Thursday, June 20, 2024

Hard Facts


File:A boy is photographed at a public meeting with rugged clothes in Katete

By Gray Soko

In 2010 the World Bank named Zambia as one of the world’s fastest economically reforming countries and the Bank has reclassified Zambia as a Lower Middle Income country. This is the World Bank’s analytical income category based on the Bank’s lending strategies. There are four categories, low, lower middle, upper middle and high. Monthly bulletins by the Zambia Statistical Office have recorded single digit inflation rates and the Bank of Zambia is pleased with the “stability” of the Kwacha against the major currencies ( no comparison to what it was in the 70s ,of course) and growth rates above 6%.

According to the Zambian Statistical Office website the incidence of poverty ranges from 84% in the Western Province to 72% for Central Province with the other provinces apart from Lusaka and Copperbelt within this range. However Lusaka and the Copperbelt recorded the highest unemployment rates at 31% each. Nationally 68% of Zambians live below the recognized poverty line with rural rates at 78% and urban areas at 53%[pullquote].people get the government they elect, often they do not get the government they deserve[/pullquote]

Life expectancy is recorded at 46 years with the literacy rate at 71%. Zambia also has the highest under 5 mortality rate per 1000 in Sub Saharan Africa, perhaps not surprisingly with 65% of Zambian households having incomes below the basic needs basket.

One way the government is trying to address the obviously high poverty levels and accelerate development has been the introduction of the Multi-Facility Economic Zones. The main objective of the MFEZ is to stimulate industrial and economic development through the manufacturing sector. It is envisaged that value addition to the country’s vast mineral and agricultural raw materials will bring about industrial development as well as increase exports typically through increased foreign direct investment and boost employment.

Chambeshi, Ndola, Lusaka, Mwinilunga, Mpulungu and Kasumbalesa have so far been identified as MFEZs . Apart from Lusaka, the urban areas may have been selected for their proximity to the present Copperbelt, Mpulungu and Kasumbalesa for warehousing and export oriented business.Mwinilunga was probably selected for its pineapple potential. Investors are free to identify and suggest any other location in the country deemed economical for such zones.

One may argue that the onus should be on Zambians to determine where such development should take place given the vast areas of the country that are undeveloped and that poverty levels are higher in the rural areas which form the bulk of the country. This why it is crucial that the current road and rail network in the country is transformed to open the country to development. The abundance of natural resources is not necessarily in the zones so far identified. Development efforts should not be confined to the current road/rail system.

The concept of special economic zones which includes free trade zones, export processing zones, industrial parks ,multi-facility zones etc. has been a major engine for the accelerated economic development in China where they were founded in the early 1980s under the government of Deng Xiaping and following the Chinese success story have been established in several countries across the world. The most successful special economic zone in China, Shenzhen, has developed from a small village into a city with a population of over 10 million within 20 years. A few years ago the Heritage Party mooted the “Village Concept” and dividing the country into economic triangles as a way of developing the country. This idea could be seriously reviewed and integrated in the specialized economic zone concept.

There is still debate in the country and abroad as to whether Zambia is getting the full benefit of the increased and profitable copper production. Other countries endowed with oil wealth on the continent are wondering whether their oil wealth is a curse or a blessing. This is because it is possible for the investor to benefit more than the country. There are very conducive conditions to attract investors. For the specialized economic zones for example there are typically up to 100% income tax exemptions on export income for the first 5 years, exemptions from sales tax, exemptions from customs/excise duties, freedom of invest transfer and obtained income of it with no administration encumbrance laws etc. It is therefore imperative that whilst such generous conditions are put in place to attract international business or multi-national corporations, the benefits to the country are substantial.

This is a tall order for the aspiring candidates. I hope these facts motivated them to aspire for the policy making institutions of our country with plans to address these issues. I strongly believe that development should be bottom up, it should start from the local level. Unfortunately one cannot be too hopeful of this with our present local or provincial government system. A former Mayor of Lusaka has accurately stated that the lack of capacity at the local level is a serious threat and hindrance to development. The way forward is the radical transformation of local government administration.

It has been said that people get the government they elect, often they do not get the government they deserve. The results of the September elections will tell.


  1. I doubt that the aspiring candidates were motivated to aspire for office so as to address the issues you have raised! Indeed we need a visionary in Zambia.If China could transform a tiny village like Shenzhen into a sucessful economic Zone we too can transform our rural villages into economic power houses.

  2. It is very good that people entrusted with power are realising that manufacturing as a key to reducing most the this poverty that has revaged our homes. Even though the creation MFEZs is a wellcome move, the question is that remains is, will the goverment really come up with deliberate policies that will provide a win win state of affairs for both Zedians and investors? Lets wait and see.

  3. Zambian leaders are too greedy and selfish. all they think is how to enrich their pockets at the expense of poor ordinary zambians. and once in five years they build a hospital and roads and call it development so that we put them in office again, and continue looting from were they left . Shame shame shame!!

  4. So at the end of the day China will be our development model…well, as long as we have the development we need. This issue of investors benefiting more than the country can surely be addressed amicably. 10Billion US$ we only get 500milion US$ is unaccepatble…not even 800m. US$2Billion would make some sense for fast track develpment. If oil producing conutries are complaining and we are, then we need to sort it out at AU level if National Gvnmnts have no capacity to compel these multinational companies to give us a hearing. Forcing/chasing them by use of windfall tax may backfire if the way to go is capitalism. Mayb improve the variable tax regime.

  5. If we elect the right candidate come September 20th, we can attain meaningful development. Alot of Zambians are suffering, we need to look beyond Lusaka and the Copperbelt, enrich the average Zambian and maintain standards going up as the writer as written. Leaders lets remember our people (the people who voted you into power) when you are in those high an mighty seats. so you think! ||Remember your manifestos dont only produce the at campaign time. Let them show in your time in office. I rest my case. God bless Zambia. Can we have a leader that only God has chosen.

  6. why is it that most MMD and PF cadres on this blog fail to comment when an article is talking about economics.Can’t insult the economy can you?

  7. Trouble with us Zambians is that we are selfish. When we are poor we talk and promise too much but get up there, we get into rock cracks like lizards. Shame on most politicians!!!!

  8. economic growth experienced by our country should allow policies were opportunities exist for low income families to climb up the socio-economic ladder .the best way i believe to do this is through a great education at primary,secondary and tertiary levels,coupled with health care,It has happened in many countries who has experienced growth similar to ours that the spoils of growth remain in the hands of a small percent of the population.lets learn from their mistakes and build a more equitable ,just society were merit rules and not crony capitalism.


  10. Too long article. The writer should learn to summarize. Summary was not there for formality at school. It had a purpose. Put it into practice!

  11. I have heard enough of this we should be looking for solutions now.we are all aware please.Barhamas Barhamas we have also been there!

  12. Hey chinekeee mushota should not read this we are in vegetable soup. We just told mushota yesterday that we resources in zed than his/her second home Scotland. No one in scotland dresses like the boy above. Zambia shall be saved.

  13. it is time to change course, 20 yrs of MMD and my people are still suffering in their millions. MMD you have had you chance, you have loaned out our ressources such that zambia gets only crumbs. All MMD can build is shopping malls.

  14. We need to change the way we think. We need to inculcate a culture that is development oriented from as early as grade 1. Train a child in the WAY he shud go, fo when he is old he will not dpat from it. Nice article GS u are an asset that nids to b put to gud use.

  15. i really feel sad about the way things are being said about the elections. i have read many articles from zambians complaining about there being loads of chinese investors in the country.what people dont understand is that zambia needs more investors in order to develop. but they can only come if the country is secure and stable. zambians need to realise that as the european and american markets(due to heavy debts) are failing ,many investors are looking for other markets. the chinese market is huge but has become competitive. its time for peoples attitudes in africa to change. zambia has all the opportunities it needs to progress but the government should educate the youth so that as investors come in and bring jobs, they are given mainly to the local people. born in uk but i love zed!

  16. The author raises some very good points. Ultimately I believe it would be foolish to think the success of Shenzhen can be replicated. I’ve been to Shenzhen, its an amazing city- very cosmopolitan and in many ways its somewhat nicer than Beijing. In any case, Shenzhen is a coastal city and is very close to Hong Kong, lets not also forget Taiwan and Japan are near to China. Many of the foreign investors who invested into cities like Shenzhen came from HK and JP, and have turned it into an electronics manufacturing hub. Access to the sea made it an all the more attractive investment destination for manufacturing because of easy transport links. Zambia is landlocked! lol. If Zambia is to grow economically it needs to look for ways to integrate itself into its neighbors economies’

  17. *sorry I meant if it is to continue growing sustainably. It needs to integrate itself into the economies of its neighboring countries. This way its businesses can add value to the value chains of surrounding economies and Zambia can become a regional hub of trade, manufacturing, transport, tourism etc. However Zambia would need to focus on key areas where it can actually create value e.g. agricultural goods, electronics components and energy. We have the land and water for agri-businesses, we have the copper, rare earth elements are in nearby Congo for electronics components and huge tracts of un-used lands for energy from wind turbines or Solar arrays. Really what is missing are the Zambian born entrepreneurs who can take advantage of these opportunities.

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