MUCH has been said about foreign investment in the past few weeks. We have seen the Mayor of Lusaka and his team carrying out operations to deal with questionable foreign investment, and later being asked to apologise for doing so by the supposed superior authorities in the name of Local Government Minister. We have also seen the ruling party chief executives giving counter directives to ministers on the matter, and essentially banning them from making any comments on foreign investments.
Looking at the various contradicting statements from the country’s leadership, it’s like Zambia has no policy guiding foreign investment. As a consequence of this, we have seen not only bogus foreign investment but also investment that does not benefit the people, the native Zambians.
Zambia, like any other country in the world, needs foreign investment. But we must only attract foreign investment when it benefits the people. We should not welcome the so-called foreign investment for the sake of it. It must be foreign investment for the benefit of our people. How does a foreign investor who comes to open a traditional foods restaurant benefit the people? How does a foreign investor who comes to open a garbage collection company or a barbershop benefit the local people?
We can’t just accept anything as long as it comes by a foreigner. We need to interrogate the kind of investment we have accepted to flourish on the streets Zambia. Opening a car wash and employing hapless youths is not sensible foreign investment, no matter how much money is invested. These are businesses and jobs that native Zambians should be allowed to explore.
Even in the mining sector, what we are seeing is very heartbreaking. Gold mines are being given to foreigners while our local entrepreneurs in the sector are limited to being Jerabos, scavenging on slag dumps after the foreigners have extracted our minerals. There is something wrong with this picture here in Zambia.
We say this because foreign investors do not only bring their money and technology here, they also come to take something more valuable and much bigger than their investment – our irreplaceable God-given natural resources. As a country, we have been doing the future generations a great injustice because they will find all the valuable minerals depleted without anything to show for it. If this generation that governs our country today is not able, for one reason or another, to engage foreign investors profitably, then there is no need to bring them here at all. We will be better off leaving the natural resources of our country unexploited so that the future generations can have something to lean on.
We have continued to give away the resources of our country for nothing. Colonial conquest and plunder left us with very little benefit from the resources of our country, if not nothing. This practice cannot continue forever if we are to survive and develop as a people. We cannot continue to allow transnational corporations to plunder our resources for no benefit to our people like they did during the colonial days. There has to be a new approach to foreign investment. Other nations are benefitting from foreign investment; they are getting better deals from transnational corporations. Why can’t we do the same?
It is not a favour to us for any transnational corporation to come here and exploit our natural resources. We must always remember that they will only be motivated to come here if there is something in it for them. In that case, we should also allow them to come here if there is something in it for us. We should reach fair deals with transnational corporations where we both benefit – it should be a win-win situation. Our government leaders don’t need to be rocket scientists to appreciate this simple logic. So why are they selling our country and its resources to foreigners?
We don’t want to believe that the poor deals we have gotten from foreign investors are simply a result of incompetence on the part of our representatives and nothing else. We are much more inclined to believe that we have gotten these poor deals as a result of corruption on the part of our representatives. Our representatives are invariably recipients of all sorts of favours from investors.
But our government leaders wouldn’t be corrupted if they did not want to be corrupted, if they were incorruptible. They are being corrupted by foreign investors because they are corrupt at heart. They are morally bankrupt and they don’t stand for anything. Foreign investors are simply cashing in on their greed, selfishness and vanity. Today, even the most useless, a clear conman calling himself a foreign investor with a few thousands of dollars in his pocket, will meet the President, the ministers of finance, commerce and industry, mines and so on and so forth without much ado. They are falling over each other to befriend foreign investors so that they can help them in their businesses, their farms and other ventures. That’s how our representatives are making money by selling the resources of our country to foreign investors for nothing, for peanuts, for a song. What a shame!