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Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Energy Watch (Batoka Investment)

Zambia recently signed an agreement with Zimbabwe to construct the 1,650MW Batoka Hydro-power project which is estimated to cost over US$4bn. This follows Zimbabwe’s agreement to pay off the US$70m it owes Zambia for the sale of the Central African Power Corporation (CAPC) assets which were jointly owned by the two countries. The deal is conditional on Zimbabwe completing the payment. The next step is to secure funding for the project. Though these projects are clearly welcome, one does wonder whether regional cooperation should concentrate on marshalling up support to deliver the Great Inga Project which could solve everyone’s problems. Unless of course the Batoka Project really is deliverable within a short time frame.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Repairing the civil service

A fascinating Op'ed in the Times of Zambia takes aim at the civil service, suggesting that in  its present state it represents a seriously huge millstone around the necks of poor Zambians :

Professional standards in all Technical fields are lacking in Zambia. Recently, after coming from London to work in Zambia as an Architect, I became convinced that sooner or later the rest of the world would re-colonise Africa, because it could not afford to do otherwise. The world would require that the resources and potential of Africa’s production be more efficiently exploited.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Energy Watch (New Pipeline)

Sub-Saharan Gemstone Exchange Industrial Park (SGE) recently signed a deal with Australia’s Maysen and Borowski Group to construct a US$3.3bn refinery and pipeline in Ndola. When completed this would become Zambia’s second refinery and the new pipeline running from Dar-es-Salaam to Ndola projected to increase fuel production by an additional 5m litres of fuel per day. The project is expected to 5,000 permanent jobs. This becomes the first agreement under the new government. No details yet whether this will be funded entirely by the private sector or whether Government will have a stake.

Friday, 24 February 2012

What can Africans learn from the coming post-Euro world?

Bruno Frey argues that far from being unmitigated disaster, the possible demise of the euro and the EU can be seen as a chance for the evolution of a better future Europe :
Even more important is the fear that a destruction of the euro and the EU would lead to a catastrophe pushing all European nations into an abyss. However, no chaos leading to an economic and political collapse of Europe is to be expected. Such a view is far too pessimistic.
The individual countries in Europe will quickly form new treaties among themselves....The result will be a net of overlapping contracts between countries, which the various nations will join at will. These contracts will not be based on a vague notion of what ‘’Europe’ may mean, but rather on functional efficiency. Crucially, the individual treaties will be stable because they will be in the interest of each member...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Reflections on delivering new airport infrastructure

By Chola Mukanga

The amount of aviation passengers in 2011 reached 1.22m  across the four international airports. International passengers were 0.99m up by 17% on 2010 figures. Domestic passengers were 0.23m up by 11% on 2010 figures. Naturally, KK (Lusaka) accounts for the larger share of traffic (65%) but it is also encouraging to see SMK (Ndola) growing by 25% over the year, with equal share of traffic as HMK (Livingstone). Clearly SMK has benefited from increase in the international segment, driven by introduction of direct flights by both South Africa Airways and Kenya Airways.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Corruption Watch (Road Development Agency)

An accountant at the Road Development Agency (RDA) in Kasama has disappeared after withdrawing K131.5 million through a company which he allegedly created for money laundering activities. Mr Ernest Chibuye was under investigation by the Northern Province task force on corruption that has seized property during investigations.More detail via Times of Zambia

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Aviation Watch (New Routes)

Air Namibia launch a four-times-a-week direct flight from Windhoek into Livingstone to meet the growing demand between the two countries. The airline market survey has revealed growing demand by tourists travelling between Livingstone and Windhoek from Europe and East Africa enough to fly four- times - a- week event. Zambia Tourism Board is currently on a campaign to attract airlines to Livingstone. More detail via Times of Zambia.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Is the jury system the answer?

Legal expert and author Mulenga Besa recently called for the judicial system to be restructured by introducing a jury system in order "curb corruption and restore confidence in Zambia’s legal system".
Mr Besa said while the recent calls to reform the judiciary were legitimate, the solution did not end at removing Chief Justice Ernest Sakala. "What has been the problem? Is it individuals or is it the system? There have been these calls to retire the Chief Justice but does it end there? He proposed that Zambia needed a jury system so that an independent panel would sit to assess the facts of any given matter. Mr Besa said a system where the judges did not sit as assessors of both the law and facts of matter before the courts should be introduced. Mr Besa, author of Constitution, Governance and Democracy, said the judiciary was an important arm of any functional democracy. He said as one of the three arms of Government, the judiciary was critical in resolving conflict in society.
The fundamental problem with this idea is that it does not solve the two problems it is designed to address. Curbing corruption would not be eliminated by a jury system because much of the problem with corruption is detection and speed of conviction. A jury may actually lead to longer trials. Increasing confidence in the justice system would not come with piecemeal reforms, it comes with holistic reforms - we have previously put forward a paper - see A Poverty of Zambian Justice.

The other problem is that Mr Besa has not considered the practical challenges of a jury system in Zambia as well as the costs of setting one up. There there's the obvious point that the jury would not be beyond corruption. Posner has rightly noted that in the quest to reform the judiciary, it is more efficient to consider "rules (laws) first" before structural reforms. The advice is germane to Zambia because we have no money, and the little money we have should go to helping the poorest directly not feeding rich jurors as they deliberate.  

But Mr Besa's comments are not totally irrelevant. It reveals what we already know about lawyers - they do not have a sufficient grasp of the efficiency of law. Ensuring not only laws that are fair but are economic efficient. Which is a worry because the current constitution committee is full of legal experts without a grasp of the concept. Don't expect laws that are efficient and delivered at least expense to the tax payer.

Friday, 17 February 2012


The heart breaking state of a burnt boy who has been totally failed by the health system. Who will stand for this child? We are truly a nation of misplaced priorities.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Is China’s aid special?

Recent empirical findings confirm that China’s aid allocation decisions are shaped by politics but this is not exceptional when compared to OECD DAC and other emerging donors. Political self interest appears to drive all kinds of donors, the only difference may be that China communicates more openly that its aid serves mutual benefits :
The fact that Chinese aid is driven by political and commercial motives is not outstanding in international development cooperation. Many studies have shown that Western donor countries provide aid based on strategic considerations....Therefore, we compared China’s aid allocation decisions in 1996-2005 with those of the so-called traditional donors, organised in the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC), and other emerging donors. There is no evidence that China's allocation of aid is inferior from a humanitarian point of view when compared to other donor countries. When it comes to democracy and indicators of governance, there is also little evidence that China's allocation of aid is inferior. Although China does not take institutional quality into account when deciding on its allocation of aid, the same holds for most other donors in our sample. In particular, we did not find that China's aid is biased towards autocratic or corrupt regimes as claimed by its critics. Based on our analysis of China's aid allocation decisions, it seems that fears that Chinese aid undermines the efforts of other donors to promote democracy and good governance are exaggerated. The same holds for commercial motives. While commercial interests matter, our empirical evidence does not support the idea that China puts greater weight on giving aid to either countries with strong commercial ties, or to countries that are more abundant in natural resources, in comparison to other donors.
The overall conclusion by the authors is that China’s foreign aid is not ‘rogue’ and therefore we have nothing to fear. But that is too premature because motivation must be assessed alongside the outcomes of its political actions. That China may not be selective does not diminish its likely impact - which is significant control of resources. The other point is that procedures matter. Chinese resource acquisitions are mainly done through back room deals, something that is not easily assessed through econometric analysis. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

They Came to Pollute

This copper is not like vegetables where one might suggest that by tomorrow it will go bad and lose its value. Even after 15 years, that copper will still be there, so what is important is our lives first then copper. It is the mine that emphasizes that safety must always be first but they are not respecting that principle on this matter… The government has an obligation of protecting our lives as citizens of this land. Now we don’t know if those people in offices respect Mopani’s Copper production at the expense of thousands of lives.
Butondo resident Jackson Mulenga on Mopani Copper Mine’s rampant acid emissions from its Heap Leaching Plant. The residents are not happy with the failure by Government to deal with the rampant pollution. Many people continue to die in the area due to the pollution. As a first step the residents would like Government to send medical personnel to examine the extent of damage the acid mists have caused on people’s lives. We have previously touched on the ecological and mining genocide which continue to perpetuated by mining companies.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Zambia’s bitter sweet moment (Guest Blog)

The outcome of AFCON 2012 final could not have been predicted but again this is the reason why football is the greatest sport on earth and arguably the beautiful game. The final was reminiscent of an English cup tie often fiercely contested between the pretender and the favourite. For many Zambians, the final was a carefully planned, well marshalled and orchestrated safari hunting expedition in Libreville. It was a complete demolition of an African football giant an event that can only be described from the Zambian perspective as a massacre in Libreville. On paper, the Ivory Coast football team had the manpower and the reputation to maul Zambia to football smithereens. The Elephants huffed and puffed but came up against a well determined, disciplined and attack-minded Zambian side.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Corruption Watch (Chilubi Island)

More than K700m allocated for the rehabilitation of a docking bridge at Chilubi harbour has gone missing.  The K700 million released for the rehabilitation of the floating jetty in 2007, appears to have been be misappropriated according to area Member of Parliament Obby Chisala.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Syrian Conundrum Part 2 (Guest Blog)

Dr Mpundu Mukanga continues his assessment of the current Syrian crisis with part 2 of the "sands of time" series.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Another Poor Statement

The error prone Mines Minister Simuusa made a rather elementary mistake here when he suggested that the fiscal regime could revised. Now he appears not to understand the windfall tax - as demonstrated by his statement below from the sidelines of the Mining Indaba : 
"For the whole of this year windfall tax will not come up unless prices go up to the region of $10,000 per tonne...The projections are that it will hit $10,000 and at that time we may sit around the table. If the prices hit those ranges it is only logical that we talk"
Do you really have to be a genius to know that the windfall tax appropriately designed should automatically adjust? So waiting to implement one when the prices are high is rather misguided to say the least. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Corruption Watch ( Red Cross Zambia)

Charles Mushitu, Secretary General of the Zambia Red Cross Society (ZRCS), was recently arrested for theft and money laundering of over K1.4 billion donor funds meant for water and sanitation projects in Southern Province. He was also charged with possessing an AK47 rifle without authority. TMushitu has been arrested together with ZRCS Finance Manager Sydney Chituta. In December 2011, the ZRCS refused to suspend the duo on the request of the Drug Enforcement Commission: “You have not provided us with details of how much money has been laundered, the donor involved and the project concerned. As far as the board is concerned it has not received any report of any project money that has been misappropriated in the Society as it has up-to-date working advance reports on all projects". Clearly a lot has changed since then!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Syrian Conundrum (Guest Blog)

The first of a series of articles from our resident geo-politics expert Dr Mpundu Mukanga focusing on the current Syrian crisis.
The Syrian Conundrum Part 1

Previous Contributions:
Prisoners of Regime Change - Part 2
Prisoners of Regime Change - Part 1

Monday, 6 February 2012

Opportunity Cost of FRA

Brian Tembo helpfully reminds us that the money being spent on the current agricultural regime is not "free":
"According to research, there is also no impact on poverty reduction. This should tell the government that if you are not getting anything, then there is something wrong. What us Zambians and the new government need to understand is that for a lot of money being spent on maize, there is a school that hasn't been built; drugs that haven't been built and many more...The government spends about US $500 million to purchase maize from the farmers which they do not even have capacity to store. There is no return on the investments made in the manner that the government has made on maize. About 40 per cent of budget on agriculture spent on input support."
We have previously touched on Zambia's broken maize marketing policies. Our prayer must surely be that this madness started by the previous Government is brought to a quick end sooner rather than later. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

Blind Women of Kang'onga

The excellent Gethsemane Mwizabi returns with another piece on how the women of Kang'onga are defying blindness to engage in agriculture entrepreneurship through the Twashuka Women’s Club in Ndola. The women have been involved in various entrepreneur activity from selling Munkoyo to common ownership of a piece of land where they grow maize. Along the way, they have also received financial support of K10 million from the Ministry of Gender, which they have used to hammer mill. More detail via Times of Zambia.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Is Zambia Intellectually Blind?

Apparently so, according to George Chisanga :
"The intellectuals in this country have gone to sleep. Some of the problems that we are facing now would have been avoided had our intellectuals stepped up to help the country. There is need for people who have been educated using taxpayers money to step up and plough back to the governance of the country"
These attacks are not new and were recently echoed by a clever (fictional?) article by Field Ruwe.  In 2008, Nkwanzi Mahongo made similar arguments where he argued that the failure of African leaders to write and engage in intelligent debate, even after they leave office is symptomatic of a wider problem facing Africa - a lack of ideas. The problem with the "intellectual bystander" argument as espoused by Chisanga and others is two-fold.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Case for A Stronger House of Chiefs

Chola Mukanga

President Sata’s decision to create a ministry dedicated to traditional affairs provides a unique opportunity to review the constitutional position of the House of Chiefs and how it fits in with broader national development. Under current arrangements the House of Chiefs continues to be merely an "advisory body" that carries no weight. The Republican Constitution states under article 130 and 131:

There shall be a House of Chiefs for the Republic which shall be an advisory body to the Government on traditional, customary and any other matters referred to it by the President.
Notwithstanding [Article 130], the House of Chiefs may : (a) consider and discuss any Bill dealing with, or touching on, custom or tradition before it is introduced into the National Assembly; (b) initiate, discuss and decide on matters that relate to customary law and practice; (c) consider and discuss any other matter referred to it for its consideration by the President or approved by the President for consideration by the House; and (d) submit resolutions on any Bill or other matter referred to it to the President, and the President shall cause such resolutions to be laid before the National Assembly.

The House of Chiefs has no legal tooth and serves mainly as a talking shop for chiefs. This underlines the criticism once expressed by Chief Puta that the failure by the then MMD administration to take seriously recommendations by the House of Chiefs had reduced it to a “mere white elephant”. As currently constituted the second chamber is not functioning as it should and in fact continues to drain resources from the national coffers that could be better channel in fighting poverty.

The absence of credible power has also had another unintended effect. It has created a situation where very few credible chiefs take House of Chiefs matters seriously, leading to a de facto house of lemons. The poor reputation of the House of Chiefs has led to good chiefs staying outside because it is not worth their time and effort, despite the enticing allowances. The exit of credible chiefs from the second chamber has given way to corrupt and illiterate chiefs who are attracted to the chamber in equal measure. In short it’s a classic “market for lemons”, with only the bad eggs left in the business. It’s no surprise therefore that over the last decade the House of Chiefs has largely been dominated by corrupt and politically captured chiefs. Corruption is always rife in advisory bodies because such entities are used by the Executive to reward political friends in exchange for staying in power, as was witnessed under the MMD rule with its many electoral endorsements from traditional leaders.

The case for reform has never been more urgent. However in reforming the House of Chiefs we must first ask a broader question – what role, if any, should there be for culture / traditions in Zambia’s development model? Answering that question requires us to first define what we mean by “development” and then assess the role that “culture / traditions” should play, if any, in shaping that development. 

The standard approach to development issues has tended to see economic improvement as the essence of development. Economic growth expands choices and improves social welfare. Development comes essentially to mean higher and higher growth.  A large amount of time is spent finding ways in which national economic growth can be enhanced. Current consensus points to the need to develop “open institutions” that are much more suited to higher quality growth e.g. greater democratic institutions. Under this largely “western” model there’s no special role for cultural or religious functions. Where such exists, these must necessarily be subservient to higher ideals of national growth. There’s certainly merit in the standard model that Zambia has unreservedly embraced over the last two decades. However, for development to be meaningful to our people it must be owned by them. Stated differently, it must have an intrinsic Zambian definition, especially at the local level

The problem with the standard western centric development model is that it presupposes the nature and meaning of “development” for every Zambian and seeks to realign national institutions accordingly to deliver those ideals (i.e. high quality growth). However, it is quite feasible that an alternative definition of development may command different requirements on the type of local institutions that delivers that development. It is arguable that until that is done Zambians will never see development. Indeed, the reason why people are not experiencing the benefits of current national growth spurt is not only that the growth patterns are unequal, and increasing, but also that Zambians have inherently different expectations of what development means to them. Real development is not something that can be delivered from the top down, it must be defined from the bottom-up. It is not something that can be defined by bureaucrats in Lusaka. It must emerge from our villages in Kashikishi and other places. It requires an explicit local approach.

Development therefore rightly understood is the increase in the freedom of local communities to determine their own destiny, consistent with their cultural and social beliefs. To have genuine development Zambia needs to put in place policies that allow each locality to maximise these developmental freedoms. This requires two important steps. First, each district / constituency needs to define its vision of development is and how it would like to see that delivered. Secondly, each locality needs to ask itself what local institutions it wants to put in place to help deliver that development. 

Now it might be the case that Mwansabombwe residents may see “development” in terms of greater emphasis on traditional norms (e.g. less democratic openness) combined with participatory budgeting, but with minimal emphasis on economic growth. Mufulira residents may have the opposite view (more democratic openness and growth, but erosion of traditional forms), with Kapiri Mponshi residents opting for a mid way house between two extremes.  The important point is that we should allow each area to define their vision of development and the appropriate local institutions that accords to their goals. It should not be the role of central government to super impose its world view on local people. Such an approach does not deliver development because only local people really know what development means for them. In some cases, they will reject democratic openness and in some others they’ll embrace it.

This approach raises the inevitable question of how we integrate the constituent parts to form a meaningful whole.  The starting point is that we must start with a basic affirmation:  strong societies are those societies which are supported by a tripod of strong markets, strong democratic foundation and religious or cultural institutions.  Despite the limitations of markets high quality growth at the national level is necessary for delivering increased choices that improves social welfare. Culture plays a strong and dynamic role in creating durable societies. Equally, we hold that democracy has 'intrinsic value' and is important in its own right. The question is: how do we ensure that our vision of local people driven institutions support the emergence of this strong national apparatus?  

It is in answering that question that the role of the House of Chiefs becomes important.  Having recognised that the notion of development and culture are interlinked, the next step is to ensure that nationally there’s a greater affirmation of our traditions by bring them to centre of decision making. If this logical connection is accepted then, the chieftaincy that are the very heart of our cultural traditions must be recognised as having a primary role in shaping national life. This would be most viable through reinforcing the chieftaincy in local government and ensuring that the House of Chiefs becomes a credible second chamber that links local preferences on traditions to national ideals on high quality growth.

The local role of chiefs would be dictated by how localities define development and the level of emphasis they place on using existing cultural institutions to foster development. For some areas, the role of chiefs may open up the possibility of a new model that improves on role they played during colonialism as “native authorities”, working hand in hand with local administrators and representatives. The problem at the moment is that everyone in the village runs to the chief for justice administration and economic sustenance (more on this in future essays). Unfortunately many chiefs have no financial budget or clearly defined role in meeting these needs. The travesty of colonialism is that it reduced the chieftaincy which prior to that period had served the people so well to an irrelevant spectator. The local government apparatus has continued that parallel approach (government imposed system and traditional authorities) and with it a huge and inefficient struggle in delivering local development. 

Two important legitimate concerns may be raised regarding this “traditional infusion”. The first relates to the problem of corrupt local elites in league with traditional leadership who usurp local rules. This issue of course is present in any arrangement, though slightly amplified in this context. However, it does point to the importance of participatory approaches in local governance arrangements. The model suggested above accomplishes this through fiscally devolving power to the local people which allows them to prioritise spending and make their own decisions – based on areas they believe are vital to their development pursuit.
The second relates to the issue of universal rights. Would the new local apparatus lead to discrimination against other tribe and, women? Could it lead to perpetuation of tribalism and national disintegration? The issue of universal rights is handled through national legislation and relate to observance of rule of law e.g. legislation on the ‘bill of rights’.  The suggested reforms do not change the need to uphold these areas. The question of “tribalism” is more challenging and demands solutions at the local and national levels, as part of the broader debate on tackling corruption and its many variants.

At the national level, the key is putting in place a much stronger House of Chiefs. A second chamber, also drawing in religious leaders, would provide checks and balances to Parliament. This would be similar to the House of Lords in the UK. However, unlike the British version, chiefs would have direct link to the grass roots since they would operate both through chiefdoms and within a revised and integrated local government system. By moving the chieftaincy to the legislative centre, it would enhance democracy rather than weaken it. For example, under the proposed model land redistribution and reform of customary law would be easier to undertake because chiefs would be connected to the centre and with real administrative power, they would not feel ‘threatened’.

Opposition against a stronger House of Chiefs centres on the “undemocratic” nature of such reforms. This position is misguided because it essentially suffers from the illusion of pervasive democracy. Much of what affects our every day existence is thrust on us by unelected people. The entire bureaucracy of government that drafts legislation and builds complexity upon complexity in our laws and policies is not elected. Indeed, in Parliament we continue to have unelected nominated parliamentarians.  The argument also fails because it is built on a presupposition of democracy as a means to an end.  As noted the goal is to have a stronger society, of which the democratic aspect is an important supporting leg. If we can have a less democratic second chamber that helps deliver that strong society that is development.

The vision above neatly fuses modern principles of governance within a traditional framework. In the end Zambia will never achieve political or economic independence until it develops a distinctly Zambian idea to solving its economic problems. We are struggling to achieve local development because there’s no local idea of development and no vision of what institutions can deliver a more harmonious route to getting there.
The institutional reforms proposed can in the long term be supplemented by a structural shift in inter tribal relations built on broader education, language and communication reforms. Education needs to embrace differences, but at the same time teach the new generation how to communicate and relate to one other. Compulsory languages of other tribal languages and cultural lessons are particularly vital. Indeed, such a move must come with erosion of English as the single national language. The colonial adoption of English as a single national official language does more harm than good. Although it was predicated upon the desire to foster inter tribal unity, it has done so at the expense of reinforcing the dominance of rich Zambian elites. 
More worryingly, the measure also prevents many people in our villages from communicating with their government. In the words of Wangari Maathi, it has effectively turned the requirement into “the strongest form of discrimination, and indeed, means of oppression and exclusion”. A possible solution is to follow South Africa’s approach and adopt a suite of national official languages. To bind this together, there’s a greater need to support initiatives towards greater promotion cheaper forms of communication e.g. development local language radio stations, which although they may have the capacity to inflame tensions, in an open dialogue framework system suggest, it is likely to give local people greater voice to be heard by political leaders.
Until Zambia takes these broader sets of reform, Chief Puta and the others will continue to be a wasted resource and the ultimate victim will be the poorest in society, who will never be reached with a non-Zambian centred idea of development.

Chola Mukanga is the founder of Zambian Economist which exists to encourage development of “Ideas for a better Zambia

Copyright: Zambian Economist, 2011