By PETER KAYULA-
ONLY a bold prophet would have foretold that two actors in the political arena would, on August 24, 2021 (at the inauguration of Hakainde Hichilema as seventh President of Zambia), shake hands and exchange the instruments of power in an exceptional measure.
This chapter introduces the two most important characters that were active for many years and outlines the socio-economic tensions and political changes that combined to generate the most massive and faithfulresponse to a new beginning inZambia’s history.
Principal political rival and leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND)HakaindeHichilema, an economist, defeated sitting president and the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) leader Edgar Chagwa Lungu in the August 12, 2021 general elections by a wide margin.
Since then, events have moved swiftly in Zambia’s political landscape,which has been transformed by a combination of internal and external pressures, the most important being a groundswell of transformative political vision of unprecedented scope, intensity and duration.
However, a broad understanding of the complexities of former President Lungu’s administration, his economic policies,a widerange of diverse issues, ideologies,strategiesand how most Zambians paid a high price in facing the drama of the period, represents memories that reflect a broaderevidence and meaning of “let the people govern.”
And truly, this is probably the time to put up a strong case for a preserved focus on Zambia’s political system and spelling out a framework for new Government’s policy direction with specific objectives and actions for development.
There are issues that will have to cut across the territory of thematic lines, policy actions and commitment to a shared dream, values and arguably a new dawn.
Actions that will improvepeople’s contemporary livingstandards (jobs, good and readily available health services andhigh quality education, among others).
First and foremost, a brief description can convey that the most important policy direction of the new Government should be addressing the complex programme of job creation through the setting up of small scale businesses andfocused attention on financial and technical support to Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs) who have travelled a bumpy road for many years.
We thank the new Government for the advisory ministry which has just been created.
SMEsare a major feature of Africa’s economic and social landscape.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates such activity to contribute to the incomes of some 43 per cent of the African population.
But the sector has continued to face challenges, such as high transactional costs influenced by limited infrastructure, poor access to information along the value chain, limited access to financing, poor collateral aspects and investment risks.
Other multiple challenges include low adoption of enhancing technologies, which leads to generally low-level productivity; lack of alternative financing mechanism such as supplier credit; and, lack of clear linkages between SMEs policy and other Government ministries and advisory services.
Not to forget that just seven years ago, Standard Chartered Bank Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer Mikes Rees announced that an essential $38 billion is needed each year in infrastructure investment in Africa alone as the world turns to the continent as the next business frontier.
Mr Rees told local reporters in Zambiathat a report the bank commissioned on Africa showed there is massive job creating potential of Africa’s SMEs with over 400 jobs supported for every US$1 million of bank financing, more than double created in other sectors of economic growth, yet lack of credit is still a major constraint for those companies.
The second development policy measure anchors on the economy, which is a core issue, if not the most important issue during the next 10 years.
In this case, the economy and its diversity should be understood to be availability of essential resources – institutional arrangements, capital for businesses, food,infrastructure for economic development, cheap fuel, low inflation rates, low interest rates and a strong Kwacha, which has been among the sets of grievances put forward by the majorityof Zambians.
In addition, it also includes the new Government finding ways to intensify agriculture production while protecting the environment.
Emerging evidence suggests that in some cases, this has not been smooth sailing.
In every sense, millennial expectation of sustainable development implies a recognition of admiration for accountability, transparencyand defence of moraluprightness in society.
Therefore, the new Governmentmust,in every way possible, fight the clutches of corruption and abuse of office by government officials mostly.
This generally requires extensive exploration andapplication of the law and it requires people to have confidence in the wide pool of scientific and technological knowledge.
Understanding the convergence of these and many other fields and their implications is important for effective decision making.
Another component of policy direction is debt management or sustainability.
This is avery critical period for our country because past economic policies were based on borrowing loans from both the local and the international money lenders.
This massiveborrowing has compounded Zambia’s place in economic history and has brought the levels of debt in the country beyond our ability to serviceor let alone pay back the loans or recommend any variants.
Of all manifestations of national development, pertinent supply chain, logistics, transport and trade facilitation issues affecting the country, including the critical role of African ports and trade corridors, are important and need attention.
African governments, the international community, the Regional Economic Communities (RECS) and international money lenders such as the World Bank, have been pouring billions of dollars into logistics value chain projects, and other transport and trade facilitation infrastructure to deepen the vision of making trade and investment the main economic drivers on the continent.
A more radical alternative is for the new Government to continue working on comprehensive solutions that are evident in infrastructure development(roads,railways,telecommunicationssystem,development of freeports, trade zones) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) framework.
This will also help in subsequent development of tourism activities.
Notwithstanding the fact thatto efficiently achieve the abovegoal, it is imperative for the national flag carrier project, the Zambia Airways, to take to the skies once more after many decades out of action.
But it has to fly into a crowded aviation market in Africa where carriers have the weakest finances and emptiest planes compared to any region in the world.
On another hand, the State carrier will have to be operated on efficient and profitability terms, including the launching of commercial flights aiming to take a slice of the African aviation business that is dominated by Ethiopian Airlines, the continent ‘s success story.
It is not surprising that in August 2019, Uganda became the latest African government to pour money into a national flag carrier as well.
Tanzania and Senegal are also resurrecting their airlines, while the likes of Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Togo are expanding theirs.
To this end, the interplay between the two important dynamics (former President Edgar Lungu whose legacy is not entirely negative as some sections of the society might debate, and President Hichilema) will have to be themain pillar to locate Zambia’s remarkable development in the coming decades.
(The author is a journalist, writer, researcher and 2021 ICFJ award nominee, Southern Africa contributing editor for Pav African Vision Newspaper USA, contributing writer for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, United Kingdom and the Port Strategy Magazine contributing writer, United Kingdom. Contact him at email: safeworldmanagement @gmail.com or +260-974027029.)