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…Where to start as a Zambian youth?

By Bernadette Deka-Zulu

The now, the future.

In the last election, we saw many young people enthusiastically exercise their franchise, with earnest hope that, odds could turn in their favour in terms of social economic empowerment and human development/growth through employment, entrepreneurial investment opportunities, better education, open spaces to participate in national affairs and hopefully to share sits on the decision making tables.

But before we can address issues to do with monetary resource empowerment programmes, there is need to look into their state of  mindsets to birth strong institutional capacities, healthy and skilled human capital, improved decent jobs prospects and an inclusive governance system that will favor our youth.


As they say, the more the youth, the higher the working population.

African countries have the potential for accelerated economic growth when the proportion of the population that is of working age exceeds the proportion of the population that doesn’t.

In Zambia, by far more than half of our population are youths below the age of 20. According to a ZamStats 2017 report, about 54 percent of our population were children below the age of 17. 

Further, according to a Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s 2017 Forum report, informs us that the future will depend, more than anything else, on Africa’s ability to harness the energy and meet the expectations of its young people.

Simulation Programmes

Simulation is normally used to assess the current, or predict the future, performance of a business process. The concept is designed to help practitioners or would be leaders discover  ways to improve their thinking, experience processes

They give the learner a chance to practice real-time responses and they are the closest thing to reality. Through simulations we can accurately illustrate real events, it’s a faster and cheaper effective way to improve the leaner’s skills and competences. 

In Zambia, we had the Zambia Model United Nations, a UN simulation programme for students and learners in schools and universities. This one was mainly spearheaded by the International School of Lusaka with Ms Nkowane as coordinator.

Another powerful simulation programme was the  National Youth Constituency Assembly championed by the likes of Emmanuel Kamwi and colleagues.

The popular simulation programme is the Debates Club. 

These simulations allowed us, as  potential leaders then, to make mistakes and to learn from the experience in a safe environment. These simulations also give potential leaders a wide range of simulations.

Leadership development programmes 

Leadership development simulations allow current and future leaders to find new ways of dealing with real issues, and manage their people more effectively. 

Some important leadership qualities that help leaders build influence and trust with team members are:

  • accountability, 
  • adaptability, 
  • authenticity, 
  • good communication, 
  • compassion, 
  • self-awareness, 
  • flexibility. 

These qualities enable leaders to forge strong connections that result in exceptional performance. Our young people, need to be fed these on a daily basis 

Looking at it from the employment perspective, another importance of leadership development programmes is that they can enhance employee engagements and help create leaders that can effectively lead teams; They create a positive work culture, encouraging more employees to learn at the job and work towards acquiring leadership roles;

Leadership development training programmes have several very important benefits. They increase employee morale and retention, improve productivity, promote better decision making, build better teams, and train future leaders in your company who have a management style that is conducive to a positive working atmosphere.

Business simulation programmes

Just like leadership simulation programmes, a business simulation is a powerful tool for 

organisational learning and development. Business simulations enable employees to align your people on strategy, improve their business acumen and business finance skills, aamong other virtues.

Snipet in my personal journey as a youth: As a beneficiary from leadership simulation programmes  

Like the late young people motivator, Felix Banda summed it up  in his book, “you don’t just become,” I am a product of these simulation programmes and many other youth programmes. Today, as a scholar and activist in the field of economic policy for a great Zambia, I attribute my contributions to our country to leadership simulation programmes, and youth programmes/projects that were designed by the state departments, youth movements, the civil society movement, and not withholding the influence of church in early childhood.

This piece is for the youth. Therefore, there is no better day than this to share a worthwhile journey of leadership during youth days. A journey owed to the motherland, Zambia. And as a saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.  Other than my own biological parents who invested so much in my upbringing, I have been privileged to be raised by many galant patriarchs throughout my journey from elementary, primary-secondary schools and later in tertiary and career paths.

Practical importance of simulation programmes/child and youth development projects

Even as a child who came from a humble background, with parents who had come from Southern Province where they were born and bred to come and settle in Lusaka, and having many children of their own and those that they adopted, I was exposed to different levels of programmes that shaped my today. 

A quick overview into my journey from primary school to somewhere here:

I was the Child-to Child club, this opened my horizon to be confident to take part in human development activities around my school and community.

By age 13, clad in a flag of Zambia as a dress,  through the JCTR zero debt activities and through Madam Charity Musamba and Garth Chenda of Operation Young Vote, I presented the petition to write off and end Zambia’s debt to the then Minister of Finance, Mr Magande.

At age 13-15 years, I would represent my school Roma Girls in UNESCO Schools Club, and later during secondary school working with UNICEF on a number of programmes, this enabled us to meet icons such as Oprah Winfrey, Samantha Mumba and many other UNICEF ambassadors that came to Zambia to champion children’s rights.  

At age 14 to 17 years, I represented my school and country at various fora of the Zambia Model United Nations where I held several positions, from Ambassador, to Director of Resolutions and to the esteemed seat of Vice President – General Assembly. We would have the Head of State or Vice President Nervous Mumba then, open our official summits. As a child, this was everything. I knew then what I was to become. A youth newspaper, Trendsetters – led by young people, came on board to highlight young people’s achievements and involvement in community and national matters, which carried our stories of youth activism and civil society engagement at national level.

At age 16, I was a “Member of Parliament” under the National Youth Constitutional Assembly (National Youth Parliament), and later went international under the Commonwealth Youth Parliament where we represented Zambia beyond borders.

By 17 years old, I had a formal job as programmes officer with the Operation Young Vote (OYV), a youth movement organisation on ending voter apathy. 

Then, I was also an active member of the Youth Alive Zambia (YAZ). 

On national level I contributed to the drafting of revised national youth policies, through the Ministry of Youth and Child Development, and the National Youth Coordinating Council (NYCC) which was an act of parliament to run youth-national affairs. By age 18 years old, while at the University of Zambia, I worked as programmes assistant at the Citizens Forum, and Oasis Forum under supervision of Mr Simon Kabanda, Mr Reuben Lifuka, Ms Lucy Muyoyeta, Ms Emily Sikazwe, Mr Gilbert Temba, The late Dean Mung’omba etc.  From 17 years old, I carried my own weekly column in the then Post Newspapers where I commented on the state of governance in the country.  Mr Webster Malido and team gave us a chance as youth to represent on a national scale. Along this path I worked with the Economic Association of Zambia and met life influencers like Mr Chibamba Kanyama, Mr Fred M’membe, Ms Florence Kabwesha etc.

By age 21, from working part time as a research assistant at the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to making it through to the regional office of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) where I worked from internship through to being a contractor in various units, at the secretariat in South Africa. 

Fast forward to coming back, by age 27, I was appointed Executive Director of a public policy think tank, where I served for nearly a decade.  I have sat on various foundations as a trustee and or a board member, to which I’ve contributed my voluntary time immensely, and in turn got exposure through massive international representation on noble causes that affect humanity.  And now, to where we are today, back in the regional/international service.

Dear reader, that is a compressed shared journey of a youth then (selected information), born in Lusaka, today May 18, some 30-plus years ago, with meaningful participation to our country. 

As I slowly get phased out of the privilege of being a youth, I owe it all to Zambia that gave me all opportunities to serve. Deliberately, it is possible to revive such programmes as outlined here, for a better Zambia, today and tomorrow. An overhaul change of mindset is what we need to accelerate the national development agenda, by having right minded youth in the forefront. Let us get our young people busy. 



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