For how long shall it be a case of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’?
By Lady C
There is a growing, vibrant and strong Zambian community here in the UK and most of them consider this to be their adopted home. Apart from providing financial support to family in Zambia, a majority only have fond memories of the good times they had in Zed before coming to the UK and perhaps send old clothes to Zambia to help the less privileged in Zambia.
Very few have sound investments and projects to pursue or protect as things don’t always prove to be straightforward as there are always draw-backs with ‘unnecessary and ancient’ red tape bureaucratically installed to simply be a hindrance rather than a deterrent for unwelcome activities. Ultimately, they just deflate one’s hopes of improving the ‘standard’ or just simply helping the needy back home.
Let’s look at our African colleagues right here in the Diaspora who face the same issues abroad in Africa as they strive to make a living here in the UK. This is a land of abundant opportunities and it doesn’t take long before you see how well the numerous South Africans, Ghanaians, Ugandans, Nigerians, Ivoirians, Kenyans and Congolese are progressively setting up several small businesses and rallying around each other, helping one another to get things up and running for a common cause. Goodness me, even the newly despatched refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea are already establishing themselves here in the UK by setting up small shops and other businesses, serving large cohesive communities for a better standard of living all round. A healthy picture of self-empowerment indeed!
What on earth happens to us Zambians as a ‘people’ or even a community when it comes to starting small businesses or running successful organisations? Do we really feel that brotherly/sisterly bond with each other or are we always ready to stab one another in the back at the first opportunity to stop a newcomer from progressing because one feels they got here first and a newcomer shouldn’t be progressing faster? To what end? Opportunities and ideas can come from any situation so why should one deny oneself of blessings when they are surely hidden in another person’s progress/success?
These are questions that constantly come to the surface as we are yet to encounter big strong signs on the streets of the UK that ‘Zambians have arrived’. Perhaps one or two restaurants, a pub, a growing football team (ZedUnited) and that’s about it! Apart from UKZAMBIANS, there’s no other Zambian website/mag that serves the Zambian community here with such brilliant ideas and serious issues being addressed.
There are several Zambian beauty queens making their mark and representing Zambia as very strong and serious contenders on the beauty circuits but beauty should not only be on the outside. What do Zambians have to show for a lovely country to everyone else? You only have to go to the local high street to be faced with so many Ghanaian or Nigerian food stores, wine bars and restaurants selling their local foods and wares or offering their products and services from ‘their’ music, videos, cultural events and Friday night boogie spots to a strong cohesive presence as they gather together to honour and support their own. There’s a very strong sense of unity, support and warm-hearted love amongst one other. Talk less of the several money transfer outlets providing very good products and services for their local communities here but most importantly stimulating their own economies back home with much increased foreign exchange activities. Surely isn’t this something Zambia can benefit from?
Are we content with the likes of Western Union and MoneyGram dominating our money transfer markets when a local money transfer outlet could provide a very competitive service at very low rates and give back to the local community in Zed, via a small percentage of the profits to help the local communities in Zambia through local projects? Would this not steer the local economy in the right direction and give everybody a chance to get up and ‘just do it’? Could this attitude help Zambians realise their own potential at self-empowerment as folks who are willing to help themselves and not rely on other entities to provide vital services. We are yet to hear about that the two giants in the money transfer market embarking on local projects in Zed or ploughing some of the profits obtained from Zambians in the Diaspora flowing back to their families in Zed. Or is it a case that Zambians do not need to be empowered as other ‘nationals’ can always do this for them at a small price? Perhaps Zambians do not believe in standing up and doing things for themselves? If that’s the case, then what really happened to all the teachings instilled in us from our founding father Dr David Kaunda? “Be a Humanist! One Zambia! One Nation!”
And there we were thinking the Zambian Constitution was always there for our protection and progress as a people. A Constitution quite outdated, it seems, as it offers nothing concrete or holds no real substance for the protection of its own people living in the Diaspora. It reminds us all that should you live outside Zambia for a period of ten years, you are not eligible to run for presidency; It also forbids dual nationality amongst several other ‘hot’ topics. Ultimately, it promises to protect our civil liberties and rights in unison with ‘Human Rights Laws’ but as we read on and dig deeper, we are forced to acknowledge that most of these rights are violated as a matter of course rather than the Constitution serving its purpose to protect us all. Surely, individuals living in the Diaspora become exposed to much more in terms of acquiring knowledge, law, education, political science, wealth management, business ideas, international travel, international economic and social awareness, encountering various nationals from all walks of life from around the whole world – Surely folks would benefit much more from an exposed progressive individual, rather than one with inherited vision, archaic rules and limited social, economic and management skills – wouldn’t they?
And why are we still having a debate on dual nationality? Comments from individuals from commonwealth countries find it astonishing that we are still ‘dithering’ on this matter. And most Zambians who are very passionate about investing heavily in Zed would feel better equipped to do so if they were awarded dual nationality like their African colleagues. They believe it’s all about having the freedom to travel very freely and set up businesses and send money to Zed much more frequently. Does this not ring a bell that should 5000 individuals send £200.00 per month to Zambia for 2 years, the amount of foreign exchange this would stimulate would stir up huge economic activity that would positively ‘affect’ the country’s national income. (And by the way, there are thousands of Zambians living in the UK – both officially and more so unofficially), so small things like this would have a huge impact on our economy and it’s our responsibility to start changing the history books as we move forward and make a statement right here in the Diaspora.
We all have relatives in Zed, and the powers that be in Zed also have relatives here so why are we hurting ourselves and stumping the future growth of the next generation? Why should the Constitution and other selfish individuals put a spanner in the works and prevent Zambians from outshining other Africans and start to put poverty behind us? Why can’t we just stand united and change the history books for a better Zambia?