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I feel I’m constantly behind in updating my blog. Every time there is an issue I feel passionate about, I get bogged down in work – that thing that helps pay my bills.

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So I might be late on the tomato issue – even though I did share thoughts on social media – I still want to talk about it in more detail, because it is something I felt very strongly about when the issue first came up.

Unless you’re not Zambia, or you have been living under a rock, you would have heard about Stella Sata’s tomato comment. In case of the above exception, let me recount it for you. University of Zambia graduates were protesting against the government’s failure to create jobs for educated Zambias – basically the premise of the students got educated, graduated and now can’t find employment and this is the government’s fault.

UNZA-Students job protest

Stella Sata, daughter of the late President Michael Sata took to her social media profile to condemn the protests and suggested that the students could create their own employment by selling tomatoes (I’m sure I’m paraphrasing).

This of course enraged students (not only the protesting ones), saying that Stella was entitled and what did she know of unemployment as the privilege of her name could open many doors and get her a job if she wanted. And other assertions to do with her perceived wealth etc. Soon after Stella bowed to the pressure and apologized.

Personally I didn’t see why she apologized. If anyone is entitled in this scenario, it’s the UNZA graduates. I won’t generalize all UNZA graduates but a lot of them believe they should be given a job simply on the merit of being the cream of the crop because they were fortunate enough to surpass all their classmates to gain enough points to get into UNZA. But that’s about it.

Some UNZA graduates who I have interviewed or who have even worked with us don’t do much to justify them having a long-term position with us. They might know the theory but they can’t do the work and find that the work is not as easy as they thought. Or because they are UNZA graduates they don’t believe they should intern or work their way up but instead should be given a managerial position simply because they have a degree from UNZA but nothing else.  Besides, it’s a very narrow minded person (and I would hope not the educated ones) that believe that going to university is about getting a job.  The very essence of education is to help you in life, develop you as a person, so why should you be bitter if you got educated but didn’t get a job, acting like your time at university was a waste?

Anyway, I’m digressing and don’t want to focus on the entitled attitude but rather on the tomatoes. I didn’t see why people were offended at being told to sell tomatoes but realized that it’s because of our myopic view of the world, and the fact that we still look to the government to solve our problems.

For me what Stella was talking about was about being an entrepreneur and creating jobs and wealth for yourself. Selling tomatoes didn’t necessarily mean at Soweto market (though why not? Elias Chimipo Jnr in his book talks about selling tomatoes at Soweto and later on eggs and cakes – he is now a presidential candidate after starting and running a very successful legal practice), but in fact, if you thought about it, why not sell tomatoes?

Everybody buys tomatoes so it’s a guaranteed market – albeit a crowded market. But I know people who grow acres and acres of tomatoes and make a killing. And then diversify – from ordinary tomatoes, to tomato juice, tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes – all sorts!

tomato field

The fact of the matter is while governments role to create jobs should be to create an enabling environment for private sector to create jobs, government itself can not create jobs – we already have a bloated public sector that the small tax base can not afford.

But more than this, it is time for us to look past government being the solution to our problems, but us solving our own problems. We have to move past the stage of relying on government because they have proved, time and time again, that they aren’t the public servants that we hoped for, but really are here to serve themselves. So as citizens we need to empower ourselves and then demand better from our government.

This is one of the reasons I’m supporting the Nyamuka business plan competition because it’s using the concept of entrepreneurship to take people out of poverty. For many years we have had donor agencies pour money into government programmes or NGO programmes to alleviate poverty and that hasn’t done much. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some achievements but not enough for the amount of money put in (yes I am in the anti-aid as it’s been done in the past camp).

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But if you can empower people with their own businesses, give them skills to ensure their businesses are sustainable and can grow, then you are taking that person, their family and their employees out of poverty. It’s a no-brainer.

I argue with some of my family members on what type of entrepreneur we should be supporting – the ones who just want to own one corner shop that supports them and their family or the one that wants to grow from one corner shop to a chain of stores and manufacturing/agriculture business that employs 100s to 1000s of people and supplies their shops and others. Obviously I’m a go big or go home kind of girl, but I do see their point of also empowering the one person who can look after themselves and their family and not need to hire loads of people and there’s no shame in that.

But I do think that if us Zambians can go to the model of the employer of 100s then we can take ourselves out of poverty. So we need more of these business plan competitions because getting money from banks is almost impossible. We then need to be our own angel investors too – disrupt the banking system and their crazy interest rates.

In order for these competitions to work though, the donor agency can’t operate like a donor and give the money to who they think are the most needy, or who looks good for PR photos. But to bankable businesses that we can go back to in 5 years time and see them ready for growth. Only then will the business plan competition be taken seriously.

It’s like a certain fellowship programme (yeah I was going to let it go but I can’t), or even award show, they don’t choose people based on merit but on popularity, losing all credibility for it. I remember someone saying, ‘if I was offered that, I would refuse it because it celebrates mediocrity, or given for effort as opposed to achievement”. We need to move past that and not settle for ‘ok’ but let’s strive for excellence and celebrate success. But not success at the cost of mediocrity. OK I went off on a tangent there, again.

For now, I say, all hail the tomato!

For now, I say, all hail the tomato!

I’ve always said that it’s not easy to be a woman in Zambia, maybe even Africa. It’s funny that just days after International Women’s Day the reality of being a woman hits home.

The fuel crisis hitting the country has meant long queues and the very clever setting up of the hashtag #petrolwatch on twitter to enable users to find petrol and alert others of where there is or isn’t fuel.

This morning, as we were trying to look for fuel, we randomly ended up at the airport – ok, not so random, my sister in law was travelling to South Africa where her mother is in a serious coma (more on the failings of our healthcare in my next blog), and right before we reached Engen at Chainama (were #patrolwatch confirmed there had been fuel at least 2 hours previously), my brother called and said, come to the airport, there is fuel here.

My brother held a place in the queue and when we arrived, we exchanged places. There was a car behind us, who then accused us of queue-barging, at which point, I explained that my brother was holding the spot for us and that really, it was not going to make a difference to them because it was switching one car out for another, not adding to the line.

At which point the woman in the passenger seat got out to complain to the fuel attendant, who kind of shrugged his shoulders. But the man in the drivers seat decided to bully his way in front of us to ensure he would get served before us. At which point, I was like ‘Dude, you’re still going to get served’ and then for some reason he started telling me to be mature. So I was like in which case, we should both be mature, I explained to you that my brother was holding this spot for us.

I don’t really know exactly what happened next but the fight escalated and my sister jumped out of the car to tell him off, the girl shouting at my sister as Mary is giving the example of being at the bank or Shoprite where someone says ‘I was holding this space for…’ or ‘I was already here…’ etc.   But they weren’t trying to hear it. I get out and told the guy to stop being an asshole, ok I did first ask him, ‘What kind of man are you?’ (Let me be clear, I don’t believe men should do things for me just because I’m a woman, but it was the gentlemanly thing to do because technically, we never did anything wrong)

At this point, the woman put her hand on me and said – ‘Don’t you know that he is a police officer, we’ll throw you in jail and you’ll spend the weekend there’.

Now I know my rights, and I hate abuse of power, corruption and all the other vices that plague our country, so I saw red and said ‘first of all, take your hands off me and don’t you dare threaten me’, so then she’s like ‘who were you insulting?’ ‘him!’, I yelled.

Mary tells him off for using his position of authority and cautioned him that he may be an officer of the law, but our father is a former Minister of Home Affairs, so does he really want to go down that road?  Her point being, don’t throw around these things, because it can end up being a who’s who, which is the exact behavior we need to stop in Zambia.

The owner then goes to the pump attendant and told him to serve the man in the Volvo.

The Volvo

I was already back in the car at this point as I realized there was no point because not one person came to try and diffuse the situation = except the pump attendant who told us there was enough fuel to serve everyone. He just didn’t understand that it wasn’t about the fuel at all.

After the guy got served he smirked at us and said sorry (with a huge smile) as he drove off. I gave him the middle finger (my anger knows no bounds sometimes)

When we got to the pump, I asked the attendant why he made the decision to serve the guy when he saw that we exchanged with a car already in the queue. He rolled his eyes and tried to ignore me. So I was like ‘hell no, I want an answer’, so he was like go ask my boss over there.

One thing I’ve noticed people in Zambia don’t do is complain to management. I don’t have a problem with this. If I don’t complain, you won’t know I felt wronged and you won’t do better next time. It’s exhausting because to be honest, most businesses here don’t understand the importance of customer care/service etc, so you say your piece and they basically look at you like you’re mad.

But anyway, we decided this was important to do. So when we asked the owner, Mr Nzila (if that’s his real name) he said, ‘I spoke to the woman to find out what was going on and I decided to let them get served first’. My response was, ‘But you didn’t hear our side, so how is that fair?’. He then went on to say that he didn’t need to hear our side because he decided that since we were the ones insulting, he decided to ‘punish us’. Punish us?!

We were being threatened to be thrown into jail, but we were punished because we raised our voices, got out of our car, and called the man (the officer of the law), who was sitting in his car an asshole… We were Punished.

What do you think would have happened if we were men?

That’s why Mary called it, the ‘conspiracy of men’. Not one man thought to hear us out, or to attempt to diffuse the situation, the filling station was full of men, instead they probably thought ‘How dare these women shout at a man, in public, and call him an asshole, who do they think they are? yes, they should be punished.’

Eventually the owner of the filling station apologized to Mary – I was back in the car at this point – after he initially refused to apologise – saying ‘it was his decision to make as a business owner’ (and fck his customers clearly – or at least the female ones). Mary had argued with him that surely if he felt it was so bad he should have ‘punished’ both of us and put both of us at the back of the queue – fair enough.

The reality is that I would have been quite happy to let them go first if he’d simply asked – I could understand their annoyance that we came in after they’d been waiting – about 20 minutes if that. But he and his ghetto chick decided they wanted to bully us, intimidate us and just wanted to be… assholes (yes I said it again).

There was some pent up frustration that came out, we always get shafted, whether you’re a woman, poor, or seem to have no power.

Just last night as I was lying in bed I was thinking about how helpful we are to people because we believe in them, or because we know it doesn’t cost us anything to help. But yet, I feel so few people here have our back. Whether it’s petty jealously, or envy, or whatever that I’ve never understood, it still frustrates and angers.

I believe working together, as a collective, is good for the industry but there are people who feel otherwise. But now I’m getting side-tracked.

My point was that despite having a female vice-president, despite having females in position of power, those of us on the street still get overlooked. I don’t know what else to do but tell my truth every time I see or am overlooked, or unseen as a woman. We all have to. Maybe then will people understand the daily injustices we face and want to get involved – I’ve always said, we need a heforshe campaign in Zambia – we can’t do it without men.  I wondered why we turned back to go to the airport when we were so close to Chainama were there were supposed to be fuel, Mary said it was God that made us go there, for us to get angry to remember that it’s only when you’re angry about injustice that you want to do something about it.  Food for thought

Now that I’ve calmed down, let me get back to work, and enjoy your Youth Day!

One of the things that I really used to admire about my former boss’ boss, was his ability to see things from the audience perspective. It wasn’t about whether he liked or understood the product but whether it would resonate with the audience. And he trusted the teams he had to know the product and to know the audience. It worked. It kept the brand in the top 4 of global brands.

Now that I’m in the business of delivering creative solutions to clients trying to reach their audiences, it shocks me how few businesses think about their audience but think about themselves. I’ve met clients who market their products, that are targeted to people of lower socio-economic backgrounds, with billboards in Kabulonga. Or other businesses that base creative designed on their own personal preferences. It becomes less about the brand and the product and more about them, and perhaps how they look to their peers.

In all my experience – and that of all the industry leaders who I’ve read about – the beginning of success is with knowing your audience. From a deep understanding of your audience can you know what they need and what they want, and then deliver it successfully to them. Perhaps if you yourself are your target audience, then maybe your personal wants and insights are indeed useful, but if you’re not, then it’s really not about you.

It is definitely a hard thing to do – to put the needs of others above your own – but that’s why having a marketing team or agency that understands your brand and your audience is paramount.

Another example I often face is when we’re editing a video for a client. Despite them filling in the creative brief and outlining the objectives of the video, the audience it’s supposed to reach etc, when it comes to the first offline, and the first chance they get to edit it, it’s like they forget their brief and their audience! Sometimes this can be seen when the team reviewing the materials have very different opinions on the direction of the creative or the edit changes. That’s when you should know that somewhere along the line, someone is not in tune with the audience or the objective of the creative.

I find whenever I’m coming up with a concept, and following it through, I have to pause several times to ask myself if this is right for the audience. Having a litmus person or group also helps, I can check in with them if we’re going in the right direction.

Of course the problem with the focus groups, or litmus person is that you have to make sure they don’t feel the need to tell you what they think you want to here. In this regard, this is probably why Media 365’s immersion process is so useful. It’s partly based on observational research. Rather than asking people specific questions, watching their behavior, how they interact with things and their products.

Even sometimes that’s why listening can be more useful than talking. I remember once, during all the election campaigning and the candidates kept talking about their agriculture promise being about paying the farmers on time, my aunt from the village in Lundazi scoffed and said while that was important, even just having a place to store their grains was important. Turned out that they lost a lot of their harvest because the nearest distribution point was too far for them to get to.

It was another aha moment for me. While the papers were reporting about the farmers complaining about late payments, no one was talking about any other problems the farmers were facing, so it became an easy campaign promise to jack, without talking to any farmers. I’m not saying the presidential candidates didn’t do their research but perhaps they chose the ones that made more sense in the media, than to the voting farmers.

It reminds me of another story about a man who tried to sell me a bicycle (don’t ask), the thing was he sold me on the benefits, but couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t buy the bicycle. That’s because he never even asked me if I knew how to ride a bike – which I don’t (don’t judge me).

I fight a lot with my clients – I do because I’m passionate about my work and delivering a good product – on seeing things from their audience’s point of view (I’d also like to win some awards in the process, but that’s another story!). Sometimes the client will listen when I point to the data, but sometimes they’ll ignore it in favor of pleasing their MD – this is probably also because they have yet to convince their MD that when marketing works, it does translate into sales and therefore your profitability.

When your business is up and coming, it’s probably even more important to understand your audience as you develop products and services for them. But as you grow, it’s equally important not to lose sight of who they are. Not knowing your audience and how to reach them will ultimately cost you financially and give your competitor an advantage over you.

Healthcare should always be a priority of ours as we look to develop our country. The last week I’ve mourned two deaths – one of a child, the other of a senior citizen and when I hear the stories of their death, I can’t help but wonder if there was negligence that played a part in their deaths. iv

Let me rewind to a couple of weeks ago, to my own experience. My parents thought my high fever, lack of appetite and feeling of weakness was due to malaria and insisted I go to the clinic. En-route to my usual clinic, I decided that the popularity of that clinic would mean it would take hours for me to see a doctor, and I simply didn’t have the energy for it. I instructed my nephew, who was driving me as I was too weak to drive myself, to take me to a nearer clinic that I knew my siblings had been to before. True enough, I was seen within 15 minutes and to my amazement the doctor ordered a full blood test – which was a shocker when I too thought I only had malaria. 20 minutes later the results were in, I had bacteria in my blood – my stats were off the charts – and I was admitted.

The first day wasn’t so bad – could also have been that I was in and out of sleep the whole day. The next day, I was the only patient in the ward (it was a very interesting private clinic, where you don’t get a private room, but rather each patient is separated by curtains across your entire area for you and your visitors). I was quite glad to be the only patient in the ward that day as I was over the noise from the other patient’s visitors! But the thing I did notice was the nurses came to check on me less as there was no one else to check. In fact, as I had one drip out and waiting for the next one to be put in, the nurse comes in saying ‘Oh, I forgot to come back to put in your new drip!’, like it was no big thing. At this point, my temperature had stabilized and my blood pressure was going up (it had been 90/50 when I was admitted), so I guess they were less worried about me. I felt pretty much ok too, but doctor was not ready to discharge me.

Later that evening, around 8pm, my temperature shot up to 38.2 degrees and my bp was fast dropping. The nurse came in with all sorts of injections and stuff to help my temperature go down and lord knows what else – because if you don’t ask doctors or nurses you just get given any sort of medication! That was the last time I saw any nurse until 6am. I hardly slept that night, my drip stopped working at some point, and I was deeply regretting telling my family members I didn’t need anyone to spend the night with me.

Ok, since my return to Zambia, I have never been admitted to hospital – generally I don’t get sick, maybe occasionally I’ll get a cold but that’s about it. So anyway, I didn’t understand the need to have someone by your bedside, after all, if you’re paying for private healthcare, surely that should include a nurse to check in on you at night. 6am rolls along and the nurse realizes that the IV was not working as it should have been and the doctor was coming through in two hours time. She decided to put it in overdrive, the drip passed through me so quickly I was dizzy! Eventually I threw up.

When the doctors finally came through I berated the duty of care of the nurses. I spoke of my actual fear that I could have died during the night – by this time I knew just how serious bacteria in blood is. I was close to tears with emotion at this point – it had just been a rough two days for me, only my immediate family and closest friends knew I was in hospital. The lack of understanding of the seriousness of my infection coupled with the fact that I’m known to be strong and independent probably didn’t help, with people thinking their visit was not necessary. Instead I just felt lonely – eek! Anyway, so as I went off on the doctor – who I believed to be in management of the clinic, my emotions were taking over. The doctor did listen to my concerns, but was quick to have me discharged after that!

Forward a week later and as I’m listening to the story of the older man who died after an operation because of water build up in his lungs followed by sepsis, I couldn’t help but wonder if the round the clock checking in on a patient after surgery was observed – how did he get fluids in his lungs without anyone noticing?

A few days later, the story of the child dying after being sent home despite having a fever, it all seemed to point to our health care staff just not being fully attentive. At the funeral for this beautiful child, one lady remarked that there was no point in going to private facilities because ultimately the good doctors are at UTH. And I thought, if you’re going to get pretty much the same treatment – i.e. inattentive nurses, you may as well go to UTH! Besides, they too have fee paying wings so what is the real difference? Ultimately the bigger worry is where is the oversight in this case? Who really are these health care professionals accountable, who keeps them in check? Are you not outraged by this? I know I am. We cannot truly develop until we have a healthcare system that we can trust. Even look at the issue over the ‘missing’ drugs, that weren’t missing but were at Medical Stores!  What level of corruption is that that you don’t mind risking the lives of your own citizens for?

These are things that we need our politicians to be held accountable for, and to really demand this level of care when we’re voting them into office. 2016 is the year of issues, the year we should demand more from our leaders, and lets see the number of preventable deaths reduce drastically, or someone is brought to task for them!

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So much has happened in the last month that it’s almost hard to believe it all happened! Our fifth President, Michael Sata died, and an election date to choose our new president has been set for end of January (you can tell I’ve forgotten the exact date). In between that we had the widely debated issue about having a white acting-president (it was never a problem when he was considered to be Sata’s chola boy i.e. errand boy, but became a massive issue when ‘Zambia returned to colonisation’! – I won’t get people worked up about that phrase again), and now we’re dealing with a fight for power in both PF and MMD. Oh and who could forget the ‘opportunistic’ title given to Dr Kaseba for not mourning her husband when she decided to join the race for the seat of power. (personally i see lots of opportunist, don’t know why they reserved it for her)

It’s all too much like Zambia’s very own Game of Thrones.

I’ve given up trying to keep up with who is suspending who, or who is supporting who, or who isn’t in the cartel, and who is, and other distracting issues. Though occasionally I get amused to see Miles Sampa’s political adverts on TV like he has already won the PF candidacy. But otherwise I’ve stopped trying to read the nonsense in the papers or the reports on ZNBC and yearn for someone in mainstream media to start asking the hard questions that we need answers to ahead of the 2015 by-elections. Side-bar, is MMD isn’t still a contender now that they’ve brought back RB? Is that even confirmed or it’s still wait and see? I have no issue against RB as a person, but there’s a lot of questions I’d ask about what it means to have him back in power – some I won’t ask on here right now.

I’m not a politician, I’m not an economist, I’m really not any sort of analytical professional actually, but I am very passionate about Zambia. So I read with horror some of the ‘campaign’ promises of the presidential aspirants, reminding me of the PF 90 day promises, can we really be hoodwinked again?

I understand the dilemma of being a politician – you want to win, by any means necessary (ok maybe they’ll draw the line at downright illegal behaviour… ehem), so a little lie here and there won’t hurt, after all it worked for PF. But at some point, as the public can’t we also say ‘hold on, exactly how do you plan on doing this?’

Both HH and Elias Chipimo Jnr have said they will lift the public servant wage freeze. More than 50% of our budget goes to salaries, in no way does this make sense, or can be sustainable. I can’t imagine spending that much of my operating budget (as a business) on wages. I’m not an expert but it doesn’t make sense to me, so how can it make sense to HH and Elias who have both run successful and profitable businesses. To life the wage freeze means that another area needs to pay for it – will that be health, education? We can slash the defense budget I suppose – since we’re such a peaceful nation.

Education, as HH promises, will be free up to tertiary level, again, where is the money to pay for this? And why up to tertiary level? We need to invest more in our early grade years, where kids learn literacy, reading and numeracy – key skills needed for development and to compete. We need to train better teachers and focus our energies there.

Reduce tax. As a tax payer nothing more would make me happy! As a concerned citizen, I question where government will get it’s income to pay for all the great free services and public servant wages if not through tax revenue. There is already so few people in the formal sector paying taxes to support the masses – but who would ever dare to suggest a way to tax the informal sector?! The voting populace.

So they are great for campaign messages, but please show me how to make it a reality (and please don’t suggest it will be paid for by all the taxes you’ll get the mine to pay – oh yeah, is any aspirant singing that song?)

Can we have campaign promises that can actually be delivered on? Job creation needs to happen but can realistically only come from the private sector. Where is the campaign promises to help develop businesses more? And I’m not talking about reducing the cost of doing business here (thank you HH, that promise I’m all for, especially if it’ll help the indigenous Zambian and not just the foreign investors as it usually does), but about ensuring that business grow and become sustainable, and that we can encourage people to really be serious about agriculture and mining and help them do that. I’d restructure a whole section of ZDA to be consultants that work with business to build them up – can’t do all, but find promising ones and take them to scale. I’d make the Business Partners International model available to more people – on top of the financing they give you they add 30% more for you to get available training to build your capacity – they want to ensure they get their money back and that means not making your fail!

While we’re at it, ensure that the public servants also have the capacity to do their job – efficiency across all levels. Maybe then they can justify their 50% of our budget (they can’t but at least if they were capable I’d feel more sympathy for them).

Maybe we can have trade-offs. Create understanding that if we keep the wage freeze then we can have more drugs available in hospitals? More clean water in compounds. Whatever we could achieve by government being more fiscally responsible, otherwise won’t we just get into more debt?

But none of this can be done overnight. Which brings me to my next question, why is the opposition even participating in the 2015 elections?

Three years of the PF being in power, how many of the 90 day promises fell by the wayside? So what more an opposition government that has a year to show results before the next election?

Aren’t they spending a lot of money campaigning right now? They should be focussed on 2016 – in my humble opinion – and leverage all their resources for that, because this by-election is considered a term is it not? So if they win, they’ll only have an opportunity to drive development for 6 years as opposed to 10.

And now to address an even more sensitive issue that concerns me about our politicians. All the signs were there that MCS was not going to survive his term – sorry to say it, but it’s true, we all thought it but due to our strange relationship with death (if I suggest to a terminally ill person to have a will, I’m wishing them death… *rolls eyes*), no one said it. For this reason it probably was the right thing to do – keep publicly quiet about it – but behind closed doors you hadn’t thought through a campaign strategy in the off-chance this was going to happen? Or are they just messing with us?

I’m very concerned about choosing a leader who can’t plan ahead. Zambia’s development challenges are not about today, they’re about where the country will be in 5 years, in 10 years. Where are the strategic plans that outline the vision for the future from each of these presidential aspirants?

The time for pipe dreams should be over. But then again, the educated, or middle class, or intelligent ones (not necessarily one and the same person) are in the minority when it comes to the vote that decides the presidency. It shouldn’t stop us from helping our brothers and sisters to ask questions that will help them make the best decision for this country – because that’s what we need, the best decision for the country, not for the individual.

Since working on our 64WD project, I’ve read up a lot about getting the country to independence and it struck me that those people, the first lot (before they got corrupted), did what they did for the people of Zambia, they understood the government worked for the people, not the other way round. Right now, we have a government that acts with impunity. People need to take their rights back and understand the power of their vote.

I can’t vote in this by-election (thanks to the continuous by-elections that meant no new voters could be added to the electoral roll), but that won’t stop me for using my voice to participate in the election, by addressing issues that I care about, that I hope other Zambians will care about it.

Next month we’ll be celebrating our 50th year of independence! Eeek! How exciting.

Media 365 decided to develop a project to honour this momentous occasion. I won’t bore you with the backstory – you can read it on the website, but we basically decided to develop a documentary and music project to tell our story of independence.

64WD logo

When I say ‘our’ story, I mean one of the many versions that should matter to young people – the story of how to drive independence forward, how to get equitable wealth and development, how to determine our next 50 years. We’re doing this by talking to the people who lived through independence, the people who brought our nation to where it is today, and the ones who are here working for the next 50 years – the 64wders we’re dubbing them. I’ve had the pleasure of being present at some of the interviews and they have have been inspiring and led to other questions.

One such interview was with Kapumpe Musakanya, son of Valentine Musakanya, who did a lot for this country but was ultimately remembered by some as one of the key people in the 1980 coup attempt. Though the documentary doesn’t talk about any of that history, a pre and post interview chat with Kapumpe, and browsing through his dad’s book, The Musakanya Papers, led me to wonder more about this incidence in our history, and therefore others. Kapumpe did have a good point, we need to hear more of our STORIES of independence and not just ONE narrative.

I’m hardly an expert on our history, in fact I’d be hard pressed to remember anything I learnt in school about it, and the trip to national archives wasn’t that interesting – ok to be fair at the time we were only looking for photos – and so doing these interviews has been interesting. We have yet to interview the bulk of the freedom fighters and early politicians, but already it has been wondering…

Even when I was watching some of the Zamtel Road to Independence Day programming, I was worried about how much of it was fact checked, it seems all too easy to create and push the narrative you want.

The other day I was reading the Times of Zambia, where there was an article on the great friendship of KK and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, it was written in a way that implied Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe was our first Vice President. To my shock, a young person in the office at the time asked me who it was if not Mr Kapwepwe! Poor Mr Kamanga.

In an interview with Mr Elias Chipimo Snr (and Jnr), he talked about early days of governing Zambia, and listening to him, and my father, it dawn on me just how innovative they had to be. These guys were about 40 years old running a country for the first time, still working with people who didn’t even want them to be independent and making it difficult for them when they could.

We spoke to Mrs Petronella Chisanga, who was one of the youngest women, in the UNIP Central Committee who spoke about running an entire secondary school, one of only two at the time, at the age of 25! I couldn’t even imagine such responsibility at 25. But to speak to her, she is an amazingly intelligent and talented woman – plus she later went on to be MD of ZECO. She was truly one powerful woman and a force to recon with!

Through our interviews and conversations with our parents – it’s always easy to forget the wealth of information parents have! – is how I learnt that UNZA was crowd funded. People actually gave money and whatever else they had to build the university because they understood or desired the education that would take them forward. Amazing.

So launching our crowd-funding campaign to put this documentary together is nothing new for Zambia! I’m excited by this documentary and even more excited about the legs it has, should we raise enough money and then some to keep producing content that speaks to our stories, all the stories of Zambia.

Look out for the launch of our Indiegogo campaign on Facebook and twitter and keep updated on the project at the project blog.

Watch the pitch video/teaser

In the last year or so I’ve seen more Proudly Zambian labels than ever before. I never really thought much about it until the other day when I heard about a foreign agency that was in Zambia to help an NGO with a reproductive health challenge for young Zambians.

First I was furious – this is exactly what Media 365 does – and then I thought, ‘ok, Media 365 does need to brand itself better so that people know we exist and what we do’. I did have a fleeting thought that this NGO did know us because we had done some random posters for them back in the day but more to the point, I never even saw them put in a bid in the papers for a local agency to undertake this work.

I’ve never been one to bow down to the blame game so really did look within ourselves (as in the company) to understand how we missed out on this opportunity but at the back of my mind I couldn’t help question why it is that we simply don’t support or buy local.

It then reminded me of a topic of conversation that I’d been part of about this false economy we’re buying into of this 6% growth and being one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Except for the fact that a lot of that money is going to foreign owned companies, sometimes not even within the company!

Ok so they are two separate but related thoughts. Let’s start with local and the proudly Zambian concept.

A lot of countries have used this technique to boost local business and I suppose instill a sense of national pride. At first I used to ignore it. I’d buy the best product at the best price regardless of where it was manufactured/produced etc. But as a business owner I started thinking about where my money was going. If I bought local, I was empowering a business owner who could then pay his employees. It is hard to think in those terms when you’re only spending K20 (less than $3) on something. But those K20s add up.

My other gripe with supporting and buying local was that local needed to be good enough to compete. I still believe this but how will they get good enough if we don’t support them enough to grow? Look at YoYo crisps. I like to use them as an example because if you compare their packaging to say Amigos’, it’s like night and day. YoYo’s can easily compete with international packaging, I actually bought a pack before I knew they were Zambian! Or think about Boom. Boom has been around for longer than I can remember, but their packaging has definitely improved again comparable to international brand’s packaging. The support of their mass market consumer allowed them to get to the next level. So if we don’t support local today – and give them honest feedback – how will they grow tomorrow?

So unless it’s truly bad, I do try my best to support local. How else will we stimulate our economy if we don’t support local?

And that goes back to the 6% growth and fastest growing economy thing. I think it’s now a given that the economy will be stimulated and grown by entrepreneurs, and that job creation will be done not by government, but by private sector. So if we’re not supporting local, how will local entrepreneurs help with sustainable wealth creation?

There is so much talent locally – and yes I’ve gone back to my irritation with competing with foreign agencies – but we don’t support this local talent. Even think back to our local TV and film industry. People like Mingeli Palata are continuously putting out films – and I admire this because the response is often so poor, as in poor turnout to watch the film, but we’ll go out for some other big budget movie. Bollywood and then Nollywood are some of the biggest industries in the world because the citizens support it. No one is going to tell our stories and get the nuances that make us Zambian, so why aren’t we going out more to support local productions?

Instead we look for something negative to say, some way to bring down that person, that product, that company. It’s like it’s something in the air. There is just way too much negativity in Zambia, that even one with the most positive disposition can’t help but find themselves bowing down to some of the conspiracy theories – ‘that person hates you’ ‘there is a group of people – a cartel – trying to bring you down’ and that then takes away your responsibility to do better and be better. We only have ourselves to blame for the fact that our economy may be owned by foreigner, or the poor turnout for our shows (film and music alike) because we don’t support each other, and we’re not striving for the best. We all start from somewhere.

I always remember the fact that people would look for a reason Love Games was good – oh they had foreign crew on it, oh they got money from this donor blah blah blah. The foreign crew were here to help, but answered to a local director, a local producer – they weren’t calling the shots. And the local crew who worked with them increased their skillset. Learning is part of the process of getting better, to getting ‘good enough’ to compete internationally – seeing as some people think we can’t right now.

I wish government would also get better at supporting local, and being more proudly Zambian. Ok the idea of now tenders going to companies that own at least 50% (i think) of the company is a good one. But more often than not, government is still awarded things to foreign companies.

A few months ago, I went to a talk at StartUp Junction where our deputy commerce minister Miles Sampa was the featured guest. There were several things that were shocking about what he said but the key one that stood out (or at least related to this post) was that he said he got the logo for his constituents football team logo done by someone in Pakistan!

I get it, it was probably cheaper to do it in Pakistan. But you’re in government, you of all people should be supporting local businesses! And there are loads of kids who could do a logo for next to nothing – hell he could have held a competition to get one done for free!

I think it’s our collective responsibility to support local, this is how we’ll see our economy really grow, how there will be equitable wealth creation and will stimulate better local products and services. So if there is one thing I’d ask you to do is go out and buy something local – and I’m not just talking about bread, but be more conscious of your purchasing power and use it to grow your own economy so that we can grow it.

The other day I swelled with pride when a trusted and respected associate of mine mentioned the name of someone who had once worked with Youth Media (a not for profit we founded long time before Media 365). It’s always so rewarding to have others talk fondly and with equal respect for someone you helped shape. I guess this is how mentors feel about their mentees.

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A few days later, I had another entrepreneur I know well visit us – we like having like-minded people come to the office where we engage in conversation for hours (I try to keep these visits to Saturdays for obvious reasons!), and we spoke about the role of stewardship in our respective businesses.

The principle of stewardship is very much linked to Christian teachings (if you google it). But in general it really is about shepherding and safe guarding something that is valuable. One of the things we set out to do from the very beginning – when we were still a not for profit, non-governmental organisation – was to bring up young people as we came up, being that they really are the most valuable thing in your organisation. It wasn’t just about paying it forward, but it was about empowering others to help them achieve their potential. We didn’t just want them to compete, but to truly stand out in the market.

This could be another reason I’m so passionate about mentorship. It’s not enough to be the best that you can be, you have to help bring up those coming behind you. I know some people are scared of that approach, scared if you teach people what you know, then you become redundant and they can take your job, your career etc. But to us that is a myopic view. If anything it helps better the environment we operate it. If you have a lot of like minded people, able to work efficiently, and professionally, with relatively similar skill and ambitions, ethics and other quality attribute, isn’t that just the greatest environment to operate in?

stewardship

I think it also speaks to our own beginnings. The people who believed in us and were willing to teach us what they knew to up our skills and make us compete competitively and on a broader platform than the Zambian landscape helped instill that value in us too. And that’s what we always strive to do with our own staff and the younger people we come into contact with, make them better today to compete tomorrow. And it’s deeply rewarding as I said before. I think that’s what can be said about all aspects of giving back, because it’s not just about you (though it is kind of selfish to want to have that rewarding feeling… maybe in a small way it is about you!), but a social initiative.

This is one of the ways our business will always differentiate. And it is my hope that the people who have worked with us, whether at Youth Media or at Media 365 will take that principle of stewardship into their own careers and professional environments as well. Some of Zambia’s brightest (in my opinion) and recognized young people cut their teeth with us, and it’s great to see them succeeding and really making their mark. Allow me to highlight a few:

Kachepa Mtumbi who owns and runs KPR Consulting. It is one of the few PR agencies in Zambia and his client base boasts one of the biggest brands in the world, Samsung. He is not only one to watch but giving the other more established PR companies a run for their money!

zedhair-show-lusaka-zambia-Masuka-ZedHair-managing-editor

Masuka Mutenda is an accomplished communications specialist working with international organisations making a difference in Zambian people’s lives across the country. She also founded Zedhair a business targeted at the ever growing natural hair industry, a space few (if any) operate in.

Masuzyo Matwali not only does multimedia designs for all sorts of businesses and recording artists alike, he also runs his own design studio, Graphic 404, and is probably one of the most talented designers in Zambia right now.

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Janice Matwi now the Brand and Communications Manager at Airtel, also founder of Corporate Heelz, a business that aims to inspire and motivate career focussed women to achieve their potential.

Muchemwa Sichone (I knew him as Robert!) now runs his own company, Global Link Communications. They can be credited with various of communications work, not least the simplified (i.e. people friendly) version of the draft constitution.

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Magg44 – not so much from Youth Media days (he’s probably too young :)) but from our early start with Media 365 he did some great score and sound engineering with us and just to see him, as an artist, and his business with IM Studios really flourish is also inspiring.

I could do a laundry list of all the people that came up the ranks at Youth Media/Media 365 and continue to inspire me with their personal and professional success but there are too many to mention – some who were here when I wasn’t, but are spoken of fondly by my other co-directors.

But just the few examples I’ve given above really speak to the importance of stewardship, mentorship, and investing in young people – when they are still young too. That’s one reason we will not stop.

Just recently we had a young guy who came to us as an intern, more or less straight out of high school. He left after two years as a competent video editor, with skills in sound and lighting techniques.

I see businesses today scared to invest in their staff, worrying (as is the norm in Zambia, where loyalty is such a coveted asset) that their staff will leave to work with their competitors or start out on their own, taking their client base, which are all real possibilities. The principle of stewardship is not just about training on hard skills but advising and mentoring with soft skills and advise. And that is far worth more than worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future!

Anyway, this is something I’m passionate about so I could speak about it for ages, so I’ll stop here and hope it gives you pause to think about how you can apply stewardship into your own life.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear India launch-1

Last month, or maybe it was the month before, I was lucky enough to be given the Samsung Note and Gear to test for a 10 day period by KPR Consulting.

This seemed like an exciting opportunity, I mean who wouldn’t want to test out a phone that costs like K6,000 (circa $1,000) before committing to it?

The packaging was bliss. It seems silly to get excited by packaging but definitely in Zambia, retailers underestimate the value of packaging. I remember when I bought my Beats by Dre earphones, it was the packaging that spoke to me – it was a hell of a lot of packaging for the small dinky thing, but it made it all that more special, more treasured.

So this box that looked like an actual wooden box was pleasantly starring at me, I couldn’t wait to open it and marvel at the beauty that was to be contained within it. With that packaging, it had to be a beauty inside right?

And it was. Ok I’m getting my head round the fact that we’re doing a 180 (or is it 360?) and we’re moving away from the smallest phone ever to these big things again that don’t fit so nicely into my evening clutch. But how else can you take great selfies if not on a nice big screen?

I was excited to try it out. Just a few problems occurred. I didn’t have a micro sim (being a blackberry die hard) and all my contacts were on my blackberry (I had yet to discover intouch – thank you to my geeky bestie for telling me about that great app!).

So my user experience with the phone was limited, there simply weren’t enough hours in the day for me to go and get a micro sim. So I sent my driver, but then I couldn’t inserted it properly… sigh. But finally I focused and went to Manda Hill myself and had it properly inserted!

Still after that, I didn’t find myself using it. There was the odd occasion that I left my blackberry in the office – very strange for me – so then I got to use the Samsung and that was pretty cool – people thought I was pretty cool too for having one. It seems our phones are still an extension of who we are as people!

I’m also a bit rubbish in that I hate reading manuals so need to have an easy learning curve for me to use any gadget. So while I was excited taking notes at a meeting I went to with the stylus and all, I couldn’t figure out how to find the note again! Doh! But I loved the idea of a handwritten note in my phone! (The little things excite me).

To be honest the only thing I got round to using the gear for was to count my steps.

It was a handy gadget in that respect, especially if you’re trying to keep healthy, ok lose weight. I’m sure it had other great things it could do, but it was too bulky for me to use as a watch and using it for making calls and taking pictures just seemed a bit too James Bond esque for me. I’m a simple girl really.

So while I didn’t get to test everything that is great or not about the Samsung Note, the ease of using it made me question whether I really should stay team blackberry. When I found a phone in my swag bag at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards I was thrilled. It wasn’t a Samsung, but another Android phone.

Thanks to my minimal experience with the Note, I’m totally team android now!

p.s. Samsung, KPR Consulting, I’d be more than happy for you to gift me a free phone too 😀

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly organised person. I know I’m process driven, because I think order helps the balance of getting stuff done, but in the last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the role organization plays in doing something successfully.

ruff kaida performing at ZMAs

In February we (as in Media 365) co-produced yet another good Zambian Music Awards (I’m anxious for it to go online to share the link with all that missed it and embrace the talent of our local artists), approximately a month later the ZNBC Born and Bred Music Video Awards happened. There was a lot of talk, both on social media, and in ‘real life’ comparing the two shows. For the record I think Born and Bred really stepped up their game this year, and it wasn’t such a bad show.

And for all the people commenting negatively about it, the fact of the matter is you watched the entire show, so if we had people ratings, the show would still have been a ratings success!

I do think it’s important that we’re constantly learning and improving and maybe that’s why I’m not so ready to bash ZNBC for Born and Bred. I don’t think they really took into consideration the points raised at their stakeholders meeting in 2012, I do think they did a better job at acknowledging that if the ZMAs could do it, there was no reason why BnB couldn’t be better. And that needs to be applauded. I’m yet to understand why people in Zambia (and yes I’m generalising because it’s more of the norm than I care for) are so full of hate and malice. So quick to criticise and cut people down. I hope this year being 50 years of independence we’re learn to let go of our own issues (because the issues are with the person hating and fixating on the negative) and learn to embrace and support each other – it can be done, while there was some very quiet corners regarding Love Games and Freddy (repping M365 of course) winning an AMVCA (that’s for another blog), there was also overwhelming support from Zambians across the country and indeed the world. We can support each other, but there is still way too much hateful vibes from ourselves – what’s up with that?

Love Games wins at AMVCA

Anyhoo back to the matter at hand, when I watched the 3+hour Born and Bred Award show (it was unnecessary to be that long), their issues were easily fixed and somewhat minor, although they made all the difference to the show and the viewers experience (especially the at home viewers).

I can’t underscore the importance and need for planning and having the resources to enable you to get going with stuff. ZMA planning started months ago – and even that was too late. Realistically I think to put on a really amazing show you should start planning at least 6 months in advance. You have to remember that first and foremost it’s a show. And there is so much that goes into a show – Costumes – Cleo Ice Queen, Salma, they all had outfits made specifically for their performances.

Cleo Ice Queen channeling her inner Beyonce

Salma remixing old classic Mate

The choreography, the actual performance – Roberto had a pianist and violinist perform the musical arrangement for Good Woman (and it was originally supposed to be a string quartet – all female – yeah, hard one to find in Zambia, especially with only two weeks to the show! lol).

roberto

And stage design and lighting design? All those elements can’t be rushed. And ZMAs didn’t even have those six months but still pulled off a pretty decent show.

Then it’s about rehearsals. I think the artists at the ZMAs pretty much hated us for their constant rehearsals – the last two days they spent entirely at the venue rehearshing and rehearsing to get everything right. And I’ll give them credit because it would have been easy to be lazy about it and leave, but they committed to the rehearsals. And they received and welcomed feedback, which showed in their final performances.

The rehearsals were important for a number of reasons. The artists were performing live so they needed to rehearse to get that right – especially important for the singers. They needed to know their marks – the cameras needed to know their marks. I laughed the other day when we had some talent in the office who complained we ruined TV for them when I explained that rarely is anything spontaneous because camera, sound, lighting, producers all needed to know what the person in front of the camera was going to do at every moment to ensure it worked technically.

You’ve seen previous shows on TV (ehem ZNBC) where the camera didn’t follow an artist because the camera team didn’t know the artist was going to move off that mark – probably because they didn’t rehearse before hand. Each performance, each guest presenter, everything was timed. I’m not sure how the guest presenters on the BnBs managed to go so off script so often but I don’t see why that should have happened… perhaps it was the selection of presenters… I don’t know. There just seemed to have been a lot of issues due to timing and control of that time (I won’t speak to the non-live performances, think we all have a problem with that – though ZNBC said their audience for the show – the kids (who couldn’t afford to attend the show even if they wanted to) didn’t have a problem with lip syncing… alrighty then). I think if they could have got all their marks on their running order, we would have seen a notable difference just from that…

Generally this issue of time and allocation of it seems to be a common problem in Zambia. I recently started going for driving lessons – I figured with a bit of downtime on my hands I really ought to become compliant with the laws of the country. It is easy to drive around without a license but not only is it illegal, it’s also nerve wrecking to be dodging the police! I was shocked to find that you can rock up any time you feel like it and wait for an available instructor. For some of us who actually have time sensitive lives, this way of operating is really frustrating.

Finally I asked the owner of the driving school – who interestingly enough is quite hands on with how it’s run – why they simply didn’t allocate time slots to each student. She seemed nervous, but the way I see it, we (Zambians) need to start respecting time, there are only so many hours in the day. If we commit to something, let it be in an organised fashion. If I book my driving lessons for 10-11am then I need to be there during that time or I lose my slot, and therefore my money. Would we not follow that procedure? And for us more controlling people, we’d prefer services like that, because I can still plan my day around it. Right now, my driving lessons might only be for an hour, but I could be out of the office for over 2 hours as I wait for an available instructor or car. Doesn’t make sense to me. It’s the same thing with the driving test. All the driving schools rock up at the same time and convince the examiner to let their school go first. But surely again, each school can be given an allocated time and limit? It’s just more structured, and more organised.

Somehow it seems we just like to live in chaos for no reason… oh but then again, it’s in chaos that other businesses thrive I guess…

Wish me luck as I take my driving test next Tuesday! I so need to pass… I don’t do well with failure…