CAPE TOWN – Formerly known as Northern Rhodesia, as an integral part of Cecil Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo vision, Zambia celebrates its 55th Independence Day today.
Kenneth Kaunda was appointed the first prime minister of the country and later the president in 1964 as Zambia adopted the presidential system.
The country, which took its name from the mighty Zambezi river – the fourth-longest river in Africa and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean from Africa – is home to the spectacular and majestic Victoria Falls. The water falls are the largest in the world, surpassing the Niagara and Iguazu Falls and are also known as ‘’Mosi-o-Tunya’’, the smoke that thunders – one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Zambia’s gross domestic product was standing at $26.72 billion (R392bn) as at December 2018 and its economy is commodity dependent.
It is the second largest producer of copper in Africa, after the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 8th in the world with production at around 86 1946 tons as at 2018. The country is rich in mineral resources such as gold, uranium, manganese, silver, cobalt, coal, lead, zinc, emeralds and other semiprecious gemstones.
Besides the minerals, the country has 42 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture production, yet only 14 percent are being used. The available land per capita is higher than it is for most developing countries in Southern Africa (World Bank, 2018).
The country also holds about 35 percent of Southern Africa's total natural water resource. Its major exports are raw copper, refined copper, cobalt, raw tobacco, cereals, and its major imports are copper ore, cobalt oxide and hydroxides, refined petroleum, crude petroleum and nitrogenous fertilisers.
The country is battling with external debt, which has increased to $10.23bn, with domestic debt at $4.62bn as at June.
The external debt servicing cost has also gone up to $759 million as at December 2018. The main external debt categories are multilateral, bilateral, export and supplier credit as well as commercial debt, which is at 53 percent – one the country’s biggest headaches.
Eurobonds account for 57 percent of the commercial debt and its first maturity will be in 2022 after a population census in 2020 and general election in 2021.
On the Neil Economic scale, the price of a can of Coke is K7.56 (Zambian Kwacha) (R8.37), and the price of a litre of petrol is K14.06.
In August the country’s inflation rate stood at 9.3 percent from 7.9 percent in December 2018, and economic growth rate is projected to be close to 2 percent at the end of 2019 (KPMG 2019).
The government has embarked on massive infrastructure projects in the transport sector to: (1) Decongest Lusaka City under the Lusaka Decongestion Project, (2) Upgrading the four international airports namely, Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, Harry Mwaanga Nkumbula and Mfuwe.
With all the infrastructure development the rail sector remains the dominant mode of transportation for goods on the local and international routes.
So with such a diverse nation of more than 70 language dialects, a multitude of mineral resources and a landlocked nation surrounded by seven African nations, Zambia, the country of water has more brightness in its future than ever.
Neil de Beer is the president of the Investment Fund Africa and has been a consultant to a magnitude of African Leadership. You can reach him on [email protected] or www.ifa.africa