LOOK AFTER POOR
THE announcement of a new Cabinet means that the Hakainde Hichilema Government Government administration can now get down to work.
We agree with sentiments shared that there is urgent need for Government to address the plight of the vulnerable in society, especially the women and youths from poor urban shanty neighborhoods.
Lusaka businessman Chris Changwereza has said one of President Hichilema’s campaign promises was that once elected, his Government was going to, in collaboration with banks, provide near to zero interest loans to citizens especially the youths and women.
High poverty levels and lack of disposable income means that many people live in vulnerable conditions.
The country won its independence in 1964 and at that time had the strongest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.
However, today, 64 percent of the population is suffering from poverty. Although Zambia has the world’s ninth richest copper deposits, three out of four people are living in poverty. Fourty percent of the GDP of Zambia is based on copper deposits while 95 percent is based on exports.
Poverty in Zambia is the result of decades of economic decline and neglected infrastructure.
The northwestern province of Zambia hosts the poorest people and is the least developed in the country. Distribution of wealth is unequal with few rich and middle-income people, and the maximum proportion of the people in Zambia is poor.
Poverty in Zambia has drastically affected the health of Zambians, especially children. One in five children is an orphan. Growth stunting in children is 40 percent.
Fifty-three percent of the children under the age of five suffer from anemia and 50 percent of the children are underweight. Food insecurity is prevalent and affects 350,000 people. Forty percent of the population lacks access to clean drinking water.
Poverty in Zambia is rooted in historical, geographical and social factors.
Geographically, Zambia is isolated, which denies it access to services and markets. Technical knowledge is limited and the country is suffering from a transition from state led to the market economy.
Agriculture has been neglected by the government. With the liberalization of the economy in 1990, agriculture has stopped receiving assistance from the government.
Trade has declined and droughts have impacted agriculture which has worsened the conditions for farmers.
The attitude of people is a major contributor to poverty in Zambia. Most people believe that they would be unable to carry out development programs and afford high standards of living.
The UNIP government of Zambia based its policies on empowering the people with a high focus on the copper industry. However, the collapse of the copper industry in the 1970s made this non-sustainable. Presently, the government is working on macroeconomic stability and growth, yet no meaningful growth has been witnessed and the income inequality is still in place.
Poverty in Zambia has been made worse by the external debt that sees the country paying back huge amounts of money every year.
Diseases have taken a toll as well and are worsening the poverty level and aside from the effects of HIV and AIDS there is now also the fall out from Covid-19.
Illiteracy is widespread and is a huge hindrance for economic growth.
Education has not been made a priority by the government and majority of the Zambians cannot read and write. Literacy is needed to create confidence in the people, which can then incorporate a drive to overcome poverty.
Although Zambia has previously seen several poverty reduction and entrepreneurship empowerment programmes, the country needs to take practical steps to protect the people from the crisis.
The government needs to make poverty reduction a top priority. Proper implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies is needed. The growth of the economy that benefits the poor as well must be tailored to eradicate poverty in Zambia.
Mr Changwereza said in an interview that addressing the challenges of the marginalized will require coming up with a responsive and well thought policy on the part of government.
He observed that over the years, successive administrations have concentrated much in coming up with policies and programs to assist people in rural areas, leaving behind many poor citizens domiciled in urban areas.
Mr Changwereza said that he believes that Mr. Hichilema as a businessman himself, fully understands the difficulties youths and women in urban areas face sourcing capital to carryout small income generating businesses. He said Mr Hichilema should lay out an agenda and policy that will ensure his government embarks on a plan that will place emphasis on empowering vulnerable populations especially youths and women in areas like Kanyama.
He said other than creating jobs the UPND should make sure that the vulnerable have access to available and cheap capital so that they are able to setup business and contribute to the growth of the economy.
He said as the new government gets to work, President Hakainde Hichilema should ensure programmes aimed at alleviating poverty levels among the vulnerable groups are quickly implemented.
Mr Changwereza said many poor women and youths in areas like Kanyama in Lusaka urban, have continued languishing in abject poverty because of lack of empowerment in income generation activities.
Many urban and rural communities face high levelys of poverty that has seen many families failing to have decent meals.
Vulnerability in Zambia is characterised by a high incidence of poverty and exposure to several types of shocks mainly arising from hydro-meteorological hazards and their cascading effects, such as epidemics and periodic incidences of macroeconomic instability.
The businessman said going forward, Government should come up an inclusive program that will benefit all vulnerable Zambians regardless of where they come from or live.