Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The diminishing role of agriculture in Zambia’s economy

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Edward Chisanga

Some acclaim it as a very important sector. They profess that it can be used to transform Zambia’s economy and much of economic planning in our country is based on this sector. But to what extent do Zambians know numbers about this special sector? How many do and use these numbers when making public pronouncements, in particular of its potential? What numbers can we use to reasonably understand the potential of this sector?

First, a broader context. According to Unctadstat data, World agriculture value added in the gross domestic product (GDP) in absolute values stood at $3.7 trillion in 2020 as Table 1 below shows. The breakdown of developing countries shows that developing countries of Asia, accounting for 63% dominate. Watch Africa’s microscopic absolute value of only $400 billion and share of 7% explaining its global marginalization. It equally explains international trade marginalization in the sector. You can’t export what you don’t have. It also explains why it has not been easy for the continent to transform the sector. Developing countries in Asia have $2.3 trillion in absolute values.

By the way, agriculture value added includes forestry and fishing. Worlddataview explains value added as “The net output of a sector after adding up all outputs and subtracting intermediate inputs.”

Table 1: World agriculture value added in GDP in $Billions

 

2020

 Share in percentages
World

3,694

 
Developing economies: Asia

2,329

63

Africa

400

11

Latin America and the Caribbean

255

7

Source: Unctadstat

Second, I show how tiny and insignificant Zambia’s agriculture in GDP is in comparison with other African countries. Table 2 below shows that among all the fifty-five African countries and their agriculture value added, Zambia, with only $539 million ranks number 39. In Africa therefore, our country is not competitive and most agriculture is local and on a small scale among the rural population. I wonder how Zambia will compete under the Africa continental free market. When I hear that we have a lot of agricultural products to export, I wonder.

Table 2: African countries’ ranking in agriculture value added in in GDP in $millions

 Ranking Number  

2020

 1 Nigeria

103,792

  Egypt

42,501

  Ethiopia

34,356

  Kenya

23,281

  Algeria

20,756

  Tanzania,

17,896

  Morocco

13,402

  Ghana

13,196

  Côte d’Ivoire

12,208

  DRC

9,552

  Uganda

9,188

  South Africa

7,266

  Mali

6,114

  Cameroon

6,042

  Angola

5,875

  Niger

5,275

  Tunisia

4,604

  Benin

4,229

  Guinea

3,736

  Senegal

3,658

  Mozambique

3,588

  Burkina Faso

3,548

  Chad

3,507

  Madagascar

3,280

  Malawi

2,965

  Rwanda

2,713

  Sierra Leone

2,114

  Liberia

1,828

  Zimbabwe

1,802

  Mauritania

1,598

  Togo

1,424

  Burundi

1,225

  Libya

1,200

  Gabon

1,006

  Somalia

991

  Namibia

968

  South Sudan

913

  Central African Republic

744

  Congo

730

 39 Zambia

539

Source: Unctadstat

Third, performance of agriculture value added in GDP. My research explores performance during MMD rule from 2005-2010 and PF rule of 2011-2020. Despite the small size in absolute values, it was growing all the way up to 2010 during MMD rule as shown in Figure 1 below. But growth shrank during PF rule, from $2.2 billion in 2011 when they took over power down to $539 million in 2020.

Finally, I convert the foregoing numbers of absolute values or dollar values into share of agriculture value added in GDP. Shown in Figure 2 below, Zambia’s share eroded from 16% in 2005 to 3% in 2020. In other words, in the GDP, the role or contribution of agriculture to the economy is as low as 3% which is immensely unfortunate. Agriculture’s role in the economy is low due to low productivity which is also due to low financial and technical investment.

Conclusion

Due to its diminishing role in the economy, how can agriculture champion Zambia’s structural change or value addition, diversification, creation of quality and productive jobs, enable each household to have three good meals a day and generally reduce poverty? More investment is needed. In the past, numbers show that financial investment in agriculture has in fact been dwindling.

8 COMMENTS

    • Wow this research, is important as it points to our rich soils and plenty water reservoirs as well as other other areas which are agricultural related. I think our minister of agriculture will now double up pursuance of aiming top in the sector. Indeed agriculture will help propel Zambia’s Economy

      Paul Simbeye

  1. Admittedly the falling trend in the agricultural sector started after 1991 (era of the new culture, MMD) and has continued along a similar trend through to this day. Generally speaking we are more of a consuming society. Go to Shoprite and take a look at the agricultural products on display. Their source is foreign.

  2. Always a breath of fresh air with Chisanga’s writings. I was under the impression that Zambia produced more food than DRC hence the hype about sending our products to that country.
    If author is reading this comment, please write your contact details on the next article.

  3. Well articulated article. I attended workshop in Kabwe at Which Dr. Edify Hamukale explained most of these concepts and domestication of applications in Zambia. This country has so much potential

  4. FISP is to blame. It has created a dependant mentality on the peasant farmers. More farmers should have been graduating from the program. Does the author have any data on FISP, it’s benefit over the years??? Farmers are so dependant that even to dip their cattle, they have to wait for the government.

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