By Mwine Lubemba
Over the weekend, I found myself at a popular drinking joint called Mbereshi Empire on Mumbwa Road. It’s also named the “Pain Relief Center.” It’s frequented by retired civil servants-small scale farmers. I was told it’s owned by well-known civil rights activists Mr. Brebner Changala. There was a large crowd whom I thought were patrons but were not buying any drinks. I was told they come from the nearby Kanyama Township to watch English Premier League soccer on weekends.
“Oooo—Mwalamona, Bola nga yapwa aba bonse balaya .” In English this means, you’ll see, all these people will go immediately all the soccer matches are over. Interesting Mr. Brebner Changala allows these Kanyama patrons who hardly buy any drinks or food not even water that sells for K3.0 a bottle free access to his bar. They use his toilets and water free of charge as they watch soccer on DSTV which he pays from profits on his drinks. I also guess- due to the frequent load shedding, the Kanyama residents prefer to watch their games at Brebner’s “Pain Relief Centre” which is 2-3 kilometers from their homes instead of their nearby pubs within Kanyama because Brebner’s pub has an electric generator.
Brebner is an interesting young man. I learned he’s a former Banker at ZANACO as a result you can hardly get out of him any information that has come into his possession from anyone in confidence–not even to his close friends. He seems to operate on the need to know basis- as a result, he’s also not inquisitive- for the entire afternoon and part of evening, he didn’t show any interest in my presence or want to find out who I was or, where I was coming from-and he kept saying “Chalo chesu-takuli ifya kutina” meaning, this is our country, there’s nothing to fear. Perhaps Brebner kept saying these words because he thought I was the one who was inquisitive when I tried to find out more about his social responsibility with regards to the free services he offers his Kanyama patrons.
I actually found myself at Brebner’s pub by accident. A colleague wanted to urgently meet him so he asked me to accompany him and he promised me that we would not spend a minute at the pub. This colleague comes from the same village as Brebner in Mbereshi. He introduced me to Brebner by asking him if he knew who Professor Mwiine Lubemba was. “I don’t know that radical – scatter brain – professor.” He replied. I winked to my friend to stop right there and he immediately switched the subject to politics starting with Brebner’s story in the Nation that Sunday. Brebners face brighten up. He seems to enjoy subjects of politcal nature. I joined the discussion when everyone begun to discuss the challenges that face Edgar Lungu in the next five years.
“Lungu faces two challenges. He has to industrialize the economy and at the same time create wealth for the majority who don’t really understand the difference between industrialization and wealth creation.” I said.
“Oh, Bamudala, (this old man), you think these people watching soccer here understand industrialization and wealth creation the way you’re putting it? Wealth to them means money. They want money now to put food on their tables.” Said Brebner. “Can’t you see some have come here with their girlfriends but they can’t even afford a bottle of water?” He said. “These people have wants. They want Nice cars, nice house, nice clothes etc.” This set me thinking. Edgar Lungu has big challenges to solve before his term of office ends in the next 4¾years. Let’s discuss this.
At his swearing ceremony, President Edgar Lungu emphasized Industrialization and he’s made Kafue Town an economic zone for –steel industries? I’m not sure. I wasn’t at Heroes Stadium, so I’m also not sure if he said ‘wealth creation for industrialization’. But, more money, more jobs and fewer taxes, is already covered in the PF manifesto. I hope it hasn’t been removed. That would be a big mistake. Despite his humble understanding of economics, late President Sata was a great economist par excellence.
Wealth creation, more money in the pockets (personal finances) and industrialization go hand in hand. You can industrialize but you need a population with more money in their pockets to buy the products you’ll be able to make- but personal finances do not come without wealth creation which can only come with industrialization. This presents us with the usual ‘chicken and egg’ problem.
In Level I of her CFA, my lastborn daughter accumulated a lot of course material dealing with personal finances that once in a while, I’ve read a page or two to refresh myself on the subject. And when you Google Amazon.com, it returns with 56,956 personal finance books. I would say, on average, all these books would contain ±3 billion words.
Now, if you were an ambitious studias person and wanted to read all these books and if you were able to read at 362 words per minute like late president John F Kennedy, these books would take you slightly more than 8.287 million minutes to read all of them or 139,000 hours or 5,755 days which works out to 15.8 years. After which, I’m sure, you’d end up knowing just a fraction about personal finances despite reading all these books. It would take you slightly more than 16 years if you were to embark on an impossible mission to read everything that has been written about industrialization and still come back knowing just a fraction of what you really need to do to industrialize an economy. And the reason has to do with differences in work culture and education levels in various countries in the world-and perhaps the reason why emphasis is put on education which is world universal to increase the enquiry mindset levels in a nation. This seems absurd, because 99% of lessons in personal finances which is basically more money in people’s pockets or, in national finances or, 99% of lessons in industrialization can be summarized in ten words:
Work a lot, spend a little, and invest the difference. You don’t have to be an economist in Finance; you don’t have to spend 15.8 years reading all the books on personal finance, wealth creation and industrialization to know these basic principles of having more money in your pockets, or of wealth creation and of industrialization.
And I’ve often gotten into big arguments with my lastborn daughter and colleagues who’re expert economists about these beliefs because, in engineering, we were taught to cautious and reduce often too complicated engineering mathematics formulae into simple steps and that’s why I also believe that even the most important lessons in personal finance and indeed in wealth creation and industrialization programs can-and should- be distilled down into simple lessons no more than a few sentences in length.
For example, Kafue Town should Not be a STEEL specific economic zone but simply Kafue Economic zone because the steel industry, like many other industries, depend on other primary chemical, hardware manufacturing and supply industries that’ll need to enjoy similar tax free incentives in economic zones to be able to transform the entire Kafue Town into a wholly inclusive economic processing zone Town. We hope Hon Mulusa, Mutati and Mwanakatwe will clarify this omission in the presidential announcement.
So, before I fall into my usual trap of writing another long article, I want to emphasize the above with what Nietzsche said, “It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.”
So, here’s my attempt at summarizing the most important in “industrialization and more money in your pockets” rules.
1.0 Quality Education. Education. Education. Education. More Education.
2.0 Unlike Chinese, Indians, Lebanese and the English etc, Zambians from street vendors, CEO of companies to our Cabinet Ministers have this tendency of spending a lot of money to show people how much money they have. This is the surest way to have less money in your pockets and the surest way for public servants to be corrupted with ‘contracts for money’ scams. Those patrons at Brebner’s Mbereshi Empire bar whom Brebner said hardly spend any money even on water at some point could have had money or (a wage) of sort which they spent ‘living like Aliko Dangote’ to show off with their girlfriends at bars within Kanyama or at expensive Champaign only night spots in town.
There’s a classic example for this often used logic by colleagues in the Financial Advisory unit at our Institute of Logic and Numbers on personal finances that I came across and can be found at www.retire29.com, about the singer Rhianna who because she was a dollar millionaire believed that she had so much money that even mathematics no longer applied to her but was shocked to find herself “effectively bankrupt” in 2009. She fired her financial advisor and sued him for not doing his job, but her advisor offered the court th is legendary response: “Was it really necessary to tell her that if you spend money on things, you will end up with the things and not the money?”
Zambians must realize that wealth is the stuff you don’t see. It’s the imported Japanese BEFORWARD second hand cars you don’t buy, the latest Mercedes Benz S550 and S600, the Ferrari, the Land Rovers not purchased, the latest imported designer label clothes not bought, the latest smartphone and jewelry forgone. Money buys things, but wealth—assets like cash; BOZ treasury bills and bonds in your Bank and unspent—can be used or lent out to entrepreneurs to build industries for the economy to prosper and it buys freedom and security for the individual savers. Edgar Lungu must not think of industrialization before he asks Zambians which one of these things they want, and hope they’ll all pick wisely, otherwise Lungu will continue to borrow from the IMF and the Bond markets for Zambians to keep spending on imported gadgets and his industrialization program will come to naught.
Zambians must also realize that the only way to build wealth is to have a clear gap between ones ego and one’s income. Certified Financial Advisors (CFA) will also tell you that getting rich has nothing to do with one’s income (like our Kanyama friends at Brebner’s bar) and everything to do with ones savings rate and it applies to the national economy as well. And ones savings rate is just the difference between ones ego and one’s income-how much one can spend in relation to how much one actually spends. If all Zambians keep this in check, everyone including the national economy should be fine over time.
Just a thought,