President Edgar Lungu’s State of the Nation address on Friday touched on pretty much all aspects of national life, including the economy in the area of agriculture, tourism, mining, manufacturing, among other things, and did go into some details on all these aspects, giving details on how the nation has performed compared to previous years.
The President spoke of the need to build a more resilient Zambia, taking advantage of the circumstances of COVID-19 to ensure we do things differently when, for example, he cited the COVID-19 which has proved that we can work remotely, hold online meetings and save ourselves money.
How we wish this could be said louder and followed by concerted efforts to actually transform the wheels of government institutions!
Imagine how much money would be saved in transport, lodging and allowances if an overwhelming majority of government business meetings could just be held online rather than constant, aimless and often pointless travels primarily just to rack up allowances?
The President ought to be commended for highlighting this but he now needs to go further and ensure this becomes a reality – these are low hanging and ripe fruits.
The speech also touched on health, including mother and child mortality rates, again showing some measure of progress there.
Equally, it touched on education, highlighting early learning access among infants, the literacy levels as well as the number of students graduating in STEM – again providing numbers to show some measure of progress.
In Agriculture, it talked about the diversification from traditional crops to other cash crops, the increase in seed production, making Zambia now a net exporter of corn seeds, the increase in fish production as well as providing information on capital which is available to farmers to help them implement climate resilience strategies.
There was mention of increase in financial services, including a sizeable increase in mobile money transactions from 103 million transactions worth 2.8 billion Kwacha in 2016 to 552 million transactions worth 49.3 billion Kwacha.
The President spoke about the performance of road tolls and how COVID-19 would affect their performance.
There was a whole litany of infrastructure projects also highlighted showing the various stages of completion.
The President also touched on energy sufficiency, announcing that the coming on board of the 750 megawatts Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station at the end of the year will effectively bring loadshedding to an end.
We felt that the policies around diversification in mining with youths cooperatives empowered to participate in Gold mining was the highlight of the speech – that in many ways is impressive!
In summary, we felt the speech was well structured, comprehensive – with a lot of policy details. A job well done by the speech writers.
But here is the thing – the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Let us see the actualisation of most of what the President spoke about to avoid it going down in history as just another high pitched entertainment ensemble to grace the opening of Parliament.