Zambia, Africa’s biggest copper producer, planned to spend $15bn over the next five years to develop its economy, President Levy Mwanawasa said yesterday.

The country would use the money to reduce unemployment, boost the education and health industries, and reduce poverty, Mwanawasa said in a speech in Lusaka.

The programme would form part of a plan to turn Zambia into a middle-income country by 2030, he said.

The government would raise 48-trillion kwacha for the project, known as the Fifth National Development Plan, and had asked donors to help finance the remainder, the president said.

Zambia’s economy is benefiting from higher investment after copper prices surged to a record and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and African Development Bank cancelled the country’s debt.

Zambia’s economic growth would probably rise 6% a year in the “medium term”, the IMF said in November last year.

Debt relief and a “substantial” improvement in government finances had enabled Zambia to focus its resources on social development, health and education, said Phumelele Mbiyo, a bonds analyst at Standard Bank in Johannesburg.

“The prospects for Zambia look good,” Mbiyo said.

“Zambia is enjoying a period of recovery following the privatisation of many of its industries. Investment has revitalised copper output.”

Zambia’s government is targeting economic growth of at least 7% a year over the next five years. Mwanawasa, who was re-elected president in September, pledged to cut taxes, introduce incentives for investment in agriculture, and increase spending on infrastructure such as roads, rail and bridges.

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