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Development in the Upper Zambezi Valley

Packing mud into walls of new house - near Lake Makapaela - 2002

Development - that most vague of terms - has been an elusive concept over the years for the Upper Zambezi Valley (UZV) region including Zambia's Western Province (the former Protectorate of Barotseland), southeastern Angola and Northeastern Nambia. In the case of the old Barotseland Protectorate, for some seventy years during the colonial era, Great Britain oversaw the underdevelopment of Barotseland, first by the British South Africa Company (BSAC) of Cecil Rhodes and secondly by commercial labour recruitment agencies from the South. With no minerals to take advantage of, Barotseland had first attracted the interests of Cecil Rhodes as a barrier land to stop the Portuguese linking Angola on the Atlantic coast with Mozambique on the Indian Ocean, thereby putting a spoke in the wheel of Rhodes' Cape to Cairo 'Ribbon of Pink' ambitions. For the King of Barotseland and elites of the UZ, by contrast, by 'inviting' the British to protect Barotseland, they could effectively address the threat from potent African usurpers - the Matabele as well as try to take advantage of the modernisation represented by the most successful of the European invaders of the era.

Disappointingly, but rather typical of the British colonial philosophy of the day, having achieved their aim of stmying Portuguese and German expansionist ambitions, the British only ever viewed the Barotseland and Caprivi as a pool of migrant labour for the mines of South Africa and plantations of Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Barotseland received no modernisation in return for the draining of its lifeblood, the labour to manage the natural resources of the UZV, its fertility and potential productivity. Instead, Britain stands accused of underdeveloping Barotseland during the colonial period into a 'living museum' propping up yet sucking the lifeblood out of the traditional authority, the Barotse Royal Establishment (BRE) as a legitimate leadership structure in the lives of peoples of the valley. Portugal equally, paid little attention to the southern and south eastern parts of Angola and that neglect has continued in the post-independence era. The Caprivi was ignored by German, British and South African colonial administrations except when it proved to be of geopolitical nuisance value and, once again, since independence, the area has been viewed with great suspicion not least as the riverine, floodplain and its peoples have little or nothing in common with the rest of Namibia with the exception of the Kavango area close to the Okavango-Kuito.

The period since independence has served the UZV little better. Modernity, technological advance and social development, dreamed so ardently of by the Lozi Litunga Lewanika and his son Yeta seem, so far, to have passed the region by in favour of other regions, partly due to politics and partly, at least in the case of Zambia and Namibia as a result of the perception of the UZV as an outlier country region with questionable loyalties that did not agree with the nationalist politics of the independence era and the centres of power that had followed colonial trends. The colonialists did their worst but for newly independent governments that feared what the past narrated, the idea of having a strong and well developed outlier region, far from the new centres of power which were and are dominated by peoples not at all associated with or in tune with the UZV was anathema to independence governments in Lusaka, Luanda and , more latterly, Windhoek. Underdevelopment, therefore continued into start of the 21st century when the UZV region was quite suddenly reconsidered to be of value as the location for new highways to pass through providing links to the Atlantic Ocean for exports in the southern centre of Africa relying on poor and unwieldy connections to the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam and increasingly overburdened ones to the South African port of Durban or via a moribund connection to Beira in Mozambique. - Africa Development Zone (ADZ) has a development mission that could be applied anywhere in Africa so long as there is supporting government. Here, it is directed to become a net contributor to the region and countries of the UZV. Put simply, it is to empower a self-sustaining development zone, a development bubble so to speak, with no political affiliation except the acceptance of the host government. The mission is to create a thriving self-governing (by technocratic management), self-supporting and sustaining zone, located where power and resources can be generated in an environmentally sound manner. This zone would be populated by committed African (in this case primarily citizens of the Upper Zambezi Valley (UZV) who seek to create surplus to their needs. Essentially, this means, food, energy, water, biodiversity, value-adding production economic viability. The emphasis is on what might be termed futurability which is to suggest a methodology and modus operandi that focuses on SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. The project would initially be termed the Africa Development Zone (ADZ) and would resenble an African style 'silicon valley', the difference being that all facets of life would come under development.

The development zone would seek to attract the best African (and non-African if committed to the Africanist ideals of the ADZ) who would devote skills, experience, technological ability, and most particularly knowledge to forging a multi-faceted home for those who believe in African development and the forging of a new relationship between Africa and the rest of the globalised world economy whereby Africa creates its own development niche. In its growth stages, the development zone would seek a zero tax status and be able to conduct a tax-free economy with the exception of 'order of the day' taxes.

  • For power and energy, the ADZ would focus on solar, wind and hydro power utilising solar farms, powerful wind turbines and mini-hydro. Energy is absolutely key for development, thus this would be an early and urgent priority.

  • Communications - the ADZ would develop state of the art connectivity with the rest of the world with a powerful satellite connection and unlimited fibre broadband for homes, offices and production facilities. Transport within the ADZ would feature electric powered buses, altho in the longer term, a non-profit rapid transit system featuring electric trams or trolley buses would be encouraged. Any private transportation would also need to focus on non-polluting fuels and zero emissions. Buses and other more tradional (and polluting) forms of transport to and from other regions would need to commence and finish from outside of the ADZ.

  • The ADZ will be a green zone where trees are planted and protected and, where flora and fauna exist, these must also be protected and re-introduced. Agricultural production and livestock will be studied, experimented with in innovative ways and applied to provide food security for the ADZ and surplus to trade with neighbouring regions. Research and treatment to overcome such exigencies as army worm, locusts, and animal diseases will be developed and applied for potential upscaling to other regions.

  • The ADZ has to feature minimal waste and pollution. All glass, plastic, metal and paper must go for recycling with food waste going to either compost or bio power generation. Sewerage must also feature recycling with green chemical treatment and conversion into organic fertilisers.

  • State of the art health facilities would be installed with health research taking place and fully stocked clinics with modern drugs for the use of residents and application in the surrounding area.

  • Criminal law and order would be undertaken by the existing state apparatus as there would be no wish to create a state within a state. However, the ADZ administration would set zero barriers to research, trade and industrial development.

What is required today is capacity building amongst the representative organisations of the Lozi nation that have local knowledge and understand the true aspirations of local people, genuine development that puts the people first. This is not to say that business is not welcome, Lozis too, want to learn about modern business techniques and develop commercial skills and acumen to put to good use in their region. Too often in the past, entrepreneurs and organisations have come to the province apparently in the interests of development but in reality have come only to make fast money and a faster exit. Some well-meaning development projects have been enacted only for the organisation to later depart without leaving behind the tools or the skills to continue or maintain the project. Barotseland needs sustainable development and the BRE stands ready to welcome all genuine iniatives, which should be presented to and be approved by the Government of the Republic of Zambia and the Barotse Royal Establishment at Limulunga. (labour migrants from Angola used the same routes and recruitment points) which became exploited,

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