National Indaba


Whatever is ailing our economy today has taken many years to develop, but sadly like everything else the effects are manifesting today with a ferocity and vengeance that would not have been anticipated.

For a start the over dependence on copper should be blamed on successive regimes that have failed to recognize the need to identify and work on effective diversification of the economy.

We should have learnt a lesson from the severe depressed copper prices and massive job losses suffered in the late 1980’s when the global economy suffered from massive oil shock price increase.

That shock reverberated in a crush of other commodity prices in response to an economic slowdown.  Sadly the lesson was never learnt.

Under former President Frederick Chiluba, a robust and highly vibrant non-traditional export campaign was launched, resulting in a boost in coffee and other agricultural exports.  This scheme has since suffered a natural death leaving the country once again vulnerable to the vagaries of the global commodities market.

Our energy deficit is another area which has suffered perennial neglect by successive regimes.  Although endowed with hydro and renewable capacity such as wind, solar energy and geo-thermo we have done little to exploit this resource and as a result we must face the imperative of purchasing very expensive electricity to meet domestic and industrial demand.

There is no doubt that alternative sources of energy must now be exploited but these should not imperil the country with other dangers such as emissions that pollute and therefore poison the country.

However, in addition to these huge projects the nation must engage itself in dialogue to establish the most effective areas in which modalities can be employed at personal and national level to mitigate the effects of our economy that seems to be sinking into recession.

The minister of agriculture has expressed shock that Zambia continues to import poultry, edible oil, dairy products and other items that can be produced locally.  However, stopping these imports may prove difficult because Zambia is a signatory to Comesa trade liberalization and customs cooperation treaties, which allow for open trading and a demand for non-tariff barriers.

As a country we must now look at some of these provisions seriously and perhaps begin to agitate for amendments and changes to accommodate our peculiar situation.

The current situation may also require us to take personal sacrifices in the same direction as Zimbabwe which has now decided to ban electrical heaters or geysers to conserve energy.

All newly built properties will be required to install solar power in an exercise that is expected to save up to 400 megawatts of electricity which is apparently equivalent to the output of an electrical power plant.

Such properties will not be connected to the power grid until they prove that they have a solar installation.

We may have to consider similar measures and perhaps introduce more creative ones in other fields of our economy to limit the propensity to import everything from toothpicks to samoosas and chips.

This will require that as a country we sit down together in a planned forum which is non- political to chart our way forward by taking pragmatic and practical steps to increase productivity, enhance exports and limit imports to the most essential items.

This task should not be left to the government but must, like in two previous occasions, be left to the appropriate interest groups and public at large to determine. 

Instead of government imposition, the people must be able to identify areas from which savings can be made.

Only then can success be guaranteed.