Celebrated Hollywood actor George Clooney is attempting to end war in Africa.
He has joined hands with human rights activist John Prendergast, a former Africa Director of United States’ National Security Council, in establishing an organisation that will track the financial sources of conflict in Africa. They shall set up a website which informants can use to anonymously provide details of people transferring and laundering money to foment violence in Africa. They will also use data collection, field research and analysis technology to link violence with corruption. Initial focus will be on the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Sudan and South Sudan. (Forbes Africa, September, 2015).
Mr Clooney’s intentions are very noble and especially charitable given that he need not take up his time or efforts in helping a continent that has got very little to do with him. In reality, he could do without this cause and not have his life seriously affected in any way. There is no doubt the stance taken by him and others to help the seemingly helpless, deserves applause. I took some time to think of how many people are standing up to be counted in the fight for a better world. I imagined that individual acts in trying to make the world a better place need not necessarily be gigantic whereby the world will stop spinning on its axis once you carry them out; even a little help here and there can help advance your community, society, country and the world at large. Be a saviour.
The fundamental question is who is to be the saviour and who is to be saved? I remember years ago when I was doing grade nine at school, there was a fellow in my class called Saviour; he was one hell of a trouble maker – he would always pass running comments, crack jokes and disrupt classroom sessions much to the chagrin of the teacher and the amusement of the pupils. One day as he made a disruptive joke in English class, our teacher decided to address him after quiet had resumed following noisy laughter: ‘Saviour,’ he called, ‘you know when you are given such a name, it normally symbolises something. You see, when you are coming from a disadvantaged background, and a child is born in such circumstances and given the name Saviour, it means that this is the child that the family will place their hopes in to overturn the misfortune of generations without prosperity. You are meant to be the saviour.’ He went on, ‘your performance in my class is poor, and I take time to review each pupil’s performance in the other classes, and I know that your performance in the other classes in equally poor.’ Finally he posed a question: ‘Now. Who is going to save the family if the saviour himself needs to be saved?’ The class erupted with laughter.
The reason for the preceding paragraph is to pose the question to all our citizens out there – who is to be the saviour and who is to be saved in as far as the problems afflicting our society are concerned. And by our society I mean Zambia and Africa. George Clooney’s efforts should be applauded, but it is kind of discomforting for someone to have to come all the way from Hollywood to fight terror on the African continent. I know that generally speaking, a fight against terror cannot be fought by the affected country alone, but we need more of our own people in the forefront. When it’s your battle, you must carry your cross – plain and simple. We must not always look to be saved. Let us also take on the role of saviour.
There are many people in Zambia who are fighting for to better our country. And this culture must certainly be applauded and encouraged. When I look at organisations such as Action Aid, Transparency International Zambia, SACCORD, NGOCC, Women For Change and many others I may not have mentioned, you can appreciate that the different office bearers these organisations have had over the years have put in their efforts to make Zambia a better place. On a continental level, you have people like Mo Ibrahim trying to create a better Africa. Who can discount the role that the media has played over the years to enhance Zambia’s democratic credentials and provide checks and balances on governance? This very same publication in which I write once moved a sitting Head of State so much that he actually went to court to testify against them in a matter – unbelievable stuff. We have in Zambia heroes and heroines that have put aside their personal discomfort in order to assume the role of saviours. For those that have stood up to be counted, I salute you. We need more of the same if not better. Others have certainly done their part. What about you?
When we talk about the culture of always wanting to be saved, one cannot leave out the idea that successive governments have been stuck on; that foreign investors are the answer to Zambia’s development. Don’t get me wrong, we could use foreign investment – especially the aspect of technology transfer and huge capital inflows which our businesspeople sometimes struggle to marshal. But the idea that they are the main source we should look to for much needed investment and subsequent revenue through taxes is one that needs to be revisited. The reality is that they come here to make money for themselves; if it were left to them, they would not pay taxes at all. I shall never forget the speech made by Vendanta resources PLC chairman Anil Agarwal which went viral over a year ago. In a leaked video, it was reported that Anil Agarwal addressing the Jain International Trade Organisation mocked the Zambian government for selling him Konkola Copper Mine for a song. He talked about how he had heard of a valuable copper mine for sale in Zambia and took a chance by offering a measly $25 million payment for the mine and the government jumped at his offer. He bragged to his audience that the mine has since brought over $500 million every year since buying it. He also took time to mock the Zambian government over the glorifying VIP treatment he had been received with.
So there you have it. On the one hand our government feels foreign investors are the answer yet behind our government’s back, they pour so much scorn. Our people need to stand up and save our economy. Who is going to save the Zambian economy if the Zambian people feel they need to be saved? That’s the message our governments send each time our officials go out there begging foreign businessmen to bring their capital here. I feel a huge sense of pride when I go over stories like the one about how the University of Zambia was built; Zambians came together, marshalled whatever resources they had so as to build this country its very first university. Let us not forget that Zambia did not have as many well to do citizens then as it is now, yet we pulled it together. One might ask – where has that spirit gone to? Today, if we needed a new university somewhere in rural Zambia, I would not be surprised to hear someone scream why can’t a foreign investor come and build one? Where is our sense of Zambian pride?!
And it’s not just foreign investors that we look at as saviours, many a time, our country and our continent has looked to donors for aid, viewing these donors as saviours. There is a classic example given by celebrated economist Dambisa Moyo in her book Dead Aid that I would like to repeat here – Dr Moyo illustrates: ‘There’s a mosquito net maker in Africa. He manufactures around 500 nets a week. He employs ten people, who (as with many African countries) each have to support upwards of fifteen relatives. However hard they work, they can’t make enough nets to combat the malaria-carrying mosquito. Enter vociferous Hollywood movie star who rallies the masses, and goads Western governments to collect and send 100,000 mosquito nets to the afflicted region, at a cost of a million dollars. The nets arrive, the nets are distributed and a ‘good’ deed is done. With the market flooded with foreign nets, however, our mosquito net maker is promptly put out of business. His ten workers can no longer support their 150 dependants (who are now forced to depend on hand outs), one mustn’t forget that in a maximum of five years the majority of the imported nets will be torn, damaged and of no further use (Dead Aid – Pg44)
Even when it comes our beloved football, many have channelled their thinking into believing we can never attain high heights under a local coach, many Zambians strongly feel ONLY an expatriate coach can lead us to success. Why relegate yourself to the mind-set of a slave, and not of a master. Again I ask – who is going to save Zambia if the Zambians themselves feel they need to be saved?!
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