What Democracy Can Do To a Country: The Case of Zambia

Zambia used to be the laughing stock of Africa and a joke but now it is one of the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Lusaka, Zambia.

Zambia is a typical case of the democratic dividend. After many years of Kaunda’s misrule (1964-1990), democracy was introduced in 1991 following a sweeping victory by the MMD under Frederick Chiluba who was succeeded by Levi Mwanawasa then followed by Rupia Banda, Michael Sata and now Edgar Chagwa Lungu.

Zambia used to be the laughing stock of Africa and a joke. Its roads were pothole ridden and the kwacha was a useless currency. The entire infrastructure had collapsed. Parastatals were run down and Zambia was mired in a debt trap. Life for ordinary Zambians was short and miserable.

Fast forward to 2016, Zambia is one of the fastest growing economies in sub-saharan Africa. The kwacha has strengthened. One USD is equivalent to 9.6 kwacha. In fact the kwacha is even stronger than the rand .

In 2005, Zambia’s GDP was USD 3 billion. In 2016 Zambia’s GDP stood at USD 28 billion compared to Zimbabwe’s USD 14 billion. Zambia’s road infrastructure is now one of the best in the world. To its their credit Zambians can now feed themselves.

Of course like other African countries, Zambia is still struggling to diversify its economy from over-dependence on copper. De-industrialization is still a big problem. Zambia is still a retail economy depending on South Africa. The Chinese have literally taken over the economy but this is not unique to Zambia. The Chinese have become an African problem.
Zambia’s steady progress has also come with big setbacks. The perishing of the whole Zambian Chipolopolo team off the coast of Gabon was a big tragedy and an unbearable national loss. However, even that loss has not stopped the Zambian cultural revolution. On Sunday the 12th of March 2017, the Zambian national team beat Senegal 2-0.

All in all isn’t Zambia’s transition to democracy a case of harvesting low hanging fruits ??

Analysis by Dr Tapiwa Mashakada – MP and Former Zimbabwe Investment Minister.