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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Woolgather Wednesday: Innovation, Passion and Zambia (MUNTU Zed Series)

A couple of months ago, I went to another BongoHive Insaka, this time featuring Ceasar Siwale of Pangea Securities as well as Fresh View Cinemas and Mugg and Bean franchisee.  I went in large part in support due to the fact that a coupla months later, e18hteam would have a theatrical release due to his commitment to showcasing Zambian filmmakers by easily providing a platform for their films through his theatres.  You can watch the full video above but here are my takeaways from his talk and my thoughts:

1.  The Diaspora are key to Zambia's development.

We in Africa are constantly complaining about brain drain but there are ways to overcome that.  The Diaspora do not have to be terrestrial to have an impact.  The skills they acquire abroad can affect home remotely or on the ground.  A lot of the time frustration causes many who repatriate to return to their expatriate ways.  Things in Zambia can be at worst bureaucratic, convoluted and sometimes so illogical, slow and unnecessarily complicated and time consuming you just want to shoot yourself to end your misery.  But the rewards for taking risks are unparalleled.  And if you don't have the stomach and patience for such, there are options: Zambians abroad can invest and provide financing for business ventures from overseas. Expertise can still have an impact through mentoring and being role models by making a difference from afar with the effects being felt at home.  Be creative.  Figure it out.  And returning home can be done as Ceasar pointed out when I asked him how the transition for the diaspora can be made, and he looked at me and said well you are here, you have managed. Touché... 

2.  The Zed Zim complex is fed by our own insecurities.

In part due to the legacy of colonialism, with Southern Rhodesia aka Zimbabwe being the jewel of the British Empire's Southern Africa and Zambia being an afterthought: a consequence of land grabbing to show the rest of the European powers their might and was therefore less developed until copper was discovered and industrial mining started in the 1920s, we Zed folk have always felt a little, okay, very inferior to our cousins further South.   Despite being a rock for Zim after we got independent in 1964 and being a refuge for Zimbabweans in the 1970s as Ian Smith waged war with Britain and Mugabe fought for the indigenous to gain independence and self rule, we still feel like they have more to offer.  It is true that for decades Zim had better infrastructure, was able to market their 200m of Victoria Falls better than we do the 1 Km (yes you read right, we have 5 times more Falls than Zimbabwe) but in the 21st Century, we have taken strides to catch up.  There is nothing to separate us now really than attitude.  We need to believe in ourselves.  Forget what they have, lets work with what we have got proudly.

3.  Zambian education system is broken.

I lament the loss of the days of my parents.  They were youngsters when Zambia became independent and the Founding Fathers really focused on education.  They used the infrastructure set up by the British to create great schools that were some of the best in the region, and many were sponsored by government scholarships to go abroad, mainly in Europe, Russia and Cuba to get educated and were encouraged to come back and help build the nation.  That time is gone.  Now children are taught rote, and are chastised for questioning, lambasted for not towing the line.  When a child is stifled and learns that the only way to get ahead is to give the required scripted answer, how are they foster innovation in the future?  If their imagination is quelled before it is ignited, how can they dream?  How can they envisage a better tomorrow?  How can they have agency in developing the nation? Exactly....

4.  We should be the hub of Southern Africa...

Most obviously because we are bang smack in the middle of the region! We should be the go-to SADC destination with flights to every single country.  We should be THE connection.  We keep going on about being a landlinked, not landlocked country but are we doing enough to ensure that?  We also keep looking outward for FDI, calling for people from the outside to come in and help.  There is a lot of money in Zambia already.  We should also look inward and LDI should be a focus in conjunction with money from abroad.  How can we expect people to believe in us and what we have to offer if we don't invest in ourselves?  To truly be a hub, we need to be attractive for people to flock.  It is time to woo people, we need to find our little black dress and flaunt our best assets to attract suitors by showing how well we are doing on our own but are perfectly happy to partner up if lucrative for all parties.  We need to have faith in ourselves but not whore ourselves out.  We need to develop with dignity.

5.  Be passionate about your work and fight for what you believe in.

Ceasar talked about how noone thought another cinema chain would work in Zambia but he was passionate about bringing the blockbuster experience full throttle to Lusaka and succeeded.  Unfortunately we are known to be naysayers, to shut an idea down before the seed of possibility is even planted.  We need to give space for ventures to germinate and need to be okay with failure as it is just a bump in the road to success. If you truly believe in your business plan you should back it with your own money (how can you expect others to invest without being able to lead by example if needed) and be willing to do what it takes (without compromising your principles and selling your soul) to make things happen.  There are no shortcuts to making it, you have to put in the hard time and be ready to sacrifice in the short term, to move forward and have staying power in the long term.

Ceasar with Anja Savic aka the Letterist
at e18hteam Premiere, 16th October 2014
Lastly I would like to thank Ceasar for being supportive of my documentary film.  I first approached him last year to let him know I was working on the film and he kept to his word and I was able to Premiere the film in October.  Fresh View Cinema staff were so obliging and made the theatre release a breeze.  We also got an extension from a week to a months screening of the film.  I am glad to be able to provide proof that Zambians ARE supporting Zambians through our collaboration.  

For more information about the Zambia Investment Conference that Ceasar mentions in the video, visit their website and register for the event happening the first week in December.  You can find out about the latest local and international films showing at Fresh View Cinema here.

In the mood to start something?  Register for BongoHive's Startup Weekend starting this Friday in Lusaka.  You can also find out more about future talks by following them on Facebook and Twitter.

Want to know more about the film?  Follow e18hteam on Facebook and Twitter to find out about our global film festival run in 2015.