Last week, the Economics Association of Zambia under the leadership of Dr Lubinda Haabazoka hosted an inaugural National Economic Summit themed “The Future of Economic Diplomacy – supporting inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa”. This event saw top delegates such as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, President Edgar Lungu and former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kitwete in attendance.
This is quite a standard that the Economics Association of Zambia has set!
This was the first time the Economics Association of Zambia was organizing an event of such magnitude that attracted delegates from different countries, including Zambian diplomats serving in different places around the world. The Bank of Zambia governor Dr Denny Kalyalya, new Minister of Finance Dr Bwalya Ng’andu, former finance ministers Felix Mutati and Ng’andu Magande, several government ministers and other top government officials attended this event that discussed a wide range of issues that confront our economy today – the debt crisis, energy deficits, mining sector challenges, the financial markets, agriculture, etc.
Suggestions were made on how some challenges can be tackled, with Dr Ng’andu actually making it clear that there should not be any finger-pointing or bullying each other over the current economic difficulties that the country is going through. By saying this, we take it that the finance minister has invited all Zambians must participate in ensuring that the economic troubles we are going through are sorted out. It must be a collective responsibility to get things done than leaving it to the government alone or blaming it for this and that problem. The opposition and everyone else, as long as you are a Zambian, must take part in reversing the economic trends so that Zambia can get back to where it was. Once this is done, the achievements will be credited to all without exception. Wouldn’t this be a good thing?
When officially opening the summit, President Edgar Lungu made a commitment that his administration will continue to invest heavily in key economic sectors of the country in order to have a diversified and inclusive economy. He said he believes that development initiatives, policies, strategies, tools and programmes such as economic diplomacy, inclusive growth, and sustainable development should take center stage as Zambia strives for economic prosperity for the African continent. He said some of the economic initiatives his government has embarked on in pursuit of inclusive growth, sustainable development, and economic diplomacy, among them the energy projects such as wind, solar and hydropower, have the potential to generate about 6, 000 megawatts of electricity once fully completed. “This is why my government is investing massively in infrastructure development to spur accelerated sustainable development and inclusive growth. This is being implemented through the construction of new, and expansion of existing airports; rail; and road infrastructure so that Zambia is land linked to the Southern Africa, Development Community (SADC), and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), and Africa as a whole,” President Lungu said.
The fact that Zambia needs to increase its power generation through every means possible is something that deserves a lot of attention from the government. Everyone is looking forward to that time when load shedding will be long gone because there will be more than enough electricity generated through hydro, solar and wind. Zambia has immense natural resources (water, sun and wind) required to produce adequate electricity that can supply all households and business sectors and even for export to neighbouring countries with energy deficits. These are the things that the economic summit discussed and the outcomes are yet to be seen by the amount of investments to be put in the energy sector. What remains is for the government to double its efforts in sourcing investments in this sector.
Additionally, the government must, as a matter of urgency, look for ways to stabilise the foreign exchange rate, especially with respect to the kwacha/dollar and kwacha/pound rate. We all know that three quarters of our consumption needs are imported and that means super-normal increases in prices of goods. Because of the continued depreciation of the kwacha against major currencies, prices of basic goods are being increased almost on a weekly basis. There is always in change in prices whenever someone goes out to buy home essentials. This is definitely one of the biggest headaches that the bulk of Zambians are facing today and something that the government and our economists need to look at immediately to ease the economic pressures being faced.