“President Lungu is planning to appoint me Minister for Presidential Affairs?”


A very reliable source told me that I am on President Edgar Lungus short list of nominees for Presidential Affairs Minister. 

He said that during the process, in which it quickly became clear that whoever else was nominated would not get the job as long as my name was on the list, everyone withdrew their name from selection. So, I take it, I’m the defacto Minister for Presidential Affairs.”… Said a workmate.

Of course our workmate tells such lies often. He has no clue who the President wants to head the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. But our workmate seriously thinks President Lungu will appoint him and has already communicated to us at the Institute of Logic and Numbers that he’ll accept the nomination and take 3 years leave of absence. He has already worked out a plan that it will take him less than 3 years to get rid of the dead wood, harmonise all the Government Ministries, so that the entire civil service can start performing as a unified force required to fully industrialize Zambia through Agriculture and value addition production for the local and export markets as well as create more than 1 million quality jobs that the President wants created in his five year term.

This Ministry for Presidential Affairs will require an all-rounder hard worker – no-nonsense – Minister who will not feel intimidated or get lost into the jungle full of economists, accountants, medical doctors, engineers, scientific research and development personnel including trade unionists, street vendors, the church, defiant UPND MPs etc. The right Minister of Presidential Affairs must also have several years’ industry and marketing experience – both in local and in international conglomerates at Senior Management level-preferably CEO.

I hear you say –Whoa!  Professor Mwiine Lubemba, where will the President find such an accomplished Zambian? You’re right. The President will not find such an expert all-rounder within Zambia or diaspora. But, Zambia urgently needs an expert to drive the agriculture and industrialization development agenda in the country. Industrialization is no kids’ stuff. It’s easy to wishy-washy- talk and boast- that you want to be the African continent’s China, Singapore or Malaysia, while dressed in the latest suits and driving the latest Ministerial 4×4 SUVs with flags, but another ball game altogether to achieve the intended industrialization results. That’s why I agree with the Editorials in the Daily Nation on Saturday 1st and Wednesday 5th October. President Lungu must put all Cabinet Ministers, PS’s and Directors on performance contracts, so that whichever Minister performs below the people’s expectations can revert back to the back bench, while PS’s and Directors can join other retired civil servants among street vendors, so that the rest of us are not left behind in the 21stcentury.

For example, if you want to be like China, Singapore and Malaysia, you’ve to realize that they didn’t become wealthy nations by having industries and agricultural programs that produced things that other people in the world were already making and had in abundance. If they did, they made those things better and cheaper – that others in the world were desperately attracted to buy from them rather than buy the same unattractive and expensive things produced in their own industries. Similarly, Zambia can’t become wealthy by making the same things that the Chinese or Malaysians are making unless Zambians can start to make those things better and cheaper.

And nothing can stop Zambia to become a bread basket for the region but it won’t make the Zambians wealthy unless they can mass produce stuff in their bread basket better and cheaper than other people in the region or other competing producers of bread baskets in the world. Why do we say this?

Let’s simplify this: it’s true, the Zambian economy has lagged because it’s basically a mono economy- based on 80% nonferrous, ferrous, precious metals and semi-precious stones export receipts from which it gets an aggregate ±US$6 billion total export proceeds. If we now eliminated say “Copper” the major export earner and replaced it with Maize, Wheat and oil seed exports and we were able to export all these crops at a cheap averaged out price of say US$300 per tonne, we would require to start growing 20 million tonnes of combined maize, wheat and oil seeds or if we were to grow only maize alone, we’d need approximately 6 times the present maize harvest. In fact we’d need to grow 23 million tonnes including maize for our own consumption. This would require 7 times the current agriculture investment in Land, water, electricity, fuels, fertilizers, seeds, transportation and storage logistics.  Above all, these inputs have to be cheap. So, the basic denominator in substituting copper with agricultural produce exports is mass production in agriculture and price competitiveness.

Unfortunately, to mass produce will require 7 times more hectares of land which will require farm mechanization.  And my guess is that we may end up with more than 70% of the entire menial agricultural jobs that would otherwise have been created being lost. This, unfortunately, is the reason not a single country in the world has developed its overall national well-being and economic growth model exclusively based on agriculture exports alone. I mean, agriculture is paramount, but has always been a smaller percentage of the larger bouquet of national exports.

So what will we do? Hardly a day passes without hearing someone wanting to sound learned and speaks about agriculture value addition. This is a brilliant idea, but it requires innovation and entrepreneur skills for a nation and its people to start making agro based things that other people in the world will want to buy from them. For example you can’t just start making Corn Flakes from maize and call it value addition. The problem you’ll have is that everyone in the region is already making the stuff and they’re already competing in the SADC, Comesa and other African markets. So, unless your Corn Flakes are better and cheaper, you’ll find it difficult to sell them easily.

The other common value added products from maize already being mass produced include maize starch, liquid glucose, dextrose monohydrate, anhydrous dextrose, sorbitol, corn gluten to name a few. In the U.S.A. and Eurozone for example they also use subsidised maize in the production of ethanol, a clean fuel they blend with fossil petroleum for the motor car industry and by the way, the textile industry is by far the largest buyer of maize starch.

Glucose and other sweeteners from maize and cassava for the pharmaceutical industry are possible in Zambia, but only if our local pharmaceutical industry can grow large enough. So we see that maize, wheat and oil seeds are opportunistic commodity export crops whose prices and demand patterns depend on many things including weather patterns in the region. Notwithstanding (like my young sister Edith Nawakwi said about exporting grass on Monday 3rd October Daily Nation page 3–“Diversify crop yields”) business opportunities at small scale and individual subsistence export levels exist for many agro-products-but not enough to substitute the US$6 billion copper export receipts.

We also find that maize, wheat, oil seeds are commodities whose prices are determined by the supply and demand patterns in the world at various commodity exchanges such as Chicago Commodity Exchange or nearby South African Futures Exchange (Safex) a subsidiary of JSE Limited. So, even if Zambian farmers wanted, they cannot simply come up with their own back-envelope-export prices. If we are to make what people call “a killing” in maize and other value addition crop exports, we have to, (as a matter of urgency), find ways to reduce our production costs in maize, wheat and oil seeds. This we can do by identifying the composition of major cost constraints such as our farm input costs and soils nutrients mapping that determine the final cost of production per hectare-per crop. This is true in my field of engineering where I’ve spent the last 42 years; and I’m sure it’s true in agriculture. In addition, if Zambians want to value add to grow their agro exports and want to avoid regional import/export wars, they must refrain from the culture of imposing import restrictions on goods and services, (like banning import of cheaper steel products), from their neighbours.

True, China’s, Singapore and the Malaysian economic growth models can be replicated. The question is: What makes the difference between Zambians and citizens in these countries with economic growth models we wish replicated? Or take a country near us: why did Botswana, a country that at Independence in 1966 had tiny agro based economy, generate enormous fortunes for its people over their 50 years of being independent boasting ±US$16,400- GDP-per capita, while Zambia with much larger nest eggs in copper, cobalt, Zinc and Silver dollar export reserves in 1964 has fallen short at ±US$4,200- GDP-per capita?

We see that, unlike Botswana, Zambia’s population has grown fivefold from ±3.1 million in 1964 to ±15.5 million today, otherwise Zambia’s per capita GDP would be ±US$18,500, second only to Gabon in Africa with per capita GDP of US$19,700, and higher than China US$14,300, South Africa US$13,400, even Malaysia at US$10,877 if the Zambian population growth rate had been controlled to correspond with its economic growth rate or ensured its population did not outstrip its nest of eggs over the period. In continuous thermodynamic systems we say “what goes in-must be equal to what goes out” otherwise the system malfunctions or explodes. Basically Zambians continue to produce too many children who grow into adults whose contribution to the nation’s productive base and wellbeing is now constraining its future economic growth—there’s a blockage in our continuous economic system and the economy has malfunctioned- whatever small economic activity that’s being created by the productive few ±1% local and foreign investors cannot support continued population growth. These are hard facts that may be painful to swallow and may even provoke fierce debate.

But if on the other hand you think the answer should instead have been ‘Good Luck,’ you may as well stop reading now. Because what I have to say from now will probably send you into frenzy.

Have you ever wondered, as I often have, what makes the difference?

The difference often lies in what each country’s citizenry knows and how they profit from this knowledge.  So, the “key” here is knowledge.

Take your own life experience as an example. Think about what makes you successful-say sending your kids to the best schools and universities in the country or overseas. Think about the reason that people respect your work. Does what you know- that they don’t know – play a key role in your success? How about the eminent team that President Lungu has selected to drive the agricultural – industrialization program; is there anything these people know that we don’t know-that may play a key role in the President’s industrialization program’s success?

This is important for the country’s investing strategies in agriculture value addition chain to achieve a bottom -up – industrialized economy. Hard-won knowledge is key to consistently achieving our targets. The problem of course, is that building that kind of knowledge is hard and takes long painful years working at it. For example, we’ve to make deliberate policy decisions that match our population growth rates with what our GDP can support. We’ve to spend countless hours studying the latest trends in dozens of economies and industries worldwide and think of how we can do those things differently etc.

That’s how, until recently, China with its one child policy did it, and Singapore and Malaysia.  In the last 30 years, these countries that Zambians want to copy and paste did nothing but study the world trends and markets. They sent their best students to the best foreign universities to study and work in the best industries and copied only the best economic growth models that could be replicated in their own countries.’ In addition, these are highly competitive economies that we want to copy -only the best kids born amongst them survive to enter their best schools and universities. The governments of China, Singapore and Malaysia ensure they’ve a well educated population that can provide highly trained manpower to grow their economies. This has resulted in numerous suicide cases, (yes kids and adults who take their own lives), common amongst underperforming children and adults that fail to achieve in whatever fields of study and work environment. So, we see that unlike amongst Zambian families, failure to achieve in all these countries we want to replicate is considered a shameful dishonour on the family.

To be continued

Just a thought,