GOVERNMENT empowerment programmes have always been there but not fully taken advantage of by Zambians especially the youth because of the fear of taking risks.
We quite understand that sometimes it is a lack of information that results to the low uptake of these opportunities but risk taking has been a major hindrance.
Starting a business requires us to take risks, trying out new innovative ideas that in the end may earn us a great deal.
Unfortunately, despite many of our citizens, the youth and women harbouring brilliant ideas that we only hear of when they speak, nothing much is being done to actualise them and all we hear in the end is the blame game and outcries that there is no empowerment.
This is actually surprising because on the other hand, public institutions such as the Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) are complaining about the lack of interest by Zambians in taking advantage of the empowerment facilities being provided.
About four years ago, Government through the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock set aside US$29 million for the implementation of the Aquaculture Seed Fund under the Zambia Aquaculture Enterprise Development Project (ZAEDP).
The project development objective is to advance the aquaculture subsector as a viable and inclusive business opportunity through enhanced production and productivity of fish to improve the livelihoods of beneficiaries in the fish value chain.
The Aquaculture Seed Fund is being administered by CEEC.
If you are to find out how many people have taken advantage of this project funding meant to empower Zambians, you will be shocked.
Government officials, including the President have gone flat out across the country encouraging citizens to venture into fish farming and telling them about the funds which are available but very few have shown interest.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit the economy hard and with border lock downs import of goods saw a rise in stock shortages.
Time and again, citizens were advised to take advantage of the gaps created to venture into fresh produce.
We have been told that Zambia has an annual fish deficit of about 87,000 metric tonnes which means that the market is readily available for citizens to jump into the business.
Besides, Zambia is endowed with vast natural water bodies that can be used to grow the fishing industry.
President Edgar Lungu actually directed the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock to ensure that Zambia becomes a major exporter of fish in the next two years.
President Lungu recently launched the Presidential Fish Farming Initiative for Buyantashi and Kamimbi Cooperatives and commissioned the Automated Fish Harvesting Vessel by Yalelo in Siavonga District.
Authorities have always said that currently, the country is unable to sell fish on the international market due to low productivity.
But what is stopping us from exploiting this industry when empowerment funds are available? Fear of the unknown. The lack of courage to take risks is what is hindering citizens to take advantage of the opportunities being provided. The Aquaculture Seed Fund is just one of them, like we have said, there are several empowerment programmes waiting to be taken up.
Let us start by taking advantage of what has already been provided before we call for more empowerment. That is when voices can be heard and easily understood by the authorities.