Below is a viewpoint from the Foresight Africa 2022 report, which explores top priorities for the region in the coming year. Read the full chapter on Africa’s economic recovery.
Brookings Africa Growth Initiative Foresight Africa 2022The year 2021 has been a landmark year for Zambia. Two important events occurred. The passing of the first president of independent Zambia, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, was mourned in June. Then, in the election in August 2021, the people of Zambia voted decisively for change.
I mention the passing of Dr. Kaunda because Zambia has strong roots. He was a person who sought to serve ordinary Zambians and, even if some of the policy decisions his party made did not have optimal outcomes, his intention was to place ordinary Zambians at the center of the country’s development.
Sadly, Zambia has not lived up to its promise. Over the last decade, we have witnessed the erosion of our economy and the corruption of our politics. As a consequence, our debt has risen to unsustainable levels, reducing the country’s capacity to invest in productive areas of our economy and its ability to address the gaps in health care, education, and other social services.
Our national budget has been overwhelmed by debt servicing, emoluments, and consumption, when there should have been greater room for investment and growth.
The scourge of corruption has eroded our much-needed resources including the debt itself, robbing us further of the opportunity for growth.
This slide towards debt, disaster, and dependency set our country on a bleak course.
Fortunately, the people of Zambia that decided to change direction and the election—notably under difficult COVID-19 conditions—saw a change of government and the opportunity for a new beginning.
Zambia’s transition is an example of Africa’s success in addressing its own challenges: The African Union played an instrumental role in ensuring our smooth transfer of power.
It was our third peaceful, democratic transfer of leadership since the advent of multi-party democracy three decades ago. It was an African success.
Notably, Zambia’s transition is an example of Africa’s success in addressing its own challenges: The African Union played an instrumental role in ensuring our smooth transfer of power.
This transition also sends a clear message that Africa embraces the right to democratic choice. It comes after the historic stand taken by the courts in our neighbor, Malawi, where a rigged election outcome was rejected, and new elections were successfully held in 2019.
In both these cases, it was Africans who held the election, contested it, and adjudicated on its fairness. We can say with pride that Africans own democracy on the continent.
The road ahead will not be without challenges but, with a clear vision and plan, and with relentless determination, we will deliver on the aspirations of our people.