The importance of empowering local firms; the cholera fight case

On 6 October, 2017 Zambia declared one of the worst cholera outbreaks in the country’s recent past. Public gatherings including church services were banned and schools closed, while street vending was outlawed. Soldiers were deployed on the streets to help curb the epidemic and to ensure adherence to the necessary curfew. By the time the outbreak was largely contained and the ban on public gatherings lifted on February 3, 2018, the disease hadkilled 74 people but affected more than 3, 200, According to minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya. Of the 74 people that were killed, 68 were from Lusaka, the capital city.

 But one angle that deserves specific attention is the response by the business community to the outbreak. Business houses, other countries, local and international humanitarian aid agencies responded to the Zambian government’ SoS with practical measures that included finances, tools and other equipment to fight the killer disease.

 A proper analysis of the contributions from local and international entities and countries shows that local businesses were more than willing to help government save lives. Contribution statistics show that at least two local companies owned by Zambians actually contributed timeously and with large contributions.

The Trade Kings Foundation, which is owned by Zambians Khalid Mohammed and Igbal Patel donated K2 million to the Zambian Government at the peak of the cholera outbreak.

Two other companies, Delta Energy Zambia Limited and Nerias Investments, owned by Zambian entrepreneurs Bokani Soko, Irfaan Imael Yousuf, Zuneid Patel and other local businessmen jointly donated K2 million to the Ministry of Health at the peak of the epidemic. It can be successfully argued that this timely and large contributions from Delta Energy, Neria and Trade Kings helped to start turning back the ugly tide of cholera while more assistance was on its way.

The timeous and large response by these local businesses demonstrates the willingness by local companies to respond to national calamities. It is these companies that, if properly empowered and supported, can compliment government efforts to fight natural disasters. This is because, among other reasons, the owners of these firms are part and parcel of the affected communities. Their relatives, if not the directors themselves can be affected by cholera, floods or any other calamity that can befall the country. Their response is not based on humanitarian grounds but out of responsibility to their own community.

Businesses such as Delta Energy, Neria and Trade Kings and any other company owned by Zambians can respond within minutes of the disaster hitting the country because the decision makers are right here in Zambia and can see the damage with their own eyes and even if they are out of their country when disaster strikes, they are in a better position to understand the situation immediately. This is why it is important for government to give preference to local companies when it granting tenders and other contracts.

On the cholera outbreak, other companies such as Chinese construction giant AVIC International donated 100,000 Zambian Kwacha (about 10,000 U.S. dollars).

 MTN Zambia donated 300 bins, 60 vests and K100, 000 for procurement of items such as hand sanitizer, towels.

 Zambian Breweries donated about K2.5 million.

 Zanaco contributed K1.5 million

The Chinese government donated about two million Yuan (314,000 U.S. dollars).

  The World Health Organization Country Office donated four cholera kits to treat up to 1600 persons. The contents of the kits include oral rehydration salts, rehydration fluids, antibiotics, gumboots, aprons and cadaver bags among others.

 What comes out clearly from the statistics above (with special reference to figures) is that local businesses can, if supported, rise to the occasion and help combat whatever ill-fate that affects the nation.

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