One patriotic economist called our newsroom on Tuesday, giving us a lecture about the need for media houses to support Zambian initiatives such as the one organised by Dr Lubinda Haabazoka and his Economics Association of Zambia in Livingstone. The complaint from this economist was that the media had only focused on hyping the event without following up on the outcome on the National Economic Summit. “Where are the resolutions from the EAZ economic summit”, he asked.
Today is Tuesday; I have read through the Zambia Daily Mail, Times of Zambia and now I have finished perusing through your newspaper. I have not seen anything of substance regarding the outcome of the EAZ economic summit which took place in Livingstone over the weekend, so I am worried. I expected a whole business page on this, even on Monday, but I was just seeing Katuba elections, what and what! So I have remained wondering to say, over the weekend there was a big, successful economic function but these journalists don’t want to give us the resolutions.
I am thinking that maybe you are trying to sabotage the good resolutions by not printing them in your newspaper. Don’t be jealous, if you have the resolutions, print them so that we can read and see how our economy will be helped from this summit,” we were told.
Ironically, we have not seen the resolutions anywhere, not even on the EAZ website or Ministry of Commerce. We saw the theme of the summit “The Future of Economic Diplomacy – supporting inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa”, and we have also seen a lot of pictures from the event, but we don’t know where to find any communiqué.
We must mention that Dr Haabazoka did a great job of bringing those powerful and influential delegates from across Africa to Zambia. This was a massive event and Dr Haabazoka’s initiative made us proud. For a moment, we had the world hearing progressive thinking from Zambia, instead of the same counter bickering from politicians.
But we understand why some people are feeling disappointed because the essence of a summit is obviously to brainstorm and find solutions to common problems affecting the members in attendance. For example, you can say in the agriculture sector, this is what we need to focus on, these are priorities, the energy sector, this is how we will diversify and focus on solar energy? Employment sector, what kind of jobs do we need to focus on creating so that we arrest economic migration? Once these questions are put on the table and discussed in a forward looking manner, you then come up with resolutions or a communiqué of some sort, informing the public what you the leaders have agreed to do. That’s what we know.
For us in Zambia, this summit came on the backdrop of one finance minister being fired and another being hired, the budget cycle is just around the corner, the debt mountain is only getting taller, the kwacha is flying like a kite. So in short, it was an event that was expected to shape economic policy. At least that is what we thought.
Now, in the absence of resolutions, we’ll start questioning how much we spent as a country on sending delegates, who by the way 75 per cent were government sponsored. How much did we spend on sending them to Livingstone, accommodating them and feeding them? We saw Zambian ambassadors in attendance at the event, and we can’t imagine that an ambassador would fly from Germany using his own pocket. And we can’t expect that permanent secretaries whom we saw in Livingstone, including party officials, would use their own resources.
So in the absence of resolutions, we’ll start demanding to know how much our government spent on this. Now, we don’t want to do that because that will be a negative approach towards something very positive for Zambia, and it will take away from this good initiative by Dr Haabazoka. We don’t want to be petty, but if there are no resolutions which were made, then it was a costly venture because all it did is that it brought the same usual suspects who usually meet all the time, maybe they even joke together and drink together sometimes. A summit should always produce a way forward. People can’t just stand up and leave monga benzo chaya nsolo.
We were expecting resolutions that would actually stabilise the economic situation. But if after that summit, what comes out prominently is the need to support a very costly venture like Zambian Airways, then there is cause for worry. We are not saying it was a bad thing, but our economy is on its knees and we need direction.
Like that concerned economist, the feeling that we are also getting is that it was just a function like any other normal function, like a concert, where mwa kumana because muna onana kudala, then you have some fun, drink some expensive alcohol, make long speeches, exchange business cards and bid farewell to each other. If that’s what this summit was about, then the biggest winner is Thabo Mbeki who chose not to waste his time coming.
And considering a story that we saw in state media that some Cabinet official rammed into an elephant as they were driving around 23:00hrs in the night, we are now wondering what kind of summit it was yochito kwela njobvu usiku. Any way, we are not economists so what do we know?