Impetus to achieve: know your true resource

There is a country on our continent that has a female scientist for President. Her name is Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and the country is Mauritius.

I feel this woman deserves applause for becoming only the third African woman to ascend to the Presidency of her country after President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia and President Joyce Banda of Malawi. I salute her and I think that all well-meaning people should. Hopefully one day in Zambia we can also have a female President.

Gurib-Fakim believes African governments have it all wrong when it comes to identifying the true resources of their economy. In the December 2015/ January 2016 edition of Forbes Africa Woman magazine, she had this to say: ‘Natural resources are a finite commodity. Africa has got the biggest resource, which we undervalue, and that is the youth….natural resources in the short-term are going to be a quick fix and earner but in the medium to long term, we have to focus on another wealth which we have not valued and that is the youth, this is where the future is for Africa.’ I couldn’t agree more with her.

What Gurib-Fakim says is certainly worth paying attention to by all well-meaning Zambians. We could learn a lot from this powerful woman. How often do we hear our political leaders talk endlessly about copper and agriculture? Why can’t we talk about people? Surely are people not the ones that drive these things? Where is the agenda to harness this resource? I for one truly believe that the most important resource in the development of a country is Human Resource. We have not gone all out in our country to develop our people. Many a time, you will hear people complain – and I am one of them – that Zambian people do not have the right mindset towards many issues that can make us prosper both at individual and national levels.

At individual level, when we talk about the SME sector, how often do we hear people advise those interested in the particular business of transportation, whether bus, taxi, light trucks against going for it. People will tell you that you must not engage in such business because your employees will steal from you, as well as go on to wreck you vehicle. What about farming? How often do we hear of people with busy jobs in the city leaving their farm workers behind with instructions to farm and yet when these farm owners return, they find little if anything at all has been done, and yet the portion of farming land that they grant to these workers is thriving, running at a handsome profit. In a nutshell, I am saying that Zambians’ mentality is not in tandem with the principles of integrity. But whose job is it to try to change this? Whose job is it to invest in our youth so that they can learn to espouse the principles of integrity, fidelity, competence etc?

Before I get to the answer to the preceding questions, I have a feeling that some readers out there will find what I have said in the preceding examples to be a case of business promoters digging their own graves because business is a hands on activity (particularly something like farming), and people must be present if they want to see their venture succeed, but I beg to differ on this notion. I once believed in it but I have long since been disabused. If anything, people in business must strive to separate ownership from management as much as possible to pave way to good corporate governance practices; and yes, you can try to apply this best practice to your business regardless of size.

Back to whose to job it is to try to change this culture among many of our youth that sometimes tend to be the architects of their own downfall when people to try to empower them, the answer lies in all of us. Virtues such as honesty and integrity begin with the home you grow up in. Some people teach their children to hide valuables that they own so that they do not share with their friends whereas others teach their children to be open and not keep things secret and if they wish to share with close friends, they can go ahead. Beyond upbringing, I agree with Gurib-Fakim that governments in Africa have got to do more to value our youths. I do not want to sound like somebody who blames individuals’ irresponsible behaviour on governments, but if you truly value your youth and you would want them to be your leaders of tomorrow, you have got to develop them. You have got to put systems in place that will incentivise them to be the best people they can be, and penalise them against being the worst they can be.

Our education curriculum has got to emphasize on certain things from very early on, and we should have some yardsticks in our society for measuring how well we are faring as a people. I do not know if we have them, but it would be good to have social indicators that show how the youth in society are performing in terms of honesty, integrity, personal responsibility etc. I say these things because our youth have really come to have made a name for themselves as lazy thieving employees to people that would want to empower them. In Zambia, if you run a Barber shop, and you don’t have a relative to sit in it and watch what’s happening, you will probably never see a ngwee from it, yet your so called employee will be laughing all the way to the bank. Again, if you’re running a small grocery store and you want to give a young unemployed Zambian out there a job as a shop keeper, you will lose both money and stock in no time.

And you see, if this were the case with just a few people, it would be one thing, but this sort of dishonest and thieving behaviour is quite prevalent in our society. I think it would not be inaccurate to say that many of our fellow Zambians out there are dishonest; it pains me to say this, but it’s true. Sometimes, I wonder why we are always quick to point at other nationals such as Congolese and Nigerians calling them crooks, when many of our own people are not trustworthy. As in turns out, for me personally, whenever I have tried to do some small business here and there, I have had my fair share of frustration with labour due to dishonesty, thefts etc. This very same labour has not been Congolese, this labour has not been Nigerian. This labour has been Zambian.

There is something that we are not getting right as a society when many of our citizens do not uphold and espouse the principle of integrity. We all need to stand up and correct that because our people are our resource. And we do not want our resource to be impaired to a point where it is rotten and of no use. The youth should be our most valued resource, by far exceeding copper, agricultural assets or anything else. It is people after all that make meaningful output out of any resource out there to the benefit of the majority. The general citizenry, the Church, the Government, the various Youth Movements have got to formulate a strategy that can help develop our youth to be an asset that can be deployed to improve national prosperity. Right now, many of our youth are simply liabilities – just look at these young men that drive buses in the public transport sector. They flout traffic regulations, drive recklessly comprising other road users and endangering lives, they are very rude to their passengers, but one must ask, why is this so? Why have we not raised a generation of bus drivers that can uphold the rules of civility and treat their bosses’ property with respect? Who is responsible for raising these young men? Who impaired his/her natural resource of a young person into a liability from the promise of a valuable asset?

Gurib-Fakim was spot on, African governments have undervalued their youths. Just look around our country; our youths are given toxic alcoholic beverages and sometimes unleashed on political opponents of their leaders so as to perpetrate violence. Instead of our political parties coming up with programs to train their youths into becoming responsible political players than will uphold good work practices, and loyalty, we have witnessed total rubbish from all our major political parties. It even becomes a bit embarrassing to be a Zambian when you witness this decadence. We need more from those of influence to develop this resource we call the youth. The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and so in everything that we do, let’s remember to know our true resource.

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