Opinion| The Ugly side of Foreign Investment In Zambia

By Mercy Chisanga

An investor is an individual who allocates money with the prospect of an impending financial return. So why is Zambia doing really badly economically even with a lot of outside Investment? Don’t get me wrong it very important to understand and appreciate the value foreign individuals and companies bring to Zambia.  The problem is Zambians hold these investors with high regard, expecting them to create job and boost Zambian economy just out of the goodness of there own heart. Currently, in Zambia, we have seen the influx of Lebanese and Chinese people, just to mention a few.  Investors have mostly taken over Zambian towns and cities. For example, Kamwala shopping center is dominated by mostly Lebanese, Chinese and Indian people.

One could argue that foreign investors in Lusaka have brought development by building a lot of shopping malls, thereby creating a creating Jobs for the manufacturing industry. However, what are these shopping malls and arcades for?  Who are the beneficiaries of this so-called development? For crying out loud majority of Zambian people are living in extreme poverty, unemployment is on a record high, hospitals are having no essential drugs, no medical equipment’s and the education system is one the worst in Southern African.

The poor education system can be attributed to poor teaching technique, lack of qualified teachers, the low standard of educational training, unproductive use of school curricula and lack of textbooks. All this has led to Zambia failing to attain or scoring lower In maths and literacy subjects. MESVTEE in the national examination consequently classified Zambia 13th out of the 14 countries in the SACMEQ III (2007) in both reading and mathematics.  Zambia needs properly invest in the education system, health service, and agriculture and not just building shopping malls and arcades.  In my view, people who can boost and say there is development in Zambian are the rich and the politician are able to spend thousands directly benefit from the investment.

How could a person from Kalingalinga, working in a Chinese shop, without minimum monthly wage go and do his or her shopping in a shopping mall? Could someone explain to me whether this is development or exploitation of Zambian people? From my point of view, most of the retail, building or mining investors are being aided by our Politicians who are not implementing proper legislation to safeguard Zambian people.  Majority of Zambians are not well informed about labor laws and their legal rights. Therefore, Zambian worker is being abused and exploited by their employers. For example, recently there was a video on facebook showing Zambian employee locked in the building and the owner of the shop is the only one who has keys to open the building. Where are health and safety people ? what happens if there were a fire in the building? People are so scared to report or complain about the ill-treatment they are experiencing at the hands of foreign investors just to keep their jobs.

Lastly, in 2010 the Lusaka times reported that one onlooker and twelve miners where who protesting because of the unsafe working condition, where shoot by Chinese investors.   Thankfully the Chinese investors were arrested but as shocking as the story is,  what is even more depressing is that these two individuals felt the need to shoot people in a foreign country. If this had happened in America or Australia, it would be a diplomatic crisis.

– Written By Mercy Chisanga –