The commendable initiative by News Diggers to accord a platform to various Opposition Parties so that they can articulate to the Zambian people, their vision for our nation, is a critical step towards re-establishing our lost sense of democracy. For too long now, we have battled as politicians to win the hearts and minds of our electorate not through great and inspirational ideas, but through raising our voices the loudest in condemnation, or by creating an infectiously popular song. Our mission as NAREP is to give every Zambian the power to make real and meaningful choices for their lives and to take control of their own destinies. We believe that every Zambian can become whatever he or she wants to be and it all starts by giving them back the power that they have handed over to elected officials who no longer believe they need to be accountable.

At the heart of NAREP’s mission is the Zambian youth; the young men and women who toil every day to get educated in order to build a life for themselves and their future families. 50% of our country’s population is below the age of 16. Every year, nearly 400,000 young men and women enter the job market. To keep pace with these numbers, over 1,000 jobs a day would need to be created. This is an impossible task for a nation that does not have forward thinking leaders. As NAREP, we want to put people at the centre of our mission to restore the value system that made this nation great. We see the youth as the engine for this journey to reclaiming our rightful place among the greatest nations on earth.

Our flagship idea of empowering the youth and women of Zambia under a scheme we call TiPanGeni will revolutionise the way giver meant operates and the way business is conducted. Through TiPanGeni, we build the skills that our economy so badly needs. Our youth, our men and our women are deeply talented. They simply lack the support that they need to push their potential in the right direction.

How will NAREP’s TiPanGeni initiative do what leaders in the past have failed to do? It will achieve success because it will be all-inclusive. No nation can thrive when it hands its best land to foreign ownership or grants its prizes contracts and assets to companies that lack a depth of local interest.

TiPanGeni is a movement for the men, women and youth of Zambia. It combines the spending power of governments and business through an institutional framework that will be overseen by an civil society and the private sector. It will train ordinary Zambians while at the same time giving them direct access to government business as part of the training process in a way that is transparent and accountable. It will involve universities, unions, grassroots organisations, women and youth movements, student bodies. It will bring the nation together in a harmonious way and will identify vulnerable communities and neglected needs. There will be no limit to what we vmcan achieve when we work together and shape our prosperity through a common enterprise.

Entrepreneurship training will begin at the primary school level. Industry and universities will work hand in hand to ensure that our graduates receive hands-on training even as they pursue their studies. Our women in the markets will no longer have to worry about where to sell their goods or wake up at ungodly hours to hustle for the day’s supplies. Our young men will run successful small, medium-sized and large scale sustainable businesses delivering quality goods and services and becoming prosperous citizens through the strength of their ideas and enterprise. Our mine suppliers will be world class agents in logistics and supply; our mining entrepreners will own large scale mines; our rural small scale and peasant farmers will be part of a broad network supplying local markets and neighbouring states with high yielding agricultural commodities that we are uniquely positioned as a country to produce. Nothing will be impossible under a NAREP inspired vision that will tap into the potential of the many not the few. Nothing will be beyond the ability of the neglected and abused girl-child to dream and attain.

But all this will require a decision from each of us to choose to act on our conviction for a better Zambia. It will require us to abandon those that abuse the power they have and to demand a better approach to governance; one that upholds full accountability for how our money is raised and spent, how much we borrow and why, who has stolen or abused their office and when. We need to ask the hard questions of our leaders and demand answers as to why a nation of less than 16 million people, 10 times the size of Malawi with minerals, tourism potential, forests, rivers, natural water and talented people can be so poor. We need to ask why we cannot have issue-based politics that sets out the vision for our future and champions leaders who really care for the poor and vulnerable. The time to change course is now. The decisions made today will impact the generations to come and we cannot waste any more time ignoring the need to restore the value system in our government that made this nation great.

Elias Chipimo is the NAREP president and 2021 presidential candidate