What Feeds Poverty in Zambia? Part I

Published on 3rd September 2019

The development of any country is a deliberate conviction and venture. Countries are just like individuals – they need to do something to move from one stage of growth to another. Like individuals, lack of investment in natural, social, personal or human skills and capital leads to poverty and all sorts of underdevelopments. It does not take any rocket scientist to figure out what has not caused perpetual poverty and underdevelopment in Zambia.

For one, the legal regime (framework) exists in Zambia for a thriving and exceptional economic growth. For another, Zambians want to be wealthy and they do not want to be poor – I know that because I am one of them.

A thriving statutory and legal framework

From sole trading to company or trust formation and creation, Parliament has ensured that there is a potentially vibrant statutory and legal scheme aiming at empowering, and, creating, an enabling environment for economic exercising. The Registration of Business Names Act, Chapter 389 of the Laws of Zambia (for sole traders); the Partnership Act, 1890 of United Kingdom (for partnerships); the Companies Act, Chapter 388 of the Laws of Zambia, and the British Companies Act, 1985, for incorporated companies); the Administration of Estates (Trust Companies) Act, Chapter 62 of the Laws of Zambia; the Restriction of Trusts Act, Chapter 63 of the Laws of Zambia, (for trust companies, including the Wills and Administration Testate Estates Act, Chapter 60 of the Laws of Zambia); the Small Enterprises Development Act (Small Enterprises Development Board), Chapter 425 of the Laws of Zambia (for small and medium scale size enterprises); and the Zambia Revenue Authority Act, Chapter 321 of the Laws of Zambia (for all manners of revenue accumulations and management), are all designed to provide a rich and magnanimous statutory framework for venture and business investment and instrumentality in Zambia.

Four factors that have stifled implementation in Zambia

Zambia’s national intention to develop and rub-off the shackles of poverty are well-founded and statutorily enshrined. What keeps a nation like Zambia still in the doldrums of poverty and underdevelopment? There are four factors that I have identified that diminish Zambia’s will to develop, despite a well-intentioned statutory regime in place.

One, it is the management by unqualified or corrupt people;

Two, it is the existence of a giant, dead, red fiat and imprudent bureaucracy;

Three, a blatant neglect and mismanagement of the small and medium enterprise (SME) scheme in Zambia;

And four, a lack or absence of a political/leadership will to both incentivise and motivate the citizens towards innovation and entrepreneurship.

I will deal with each of these facets in subsequent parts later. For now, most urgent to me, is the blatant neglect and mismanagement of the SME scheme in Zambia.

SMEs could hold the key to Zambia

In 2011, I published what is perhaps the most comprehensive book ever written on Zambia by a single author. The work is over 1,100 pages, with over 500 bibliographic references, with 2,500 footnotes. This is not a young boy’s work; it took me six years to research and cover over thousands of hours of sleepless nights. Why did I undertake such a mammoth project? Well, I did it for Zambia. In 1997, I was at the UNZA library and I could not believe that there were only scanty Zambian authors displayed in the shelves. I thought to myself, “Who is writing the books we read, and who is feeding us with the knowledge we imbibe?” It turns out that the very people who enslaved and colonized us were also feeding us with their version of freedom, intelligence and even economic models. I found it suspicious. Therefore, in one of the history course tutorials I was taking, I vowed to write a book for Zambia – with a Zambian context and to retell the story of our struggle cogently. That is why I wrote the “Struggles of My People” in the format it is in and with a wide deviation from the norm. It was written for us, the people who experienced the pangs and aftermath of colonialism and neo-colonialism so that we should not allow that despicable history which reduced us to “boys” and slaves and poverty-stricken Misérables, to be repeated!

In Chapter 24 of the Struggles of My People, I have devoted over 40 pages to discussing SMEs and other viable ventures. I will recapture its efficacy in Part II of this series. Suffice, however, to note that the oft-cited example of South Korea is a true testament to the viability of SMEs. In the 1970s, Zambian economic performance was superior to that of South Korea. South Korea has now, and by far, a stronger economy and is richer than Zambia. South Korea’s secret? SMEs. We can learn a lot from South Korea’s model of development.

Look for Part II for more on SMEs in Zambia.

By Charles Mwewa

President of Zambian-Canadian Foundation, legal professor, and Board Member for Black Action Defence Committee (Canada)


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