Thursday, May 30, 2024

Zambia – Compare to Ontario; Switzerland: Shifting from tiny to a large economy


Here is my thinking and a challenge to all Zambians. We have a very tiny economy and we spend a great deal of our time fighting over a pint of salt when we could be mining the ocean. I reside in Ontario, Canada’s largest province. Ontario is only a province in Canada – but it’s by far richer than Zambia, a nation-state. Consider, for example, Ontario has a population of about 15 million people. But it boasts of a GDP of over US$660 billion. Ontario’s main industries include: Manufacturing, Hydro (electricity), Film & Media, Tech, Telecommunications, Steel, Agriculture. The average annual income for Ontario is about US$45,000.

Ontario compares favourably, even at par with Switzerland, which has a population of about 9 million people. Switzerland’s GDP is over US$685 billion. Switzerland’s main industries include: Pharma, Finance and Tennis. And, on average, an individual earns about US$61,000 per year in Switzerland.

Zambia, on the other hand, has a population of about 16 million people, statistically the same as Ontario’s. But Zambia’s GDP is very small, at about US$26 billion. Zambia’s major industries include: Copper mining and processing, construction, emerald mining, beverages, food, textiles, chemicals, fertilizer and horticulture. The highest paid Zambian may earn about US$66,000 per year.

What does these numbers say? First, that Zambia is under-utilizing its resources (human, raw, capital, and so on) and underdeveloped its potential. However, Zambia has room to grow – in fact – at the moment Zambia is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. But it remains, relatively, a very small economy, more like a province of some small country in Europe. Second, there is need to change the focus. Focus, has generally, been on arguing about the small resources in circulation (mostly centred around copper mining) rather than growing the pie. There is urgent need to increase GDP, expand industries, and make copper mining subsidiary to agriculture, for example. And third and last, compared to Switzerland (which has tennis and finance at the core of its economy and yet is far richer than Zambia), Zambia has potential to develop its existing industries, invest in and develop new others, and become a prosperous country.

Zambia can become a higher-income earner. This is not simply intellectual pandering; there are steps that can be taken to achieve an Upper-Income Economic status. I have proposed a 30-10-60 Theory in earlier writings.

The gist of the 30-10-60 economic model is that, within the next 50 years, Zambia should attain to an affluent middle-class characterized by, “being able to enjoy an acceptable standard of living and being happy (happiness will mean having a life expectancy of 76 years and above; enjoying and having access to a stable and working social support system; freedom from corruption; being able to give to others; and ability to bring in an income that meets all the basic needs and have surplus for saving for the future).”

By Charles Mwewa


  1. In my opinion if a GRZ comprising all parties with MPs
    form a GRZ of national unity to move the country in unison , as one unit focused on development , we can archive the desired results..

    • You need to be real. Canada never developed with drinks from
      Compounds as presidents. Thugs from the street as ministers etc. it’s always good to dream but even dreams have to be realistic. I live in a country with a GDP of Euro 700bn and population 16m. The are no thugs in leadership positions

    • Remember, we tried this one party system already and it’s the reason we are so desperately poor. What I would like to see is the South African style representative government where the opposition leader is in parliament.

  2. You need to be real. Canada never developed with drinks from
    Compounds as presidents. Thugs from the street as ministers etc. it’s always good to dream but even dreams have to be realistic. I live in a country with a GDP of Euro 700bn and population 16m. The are no thugs in leadership positions

  3. Good thesis but why writer does not include stealing as a counter factor in our economic growth? The massive leakages from our economy through plunder could make a big difference.The countries he is comparing us with don’t know this ugly animal in us

  4. With all due respect to all your statistical jargon most of which is true, the drunks from the compounds and bandits will remain in control while you just keep typing statistics from afar. I have been to Zambian recently and life seems to be normal with a lot of people periodically complaining. Zambia can only be changed by those who can do something about it and feel the need for change.

    • What can you do if the majority Zambians are not conscious and agree to mediocrity. You cant start an industry as a Zambian unless you chekela(process too long)

  5. Charles Mwewa, what is a PINT of salt?
    The largest province in Canada is Quebec (15.4% of the country); Ontario is the second at 10.8%. By land area the largest is a Territory (one of the three).

  6. You should’ve compared Zambia to Chile :both top copper exporters ,about same land size and population.But Chile has a GDP of $305bn compared to Zambia’s 26bn.

  7. This is not a like for like comparison and it does not make sense. You should have compared Zambia to Rwanda, Botswana or even Somalia.

  8. I would like to disagree with the writer in in Zambia we don’t have textile industries the only thing zambia produces is a very small fraction of groceries, we are entirely dependent on imports mostly from FTAs who’s import tariffs are zero rated thereby not adding much to our economic growth.

    When needs to be done is we must develop a policy not at anytime to allow raw materials leave our country without undergoing value addition, this will encourage FDIs

    • I agree with both the author and Evans. Zambia has all of the resources it needs to be an economic powerhouse in Africa–with visionary leadership. And yes, value added to Zambia’s many natural resources is key.

    • @8.1 Evan
      That’s very true. The majority of our population has appreciated our emphasis on diversification. So we have a slight increase in private sector investment in different agricultural sectors, housing & office infrastructure, education and health.

      Manufacturing, generally, needs huge sums to take shape so our govt is persuading banks to have targeted banking products to sell to the manufacturing industry. But even then drinks and foods processing has a meaningful increase.

      In short, people are now saving, though not in cash form, but in small investments. We have a very good business environment & our govt is working on deliberate policies to enhance private participation.


  9. One step forward, 3 steps backwards. EDL needs to weed out corruption like the one he busted the ZAF officer, they’so much thieving going around in Zambia. Sometimes I feel we could borrow Magufuli for 6 months n you’ll all be like whaaaaat?

Comments are closed.

Read more

Local News

Discover more from Lusaka Times-Zambia's Leading Online News Site -

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading