botswana has something to teach us. No new insights - poor infrastructure, high bureaucracy, etc.

The chances are that nearly all readers know Zambia's new celebrity farmer Elleman Mumba. The 54-year-old peasant farmer was featured early this month in this BBC article.

Its's not a question of if, but when, a major earthquake of Haitian proportions will hit Mozambique. The area (and some parts of Zambia) is in a highly active seismic region, according the National Directorate of Geology.

Could higher copper prices slide? Apparently, the big global banks are quietly preparing for a slide in commodity prices over coming months as China clamps down on excess lending and the US Federal Reserve takes away the liquidity pot.

More of the same from Barack "Change You Can Believe In" Obama . The social liberal American President has apparently decided to continue with George Bush's  militarised and unilateral security policy towards Africa.

A bold new constitution is on the horizon for Kenya. It promises to introduce the most far-reaching institutional reforms the nation has seen since independence. Apparently, it promises a rebirth of a new nation in which the powers of the President are severely limited, women's rights are guaranteed and systems of land use and management radically changed to ensure equity.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Linking Zambia (Zambian Architecture)

"Vernacular" architecture has been disappearing in Zambia. An interesting website is putting it all on record. A worthy project indeed, shame its once again something done by someone who visited Zambia rather than Zambians themselves! Perhaps in time Zambians will learn to value these things.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Separation of Church and State (Guest Blog)

There is a need for the Zambian government to genuinely recognize and safeguard each and every societal member’s freedom of worship and the freedom to choose one’s religion. At the same time, there is a need to discourage, even to enact legislation against, the following in a deliberate attempt to forestall the potential disruption of public order and socio-economic activities by cliques of fanatics from any of our country’s religious denominations:

(a) The use of public funds by a local or national govern ment to set up a church or mosque, and/or to provide any form of support to any given religious group, institution or activity;

(b) Official participation by government leaders in the affairs of any given religious group or institution, or official participation by any given religious leader or group in political or governmental affairs;

(c) The use of a religious platform by any individual or group of individuals to form a political party;

(d) The use of a religious platform by any individual to seek a leadership position in any of the three branches of government – that is, the legislature, the judiciary and the executive;

(e) Inclusion of denominational religious subjects – Buddhist, Bahaist, Islamic, Christian, Jewish, or otherwise – in the curricula of public-funded schools; and

(f) Religious sermons which are contemptuous to, or are designed to slight, other religious groupings or denominations.

In countries where government leaders have not provided for these kinds of safeguards mainly due to lack of foresight violent clashes among religious groups in their quest to dominate the political sphere, and to impose their religious laws on the citizenry, have become exceedingly difficult to contain.

The precarious problem currently facing Algeria, Nigeria, the Sudan, Afghanistan, and a host of other countries worldwide which are beleaguered by religious conflicts should serve as a clear warning to each and every peace-loving Zambian to refrain from creating a similar situation that will dog our beloved country in perpetuity.

We should not be blinded by our having had no serious religious conflicts so far. But as our country’s population and the membership of each religious denomination swells, we would be short sighted not to anticipate and make an effort to forestall the occurrence of such conflicts.

As it is often said, prevention is better than cure! Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad summed up the perilous nature of religious conflicts in his address to the World Evangelical Fellowship in May 2001 thus: “Once started, reli gious ... [conflicts have] a tendency to go on and on, [and] to become permanent feuds.”

Henry Kyambalesa
(Guest Blogger)

Jatropha powered Zambia, 2nd Edition

The African Business Review on yet another Jatropha project :

In Zambia, large quantities of Jatropha hedges exist, which the population has neglected over the years. Planting Jatropha for biodiesel production has become a viable business in Zimbabwe, with government and industry studies suggesting that biodiesel can potentially contribute 30 percent of Zimbabwe's fuel needs and create thousands of new jobs. It is no wonder that a similar initiative has been launched in Zambia. The Zambian Development Agency and MAN Ferrostaal AG of Germany signed an integrated biodiesel industry Memorandum (MoU) of Understanding in 2009. The MoU will facilitate the securing of finance and acquiring of 150,000 hectares of land for the project.
This 150,000 hectares with the Germans is separate from a previous 2 million hectares request from China. Part of the 2 million is presumably linked to this. Not sure how much land is being provided through secretive memorandums, but for those trying to contextualise, Zambia has about 75m hectares, so the Chinese request was around 3% of the land mass.  Much of the land of course is in rural areas, but with significant displacement effects.  Make that what you will!

Monday, 12 April 2010

Judges vs The Masses

A fascinating article on the relationship between people and judges - from a South African perspective. We have previously touched on this here and here :

Judges vs the masses, George Devenish, Business Day, Commentary :

South African constitutional law is fascinating and controversial. It is probably the most interesting, challenging and complex jurisprudence of its kind in the world.

What epitomises this is the antimajoritarian or countermajoritarian dilemma. In countries with supreme constitutions, such as ours, judges - who are appointed and not elected - interpret their constitutions and use a testing right in a process of judicial review to invalidate legislation or

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Election 2011 Project - Expression of Interest

Dear Readers,

As you are aware the elections in Zambia are 16 months or so away. I thought it might be a good idea for us to get some important issues across to politicians and also foster positive debate.

The Zambian Economist of course continues to provide economic insights on key issues every day, but I thought a more targeted approach for 2011 would be good. Its never too early to start thinking! As such, I would like to bring together some of the committed minds Zambia has, at home and abroad, to put together a series of policy articles on a number of areas. The idea is to run these from the first month in 2011. These non-partisan policy papers /notes (maximum 1500 words) would be shared with all political players in order to help inform the debate in a non-partisan way. A special page will be created on the Zambian Economist. A final compendium of a summarised version would be published in magazine style form, either through the an established magazine or via a self standing Zambian Economist compendium. We have access to all the three branches of government - and all the main parties, so getting this out shouldn't be a problem. More importantly, it is a good way for us to have a single source of reference. The short papers could cover the following :

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Book Reading Goal : Week 10

King Leopold's GhostIt's Week 10, and having already crossed the half-a-million words threshold, I wanted to treat myself to a classic -  King Leopald's Ghost - A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial AfricaBy Adam Hoschild is a remarkable book. Released in 1999, it tells the story of how Leopold, King of Belgium raped the Congo, maiming and murdering countless Congolese in his pursuit of ivory and rubber. Not satisfied with his monstrosity,  he went about systematically destroying all evidence, with those following after him hiding Belgium's past shame.

It's also an inspiring story of the Congo Reform Association's Ed Morel who led a fierce and successful struggle against Leopold's brutality and in the process built a positive legacy of the fight for human rights. Throughout the book you meet many interesting characters such as King Affonso I, Henry Stanley, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard. The book is a gem at so many levels that I cannot fully describe. Simply put, one cannot understand present day Congo without reading this book! A must read for any student of modern day Africa.

Memorable Quote :

No zeal, no Faith, inspired this Leopold,
Nor any madness of half-splendid birth.
Cool-eyed, he loosed the hounds that rend and slay,
Just that his coffers might be gorged with gold.
Embalm him, Time Forget him not, O Earth,
Trumpet his name, and flood his deeds with day.
Book Reading Goal Review
Books Read So Far : 12 books
Remaining Books to Achieve Target : 38 books
Weeks Remaining to Achieve Annual Target : 38 weeks

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Quick notes

The Government has been piloting an SMS system for sending test results to HIV patients. This is seen as particularly critical for HIV positive infacts. MoH is confident that once implemented nationally, it will reduce infant mortality rates by more than 50 percent.

A report in The Post on the poor sanitary conditions at many schools around Zambia. According to the pupils, due to the bad state in the ablution blocks some pupils have resorted to going behind the classrooms whenever they wanted to answer the call of nature, some have simply shunned coming for classes.

On a positive note, the Judiciary has now moved towards computerisation. This should help speed up some of the cases. We also hope that we can quickly move towards the Judiciary making available summary judgements on-line for public access.

IPS report on the rampant illegal fishing in the central Antlantic Ocean area which is hitting West African countries the hardest.

Botswana plans to set up a 50-million-litre per year bio-diesel processing plant to be fed from jatropha (oil seed) plantations by 2012. Efforts are already under way to acquire 70,000. The project will be funded from the National Petroleum Fund. The plan is for government to develop the plant and then lease it to the private sector.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Chief Justice and His Russian Lessons

This story raised a chuckle :

Visiting President of Russia’s Supreme Court Vyacheslav Lebedev has called on the judiciary to consider cases in time, according to established laws. Speaking to journalists after arrival from Russia yesterday, Mr Lebedev also advised the judiciary to make honest decisions and ensure timely execution of all judicial decisions.

Mr Lebedev, who is in the country on a four-day official visit, said in the 21st century, the law has become more universal and is getting rid of national purity and national self-contentment. “Today, norms of international law and international agreements are of great importance because the basis for international and internal policies is the law. This concerns the economy and social protection,” Mr Lebedev said. He said the law is important in ensuring that all people have access to justice. Mr Lebedev said this entails that all judicial organs are of high quality and that all court cases are disposed of in time and in line with established laws.

He said his visit to Zambia is on reciprocal basis after Chief Justice Ernest Sakala visited Russia last July. Mr Lebedev said during Mr Justice Sakala’s visit to Russia, they discussed various ways of co-operation in improving delivery of justice in both countries.
You know things are bad when Russia is the place where the Chief Justice goes to learn lessons on "improving delivery of justice". Russia's court system is known for corruption and a lack of independence. The Russian President Dmitry Medvedev  has been trying to implement some judicial reform - but things still look bleak. Last year, one of Russia's Constitutional Court justices agreed to retire and another gave up an official post after he complained that the Kremlin was undermining democratic institutions and judicial independence. In his words, "The strengthening of [Kremlin] authoritarianism is leading to greater judicial services can do what they want and all judges can do is ratify their decisions". To think that this is the country we are trying to learn justice from, leaving aside Mr Lebedev's lecture! Who is Mr Sakala going to invite next? Iran? North Korea?

The other thing is that the Russian Justice System is fundamentally different from ours. What can we possibly learn from their system?  I can only hope that Justice Sakala went to Moscow on  a jolly, which is now being reciprocated by Mr Lebedev. That of course is still bad because that trip by Justice Sakala was still a waste of tax payers' money. Unless it was funded by our wonderful donors....

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Are mining companies LuSE bound?

The Post reported that Government plans to compel mining companies to list on the Lusaka Stock Exchange (LuSE) to enabled Zambians to own equity in the companies. In a veiled criticism of Ministry of Mines, Mr Mutati (Commerce Minister) is alleged to have observed : “Mining groups are operating outside the fences of LuSE and it is a failure by GRZ Plc (the government) to compel them, but we shall rectify that failure”.It would be interesting to see how this evolves, but I doubt this is genuine.

Government already owns shares in some of these mining companies through ZCCM-IH e.g. FQM’s Kansanshi and Vendata’s Konkola. We have known for a while that ZCCM –IH has not been receiving meaningful dividends from its jointly owned projects. A fact which led to rumours last year that government was planning to convert these financial liabilities into equity, thereaby raising substantially its stake in the mines. That the government recognised this possibility is a clear testament that the ZCCM-IH model has not worked.  Indeed, what seems to concern many people is that ZCCM - IH is not "empowering" ordinary Zambans. If ZCCM-IH was owned by ordinary Zambians a potential argument can be constructed that some money does filter back to ordinary Zambians via the "theoretical dividends". It is difficult to see how government can force mining companies to list in Zambia if they cannot even empower people through ZCCM-IH. Although it is listed on Lusaka ,London, and Euronext Stock Exchanges, the government owns 87.6% shareholding, with the remaining 12.4% held by private equity holders largely abroad.

Incidentally, we are told by the LuSE Chairperson Friday Njovu that listing mining companies on LuSE would encourage transparency and accountability in the way business was conducted : “Being listed is a mark of excellence. It is the willingness to be transparent and responsive to one stakeholder. It is the willingness to adhere to and be compliant with standards way beyond your own and to an authority way above your own. Dealing with a company that has high accountability levels is much simpler". Except of course that ZCCM - IH is on LuSE and its not very transparent!  According to foreign private equity holders in ZCCM-IH the company has never published its financial report for nearly 4 years!  Its inventories are also not formalised! Remarkable for a listed company!  In short, if transparency and empowerment is what government is after, it  would do well to start with ZCCM-IH.  It beggars belief that many Zambians do not even realise that ZCCM-IH is a huge part of the reason Zambia is not benefiting from its vast reserves of copper. As one potential investor in ZCCM-IH remarked on this website, "people of Zambia seems held in complete ignorance of the riches in the country". I couldn't agree more.

eLearning Africa Press Release : Mulungushi Conference

Press Release by eLearning Africa (April 6, 2010) :

eLearning Africa 2010
5th International Conference on ICT for Development, Education and Training
May 26 - 28, 2010
Mulungushi International Conference Center, Lusaka, Zambia

eLearning Africa: Will Africa Learn by Mobile Phone or by Computer?

Berlin, Germany. Lusaka, Zambia. Teachers and technologists gathering at the eLearning Africa 2010 conference in Zambia will be debating a billion dollar question, attempting to work out whether future African students will learn from the telephones in their pockets or from the laptops in their classrooms.

The African continent stunned the world by leapfrogging several stages of traditional

Lower Zambezi Development EIS (Call for Comments)

The environmental impact assessment accompanying the controversial Protea Hotels development in the lower Zambezi. Your comments on this must be emailed to the Environmental Council of Zambia by 14 April 2010. Comments can be addressed to J Sakala on or C Simwanza on  Read the report and get your voice heard!
Environmental Impact Statement For Protea Hotels (Lower Zambezi)

A smaller government (Guest Blog)

Allow me to take this opportunity to make the following contribution to the article entitled “A New Ministry for Culture?”.

There is a need for a government that would perform existing and planned essential government functions with only 10 Cabinet Ministers. The government ministries over which the 10 Cabinet Ministers should preside, including a Ministry for Culture and Community Services, are as follows:

Education, Training and Sport.—To be directly responsible for advising the President on, and spear heading the implementation of policies relating to, the following: general and tertiary education; vocational training; the training of teachers; adult literacy programs; matters concerning remuneration for teachers,

Economic impacts of MFEZs

Zambia is currently implementing a brand of special economic zones (SEZs), now popularised as Multi-Facility Economic Zones (MFEZs). Although debate in economic literature is sharply divided, among Zambian politicians there's actually significant consensus that this is the future for Zambia. All Parliamentarians appear on board with the broad stated aim of having "MFEZs in every district". In fact there has been little discussion in the Zambian press on the pros and cons of this policy, which has attracted significant attention (including protests) in other places around the world. I would say with some confidence, that any debate that has taken place, has largely been on the Zambian Economist.

This is unfortunate because the policy on MFEZs has profound implications (some discussions on this here and here). Proponents of MFEZs naturally argue that the policy will lead to significant impact on investment, exports and employments. Skeptics, myself included, express concern over the displacement of people associated with land acquisition,  land grabs, government subsidisation of infrastructure (which MFEZ should be delivering), inadequate promotion of domestic investors, huge revenue loss to the exchequer, labour exploitation and environment degradation. The bottom line is that there significant concerns not only with the fundamental economic rationale, but also the extent to which a proper cost benefit analysis would support

Monday, 5 April 2010

MMD has failed to deliver on education (Guest Blog)

I wish to comment on the article which appeared in the Times of Zambia of April 4, 2010 under the title “How MMD Government [Has] Improved Education” by George Chisanga.

It is shameful that both Mr. Chisanga and the Times of Zambia can publish such trash in a newspaper. Firstly, the title of the article should have been about teachers because there is nothing in it that addresses the issue of education in Zambia during the 19 years the MMD has been in power.

Secondly, Mr. Chisanga is most probably not a journalist because all the verbiage he has published in the newspaper is based on his own opinions rather than a sampling of teachers’ views about the adequacy of their

A new Ministry for Culture?

A recent article in the Post, written largely from the "artists" perspective, argues that there's consensus among cultural watchers for a Ministry dedicated to culture to "help preserve culture" and ensure the industry contributes towards development. I was under the impression that we want a leaner government not more ministries? In general the article makes some good points about inadequate infrastructure, but on the critical question of why a new Ministry is the answer, it is far from convincing. The main argument appears to be "signalling" serious intent, unfortunately we already have many ministries which delivers nothing e.g. Ministry for Gender and Development, Ministry of  Development and Social Services, Ministry of Youth and Child Development. I would abolish these three before I thought about a new Ministry of "culture".

The ministry of culture, G K Jali, The Post, Commentary :

The question of a ministry of culture has haunted Zambia since independence. Individuals and organisations with an interest in culture have over the years spoken out about the need for a ministry specifically and specially dealing with cultural matters. Among those who have spoken loudest are artistes from various fields and organisations. This is because the arts are an important integral part of culture and cultural development.

The arts are a means of not only promoting but also preserving culture. Many cultural events, for example, include artistic forms of cultural expression. The installation of traditional rulers is one occasion during which artistic expression is paramount. The installation programme usually

Protea Hotels responds

Protea Hotel's response to this issue  :

Protea Hotels responds to protestors allegations over development 

In response to allegations made by protestors concerned about the eco-system in Zambia, Danny Bryer, the director of revenue management, sales, and marketing for Protea Hotels issued the following statement:

Zambia needs a progress agenda for change (Guest Blog)

Zambia today is at an important economic and political crossroads. Many patriotic citizens are asking what has happened to our great nation? In 2010 we face a dangerous uncommon breed of Zambian advocating anarchy and violence to remove a properly elected Government with a ‘red card campaign’. Politicians are daily hurling insults and threats against each other forgetting the suffering masses? Where is our country going? Where are the patriotic national leaders to speak up on behalf of the people? Many are cowering hiding away while others behave as minions daily praising their leaders. The country is in a shameful state where we do not respect the rule of law and, parts of the media and civil society have become toothless mouthpieces’ of local and foreign interests. It is important that we acknowledge the truth and not bury our heads in the sand.

At independence in 1964, Zambia had one of the most vibrant economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, which was supported by a strong mining industry. Today, Zambia has more than two thirds of its people living below $1 per day and GDP per capita is now one of the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa. We are now classified as a

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Protest against Protea Hotel development in Zambia

Press Release by Africa @ Work :

Storm brews over Protea Hotel development on the Zambezi River (24 March 2010) :

The proposal by the franchise owner of the Protea Hotel brand in Zambia to build a 144-room hotel and conference centre in a wilderness area on the banks of the Zambezi River has raised a storm of protest from both operators in the area and the general public alike.

The double-storey hotel, if built on the site currently proposed, would compromise the unspoiled wilderness appeal of the Chiawa Game Management Area (GMA) and the adjoining Lower Zambezi National Park and Mana Pools National Park.

Has two decades of MMD rule delivered on education?

Yes. According to George Chisanga writing in the government marshalled paper. Its unfortunate that the article reads like an electoral spin. In many respects its an opportunity missed because reading Mr Chisanga's verbiage, properly reconstructed could, in theory, provide some credible, albeit shaky, defence of the MMD's 20 year record on education. It is that 20 year record that Zambians should examine in 2011 for all sectors :

How MMD Government improved education, George Chisanga, Times of Zambia, Commentary :

My God-given ability to control my anger saved me from getting into trouble for assault when a person who gave me such a wrong response to the question: “How much do you think teachers get for a salary every month?” At that time, a teacher’s salary should have been between K600,000 and K800,000. I imagined how many others could be receiving such kind of answers to innocent questions. In the same way, so many could be having unfounded hate for the working Government of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), which has tried its best to do what it can for the benefit of all Zambians, including teachers.

Quick notes

Zambia and DR Congo are apparently "seeking funds" to resurvey and demarcate the common border to improve security and end border disputes. Around 5,000 metric tons of mineral ores is allegedly smuggled into Zambian from Congo every day.

An interesting BBC report on the work of CAMFED in Zambia, which is seeking to improve girl child education.

Inside Facebook looks at Africa's recent growth on facebook. Only six countries on the whole continent that are growing significantly, with the best performer Ghana growing at 9.6% per month.

The Mozambican police recently arrested a gang specialized in trafficking women to South Africa. The women, some as young as 16, are enticed with promises of jobs in the hotel industry. Once in South Africa, they are forced to become prostitutes. Those who resist are beaten and raped into submission. A growing problem across the SADC region, with Zambia at the centre.

On a related issue, IPS reports that the expected arrival of 350,000 football fans in South Africa for the World Cup in June has provoked fears of increased levels of human trafficking. A new study suggests that one major obstacle to preventing this is the lack of accurate information about the extent of the problem.

Not satified with its oil deposits, Angola is now pushing DRC to agree to a boundary proposal to the United Nations to extend its maritime border so that it covers an area with huge oil reserves. This is one to watch because many believe DRC continues to be short change due to colonial map drawings.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Mine Watch (Kansanshi)

First Quantum Minerals press release on the Kansanshi copper and gold mine. The main headline is that the life of the mine would continue for next 20 years following a recent study that revealed higher ore grades and additional resources. Key updates :

  • Using a 0.3% cut-off grade, the Measured and Indicated categories and the contained copper increase by approximately 18% and 50%, respectively.
  • Significantly increased Proved and Probable mineral reserves can support a minelife of approximately 13 years at a throughput rate of 24 million tonnes per year.
  • The minelife increases to 20 years when the Inferred mineral resource is considered.
  • The overall strip ratio increases marginally to 2.2:1 compensated by the increase in head grade to 1.16% total copper.

A culture of death?

Elizabeth Ohene has written an interesting piece for the BBC where she considers  Ghana's apparent obsession with death :

We love funerals here and they are a veritable spectacle better experienced than described. The attitude towards the dead and funerals would seem to indicate that a dead Ghanaian is worth far more than a live one. For example, a man is admitted to hospital and he recovers from his ailment. He is discharged but is forced to remain in the hospital because he has no family to pay his hospital bills. After two weeks the doctor sends a message out the man has died. The very next day a group of mourners arrive at the hospital, suitably clad in the obligatory black and red clothes, they are the family, they are ready to pay all the bills and arrange for the body to be put in the morgue until burial. There is no question about there being no money to pay the hospital bills once the man has died.....A mother would find money to buy a funeral cloth whilst keeping a child out of school for lack of money. Keeping a child in school does not earn you as much status as organising a mega funeral. In death it would seem every Ghanaian is a royal; just listen to our dirges and when it comes to tributes, in death, all the mean spirited, lazy, spouse abusing people are transformed into the most generous, loving human beings.
I suspect many would Zambians would identify with the description of the man admitted to the hospital. However, I find Elizabeth’s assessment troubling because it yet again emblematic of reflections by Africans that fail to take into account much broader sets of issues. Undoubtedly African anthropologists / sociologists would point that it expresses the western mindedness of the author. But I found that it actually misses on some basic issues.

First, the article fails to highlight the obvious point that any perceived “African” obsession with death is not fully reflected in government responses. The governments elected by Africans do not care about the “dead” as much as ordinary "Africans" do. We have previously touched on this here. Many of our morgues and cemeteries are in poor conditions. Indeed in many African countries policies relating to burial and post-traumatic stress for victims’ families are not even on the menu of priorities. So at the basic level it simply is not the case that taken together as a whole we praise or revere the dead over other priorities.

Secondly, in so far as Africans have tended to care for the dead rather than when they are alive, this seems to be clearly a case of “one off costs” versus “re-occurring costs”. There’s no doubt that caring for a person alive involves many on-going costs, especially if such actions led to perpetual dependence. When someone dies that is the end of the matter. The costs are more certain and you are therefore in much better position to evaluate whether or not you should commit to them. You can mourn them, dish-out chickens and do all funeral expenses, knowing full well you won’t have to incur these costs again.

Finally, and linked to the second, death solves the collective action problem. When I was getting married, one of the elders from village remarked  that this was likely to be the last time that I was going to see both families in full attendance, that is, until they gather again for my burial! What he meant was that death necessarily  brings people together. It allows people to come together and share costs which ordinarily would only be borne by one person. Indeed we might even go further and say that stigma and other things ensures that everyone does their bit. I don't just mean family members, but also it brings politicians and church bodies. Its therefore not surprising that we see more care for people when they are dead than when they are alive! Its perfectly rational!

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Best of Zambia

A UK Trade and Investment video on the success story that is Best of Zambia . A wonderful business built around a website that offers the gateway to the best of Zambia.

I am intrigued though how the UK benefits (and thereby justifying UKTI support which comes under the UK Ministry of Business and Innovation), but we are just happy because they are putting Zambia on the map. I should know because I too visit the site to get a sense where I must spend breaks in Zambia! A good example of the opportunities that abound in tourism.

Update (2 April, 2010) : Right to Reply

I am extremely grateful to Sara Brown (Best of Zambia) for replying directly to the above story. Her response is set out below :

Thanks you for covering this story. The Best of Zambia UK team (linked very strongly to the Zambian team) exports our design and web services to Zambia. We cannot, however, do what we do without our Zambian base. The best part is that both Zambia and the UK benefit, as do the individuals across the globe who can use the site for its growing database of accurate information about Zambian services.

This is a model that will be rolled out across other countries. Zambia is our starting point because we are a Zambian family!

Watch this space for the enhanced website being launched in the next few months. Thank you for your support.

Sara Brown

Book Reading Goal : Week 9

Nine Marks of a Healthy ChurchThis Easter brings a culmination to an important book that  I have been reading for the last 9 weeks as part of my local church study - 9 Marks of  a Healthy Church, By Mark Denver.  It has 9 chapters and we have been covering it each week for 9 weeks, so it has taken me 9 weeks to read it! Its mere coincidence of course that the Book Reading Goal is also on week 9!  As the title suggests the book lays out the clear marks of what makes a healthy church. An important read for every Christian, but its been particularly important for our local church as we are going through a process of renewal. There's also a website to go with it.

Never Beyond Hope: How God Touches & Uses Imperfect PeopleGetting through the final chapter was not taxing, so I decided to squeeze in another book from someone I grew up reading when I was young.  Never Beyond Hope : How God Touches & Uses Imperfect People, by J. I. Packer. In many respect both books are similar because they are designed for personal or group study. I enjoyed this book greatly. Dr Packer is one of the greatest theologians our time.

Memorable Quote :

"There is no future for anyone trying to be wiser than God, or to stop him from doing what he plans" [page 82]
Book Reading Goal Review
Books Read So Far : 11 books
Remaining Books to Achieve Target : 39 books
Weeks Remaining to Achieve Annual Target : 39 weeks

"Stupid judgements by stupid judges"

Not my words, lest I be cited for contempt, but that of the human rights activist and his lawyer who were this week sentenced to three years in jail. We have previously touched  on the poverty of our laws as largely a problem thrust upon us by the Legislature. We have also noted that the Executive appears to use all the tools at its disposals to often intimidate citizens, as we saw in the Chansa Kabwela trial. But very few realise the Judiciary also develops and implement policy. This is especially the case under common law systems of justice, where judges have the ability to set precedent thereby defining more strongly how society should behave in the future. They can even overturn existing laws developed by the Executive e.g. through declaring them as unconstitutional. The precedent fact again makes this a much stronger threat as it becomes costly for future judges to overturn those judgements.  In fact that is why some people tend to be wary of the treason of judges.

It is therefore a dangerous situation when one of our finest judges, who has served in The Hague, starts sending people to jail for calling judges stupid because she thinks it sends the message to everyone. This is a dangerous precedent Justice Mambilima is setting. She wants to silence any criticism of judges. Under our laws judges are supposed to exercise judgement and consider the broad consequences of their actions. It would have been better to have given Mr Chilekwa a financial penalty than send him to a crowded jail with inhumane conditions. Especially over something that is clearly shared by many members of the public. Does Justice Mambilima or anyone else for that matter  really think that the Supreme Court and its activities can be described as  "good judgements by good judges"?  We already have the Executive prosecuting someone for calling the President a "fool" and chasing people over bounced cheques.  With the Deputy Chief Justice turning herself  into a draconian dispenser of injustice,  I can only imagine it wont be too long before the Speaker starts using all of his powers to inflict his own version of injustice - but I forget, Parliamentarians already do that through the laws they pass! When one looks at the three branches of government, it is difficult to see where hope can be found.

That is the serious part, but now for the hilarious transcript between Mr Chilekwa and the Supreme Court judges in February, as recorded by The Post. After losing his appeal in the Supreme Court, Mr Chilekwa sent three c letters to the Chief Justice Ernest Sakala leading to the contempt of court charge. The exchange below picks up the conversation between the Judges and Mr Chilekwa when he was summoned to explain himself :

Justice Mambilima: “Your letters are insulting to the entire court. We are just the face of the court. Matters are heard by a full bench of Supreme Court judges.”

Chilekwa: “If that's the case, I am even disappointed that the entire court could arrive at a decision to deprive the poor of the hard-earned cash.”

Justice Mwanamwambwa: “You are make insulting remarks. Is that how you apply for review? You don't throw insults at the court and making a seven-day ultimatum that 'I want my money'.”

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Democracy and tax revenues

A new paper assesses the relationship between the level of democracy and scale of tax revenues. We can expect the relationship between the two because greater democracy should lead to greater checks and balance on the Executive, leading to the reduction in the government's propensity to cave in to special interests :

We find strong evidence that the political regime in a country does influence the extent to which domestic tax reforms are implemented and higher domestic tax revenues achieved. The estimated effect of increased democracy on tax revenue is quite large and it is the level of constraints on the executive that seems to be the driving force behind the result. Increased checks and balances are needed to counter the propensity of governments to cave in for special interests and to be less social welfare minded. High levels of democracy are specifically needed in natural resource rich countries to make natural resource rents contribute to higher domestic taxes revenues and no longer be an impediment to a sustained tax system for financing public goods. These findings highlight the presence of political economy factors which seriously need to be taken into consideration in the design of domestic tax reforms. 
It is hard to argue with these findings when one looks at our own predicament. It is no surprise that mining tax reforms where pushed at a period many associated with the serious pursuit against corruption and greater belief in the government's democratic mandate. That we derive so little benefit from our copper is not just a statement about our economic management, but the absence of a clear democratic dispensation. According to the evidence gleaned from the paper, it would not be far-fetched to say our mining policy is "captured".