2021 elections matter to young Zambians
Young people in Zambia today face a difficult and uncertain future – growing debt, rising unemployment and rising costs of living. Despite the government’s best efforts to convince them otherwise, they are aware that they can and should expect more from those in power. The August 12 election represents an opportunity for young people to regain their potential and end their economic marginalization.
Zambia’s economic crisis is obvious. The government’s failure to repay a $ 42.5 million Eurobond in November last year made international headlines. The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has burdened the next generation with crushing debt. Zambia benefited from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative for debt relief in 2005, but the government resumed borrowing irresponsibly in 2012, shortly after the PF took office. .
In 2017, our country was classified by the International Monetary Fund as being at high risk of debt distress, long before the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, foreign debt stands at over $ 12 billion, with fears the real figure may be higher due to government secrecy on other loans.
As a former teacher, it saddens me to see such a large part of the national budget spent on debt service. It is Zambia’s largest budget expenditure, accounting for almost 39% of Budget 2021. Meanwhile, the budget allocation for education continues to be reduced.
If more of these loans had been invested in educating our young people – and our future leaders – to better enable them to generate future income, this might not be such a big problem. But too much has been wasted. Recent scandals suggest that as debt has increased in recent years, government corruption has also increased. Corruption is now endemic and worsening, according to Transparency International, with Zambia dropping five points in the organization’s Corruption Perceptions Index since 2013. As young Zambians struggle to get a decent education and find work, scandals keep going up.
The government has failed to invest in our young people, hampering them today and bringing future generations to their knees. Youth unemployment, for example, accounts for 60% of the total employable population and has created a breeding ground for crime and violence, a phenomenon that Zambia has largely avoided in the past. Now we see this every day on our streets in the clashes between political party officials. We have young people who are easily drawn into this violent path because they do not see a viable alternative. They do it out of desperation, not because this is the future they want for themselves or for their country.
As a teacher, I know firsthand the transformative potential of a good education – an education that can propel any boy or girl in the village to great heights. United Party Alliance for National Development (UPND) presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema (HH) is living proof of this, as are many of his generation. The PF in power neither sees nor clearly understands the intrinsic and transformational value of this type of investment. This is irresponsible – yet unfortunately it is also part of a larger pattern of misconduct in which the ruling party has let our country down.
For those who have completed their studies, many find themselves out of work. Even graduates are struggling to find a job. The few openings available seem to depend more on political ties and allegiances than on attribution on merit.
The government tells our young people that it is doing what it can for them, but in the digital age it has become more difficult for the regime to hide its failures. In the face of growing disillusionment, the PF has resorted to cracking down on freedoms and authoritarian laws such as the Cyber Security and Cybercrime Bill, enacted earlier this year, which allows the government to monitor and continue conversations. private. Our young people, in turn, had to resort to demonstrations in the bush and on social networks to try to escape arrest. Many have been arrested and detained simply for expressing valid grievances in a peaceful and legal manner. from Amnesty International last report on Zambia published in June highlighted the gravity of the situation, noting the ways in which legislation, intimidation and harassment have been used by authorities to crack down on freedoms of assembly and expression.
Zambian youth must be recognized as one of our greatest national assets. Our government must invest as a priority in education and skills development, create employment opportunities and restructure the debt so that it becomes sustainable. All of these important questions are intrinsically linked. It is not only unfair that our young people today are not able to access these opportunities. He is also extremely short-sighted. Investing in the next generation is one of the best investments we can make as a nation. As HH likes to remind us, “If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance.
Our young people may be too young to remember the struggle for independence or the return to multiparty democracy in 1991. Some are even too young to remember how the Zambians united in 2001 to reject the presidential candidacy. Frederick Chiluba for a third term. 2021 is now their time to shine and challenge the odds. It is a chance to unite and change the course of Zambia. We would all be better off.