20 August 2002

Zambia: A Desperate And Sombre Future


A visitor from another planet would be appalled by what he sees on Earth. He would see people in rich nations suffering from diseases of affluence, while millions of people in poor nations are suffering from abject poverty and lack of the most basic needs.

He would see in some countries farmers being persuaded not to produce, while in some continents people are dying of hunger. He would see vast resources being wasted in preparing for unnecessary and unjustified wars against fellow Earthmen.

He would see relatively empty countries with stringent immigration controls while in other countries population density is reaching a critical stage. It so happens that there is nothing which unites a people as a common enemy.

What we need is a common enemy. The point, however, is that we have such an enemy - not in another planet but here on Earth, namely, the poverty of the so called developing nations. The present state of affairs holds no direct promise for the future. This future cannot be regarded with complacency anywhere in the world today. It is a future that is unacceptable, unstable and unrealistic.

But that future will not be changed unless the urgency of change today is recognised and the wheels of motion unlocked. It is no longer enough to exaggerate our meagre accomplishments and to disregard the enormous problems that remain unsolved. We have a choice which is really not a choice at all - we can wait for a debacle, we can sit idly by while our hopes and aspirations turn into despair; or we can recognise the signs and initiate a constructive and co-operative programme for the development of the poor countries of the world to the mutual benefit of both the rich and the poor.

The next few years ahead will be decisive - we either solve this problem or set the stage for a world-wide turmoil and catastrophe. In one sense we seek a world-wide revolution in values and priorities; in a financial sense, however, we need only a minor change. To achieve either, the problem of uneven development throughout the world must be seen as a world problem and not a case of charity to the poor.

Both the urgency and enormity of the problem must be appreciated and the spending priorities in developed nations re-adjusted accordingly. The present status of aid today holds no promise for the future. So gloomy are the realities and prospects for the future viewed as a whole that they would generate pessimism and discouragement if we were not sure of our aims. They are inevitably a bitter pill to swallow, but if we are to face up to the realities we have first to become aware of them. We do not have, nor do we think anyone has, magic remedies for such difficult, complex and apparently insoluble problems. History shows, however, that no problem has ever been solved until it has become a tangible reality of which everyone is aware.

Today, we are faced with the most universally serious and anguishing situations ever known to mankind. In short, for the first time we are faced with a question of whether or not we are to survive from hunger, disease, including the horrible HIV/AIDS virus. But, no matter how enormous the difficulties, no matter how complex the task, there can be no room for pessimism. This would be to renounce all hope and resign ourselves to the final defeat.

We have no alternative but to struggle, trusting in the great moral and intellectual capacity of the human race and in its instinct for self preservation, if we wish to harbour any hope for survival. Only with the tremendous effort and the moral and intellectual support of all can we face a future that objectively appears desperate and sombre, especially for the peoples of the Third World.

And we share our agriculture minister Mundia Sikatana's optimism that "it is within our grasp to change our circumstances from poverty to development... poverty is like dirt, if you are dirty there is only you to clean yourself, Africa can only manage economic and human resource development if its people, especially farmers, had a greater degree of participation and control over resources on which they rely".

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