…THIS IS WHY WE NEED A NEW CAPITAL CITY
BY INNOCENT SIACHITOBA
THE demographic pressure being experienced in Lusaka City will be worse in the next 15 years, a development that will pose further threat on the current constrained life support infrastructure.
High population growth rates at both national and provincial levels respectively will have negative effects on the major cities, particularly Lusaka. Considering that the city has reached the full carrying capacity, further addition of population will exert more pressure on the current life support facilities.
Zambia’s population is showing signs of doubling, arising from the interplay of three demographic determinants namely fertility, migration and mortality. These are major factors that are responsible for changes in the overall population for any country and Zambia is no exceptional.
For instance, if fertility and migration increase while holding mortality constant, the population tends to increase. However, it is not possible to hold the death rate constant but in most cases these two determinants are always higher than mortality. This also depends on the country being analysed. For instance, nations which are at war tend to have higher rates of emigrants and mortality than fertility.
These are three factors which the Central Statistical Office (CSO) takes into account when projecting the population. According to CSO projections, the population for Zambia is projected at 26.9 million in 2035 from today’s 15.8 million. Lusaka’s population is projected at 5.4 million from the current estimate of 2.8 million.
The doubling of population in Lusaka will undoubtedly lead to congestion and other social vices which will put the safety of private or public properties at risk. Basically, the central factors behind urban population growth are fertility and in-migration. The concept of in-migration simply denotes the movement of people from one district to another. In other words, this is also referred to as internal migration.
In Zambia the main factors behind inter-district migration lies purely on search for job opportunities and social amenities in areas designated as urban centres. This has to a greater extent contributed to urban population increase in Lusaka. It is this rapid urbanisation that is heaping pressure on the limited infrastructure in the city.
However, the other factor that has been ignored by many as the cause for population increase in Lusaka is the high fertility rates from the surrounding districts. For instance, the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) of 2007 reveals that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for Lusaka urban stood at 6.2 while in rural areas stood at 8.9. TFR means the total number of children ever born to a woman during her child bearing years. As stated above, the population of Lusaka according to Central Statistical Office (CSO) is currently estimated at 2.8 million. This is not a small number in a town which is static.
This demographic pressure will surely have adverse effects on the current public services. Apart from that, social evils such as crime, prostitution, abnormal street vending, abortion and so on and so forth are likely to rise due to lack of job opportunities if nothing is done on job creation. Lusaka Urban is likely to be the most congested city in Southern Africa if Government ignores the power of population growth as projected by the CSO.
Therefore, the Minister of National Development Planning Lucky Mulusa is right on the suggestion that a new administrative capital needs to be created. This suggestion has unquestionably come at the right time.
This idea of changing an administrative capital is not new in Zambia. The first capital was Kalomo which later shifted to Livingstone, then Lusaka – a more central location with a fair climate ideal for the European population at the time. There was good reason why colonial masters kept on changing the location of the capital city from Kalomo, Livingstone and finally Lusaka in 1935.
It is high time indigenous Zambians make their own landmark decisions especially in the midst of these warning signs of population explosion in the next few years.
At international level, there are also countries that have changed their administrative capital cities. For instance in 1991, the capital of Nigeria was shifted from Lagos to Abuja due to population increase. The new capital seemed to be central with its multi-cultural status.
According to The Telegraph of Britain, Moscow was the capital of the Russian Empire from the 14th Century until 1712. It then moved to St. Petersburg in order to be closer to Europe. The Russian capital was moved back to Moscow in 1918. Brazil is another country that changed its administrative capital from the overcrowded Rio de Janeiro to the planned, new city of Brasilia in 1961.
In all the scenarios, population explosion is cited to be the major source of relocation of capital cities. This is the same demographic pressure the city of Lusaka is facing and it will be worse beginning 2023.
Government’s intention to create a new capital ought to be taken seriously and all stakeholders from different professional backgrounds, inter alia the civil or geomantic engineers, demographers, town planners and other experts should come on board to chart the way forward.
The problem again arises as to where the new capital city will be located considering that Zambia has now 10 provinces – Central, Copperbelt, Eastern, Luapula, Lusaka, Muchinga, Northern, North-Western, Western and Southern. The current capital is nearer to Central, Southern, Eastern, Western and Copperbelt provinces. It would be appropriate to locate the new administrative capital at the centre of the Zambian map say between Kabwe and Kapri Mposhi. However, this will depend largely on the availability of water resources.
Minister Mulusa is also right on the suggestion that Government would employ a bottom-up approach to ensure that a new capital is realised. This means the form of planning that starts from the least considered members in society whose opinions and/or suggestions are carefully aggregated for the sole purpose of coming up with a popular programme of action.
Basically, this is done through employing different research techniques such as Focus Group Discussions (FGD), panel or longitudinal studies respectively. This planning model leads to having policies that are widely accepted by all stakeholders. The main reason why many projects fail to be appreciated by intended beneficiaries is that they are left out in the planning phase. Surely, this call for a bottom-up approach deserves commendation.
As part of interrelated intervention measure, Government needs to devise a deliberate policy that will see industries or important Government departments taken to smaller towns. In other words, the concept of federalisation of powers should be translated from a theoretical perspective into a more practical realism. Doing so, it will undoubtedly minimise rural-urban migration which is the chief contributor to urban population. I
If one looks carefully at the population of Lusaka City, over 85 percent are in-migrants from other provinces. The reasons for their presence in Lusaka are very simple: they were attracted by the search for better housing, education, health, job opportunities and other social amenities. If other surrounding provinces will still lag behind in terms of economic development, Lusaka City, being the proverbial land flowing with milk and honey will certainly pull them.
Another intertwined measure that needs to be taken seriously is the reproductive health policy. It might also be necessary to encourage citizens to start practising family planning. This may sound ‘‘unchristian’’ in that many people seem to have taken literally the biblical commandment ‘‘Go ye therefore, multiply and replenish the earth’’.
However, total fertility rates differ among women in terms of education attainment. Women with less education tend to have more children than women with higher education. This is statistically proven by Demographic and Health Survey (2007) which indicates that women who had no education had the probability of having (8.2) children, primary education (7.1), secondary education (4.2) and more than secondary education (2.4). Therefore, creating a decent new capital city involves a lot of interrelated factors that should be considered.
Finally, Government’s intention to create a new capital city is a welcome move and deserves further study and research. The population projections for the whole country and Lusaka by CSO should be taken in to considearion. The scenic value of the city will be no more if these projections are ignored. Therefore, it is high time to consider relocating the administrative capital from Lusaka to elsewhere.
If other countries like Nigeria, Brazil, Russia and Ivory Coast changed their capital cities due to population explosion, why can’t Zambia draw a lesson from that?