Diplomacy: Zambia’s resilience, story of the bad, good and ugly


RECENTLY, I read an article in the widely followed and hugely respected Times Magazine discussing what it called ‘Good News

from Africa’.
As a writer and a student of a progressive Africa, I found the article to be a fresh breath of literature compared to the bad news of graft, disease and conflict that so often dominates the western media. Countries like Zambia have been victims of the peddlers of bad news but the narrative is ostensibly changing and the negative stereotypes fading.
The Times article, perhaps because of my Master’s degree thesis entitled: The perception of Africa in the Western Media: The Zambian Case Study, interested me a lot.
My thesis may have been penned a long time ago but my argument that most of the negative things that occur in Africa equally occur in the Western world remains valid.
The difference in my argument was, still is; the Western media has a stronger and wider influence than the African media, hence the negative stereotypes stick like a tick on Africa more than it does on the West.
That is why when I saw ‘Good News from Africa’, I was greatly refreshed with the well-researched information, encouraging facts and statistics to back the Good News story.
Many African countries, including Zambia, today have promising demographics, says the Times. These demographics mean Africa will account for more than half the youthful population by 2050.
This increased population fact is a plus because Africa will account for more than half the world’s population growth by 2050.
By 2100, Africa’s population will have quadrupled relative to today, as much of the developed world’s workforce will be shrinking, Africa’s will be expanding, meaning countries like Zambia will be ripe ground for skills and labour hunters in the ever-expanding economic world, says Times.
The research also shows that urbanisation rates for African countries such as Zambia, currently at about 37 percent, is comparable only to China’s and larger than India’s, which is good because a huge population means a bigger market and bigger demand, especially if it is put into productive use.
So, for instance, if a Zambian musician like JK produces a record, he would become an instant millionaire if a million Zambians bought his record at only K1 compared to selling, say, 10,000 records at current low population levels.
Even though the Bible says the poor shall always be among us, Africa Development Bank studies show that Zambia and other African countries have an increasing middle class.
These people can now be spending between $4 and $20 a day and by 2060, more than a billion Africans are expected to join this growing middle class and Zambia is in tow according to statistics.
Stability on the continent is ever on the rise, according to studies, since the end of the Cold War with the number of armed conflicts falling from a scary more than 30 to about a dozen currently.
Having given the glowing continental picture, I am drawn back to the motherland, Zambia, where the situation, according to local and international pundits, is equally shining.
My best example is a recent article by the all authoritative Bloomberg News entitled: Copper Trumps Politics as Investors Take Shine to Zambian Assets.
In this informative and uplifting article, Bloomberg News states that despite the negative perceptions that some so-called think tanks have been trying to portray about Zambia and indeed a heightened attack on President Edgar Lungu, the economy has remained resilient and is defying the odds.
“Investors are overlooking Zambia’s political risk and buying the nation’s assets as the price of copper, its biggest export, rises. The southern African nation’s currency has appreciated 12 percent against the dollar in 2017, making it the continent’s best performer after Mozambique’s metical. Copper prices are at their highest in more than two years,” the article goes on.
The above read side by side with last week’s major economic update by Finance Minister Felix Mutati piles up the good news that Zambia’s sponsored protagonists do not want to hear.
They want to give the proverbial dog a bad name and then kill it but it seems to be blowing back in their faces as the southern African country’s economic resilience continues to grow under the strong stewardship of President Lungu.
Investors continue to beat a path to Zambia and if Mr Mutati’s statistics are anything to fall back on, Zambia’s shine may rise further if we hold tight and shame the doomsayers.
What are his statistics below telling us?
• Zambia’s projected economic growth rate of 4.3 percent for 2017 remains feasible.
• This is pushed by observed growth in the major sectors of agriculture, mining, construction, transport and storage, and the wholesale and retail trade.
• Increased electricity generation will also contribute to this positive perspective and, hopefully, support growth in other sectors of the Zambian economy.
• Budget deficit for 2017 will be maintained at budgeted levels of around 7 percent.
• The inflation rate as at end June 2017 was 6.8 percent down from 7.5 percent in December 2016. This reflected stability in most food items and in the Kwacha against major currencies.
• As at end of June 2017 the exchange rate of the Kwacha per US dollar was K9.25.
The adage is that numbers do not lie, and in my view this positive story of Zambia’s steady path to growth must be encouraged and repeated as much as possible in our economic diplomacy and local discourse.
Good news will eventually drown out the negative story being peddled by mercenaries at a huge expense in international media through advertorials as they push their own business agenda.
This is because it is always dark before the sun rises, but Zambians have an opportunity to tell their own good story instead of feeding on negativity because, as we all know, there is no such thing as a perfect country.
The great Zambian story must be retold as we look at the glass as half-full and not half-empty.
The author is Charge d’affaires at the embassy of Zambia in Sweden.

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