Analysis: JOSHUA BANDA
THE 35th president of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, during his presidential inaugural speech in 1961, said “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Growing the economy of a country is not just the responsibility of government alone but the citizens and stakeholders such as investors. No matter how minimal the citizens and investors’ contribution may seem to be, the fact is that the figures of GDP are adjusted upwards to signify growth. An old maxim says “half a loaf is better than none”.
First and foremost, we need to identify whether we import more than we export or vice versa. Largely, our main exports are copper and cobalt which we sell through the London Metal Exchange. The country also exports agricultural and horticultural products. Perhaps, the question might be, how much of these products do we export? Zambia as a country sits on approximately 752,618 square kilometres with more than adequate arable land. Zambia is a land-locked and land-linked country surrounded by its neighbours in all directions of the compass. Optimistically and economically, this translates into a readily available market for all products which this able country can produce.
There is need to take stock of what the country produces and earmark for export. How do we add new commodities to the list of exports and how do we increase the volume of the usual products the country exports? When the country increases its exports through the globally-demanded commodities, increased revenue will be generated and there will be availability of locally generated financial resources to finance various projects. There is need to further invest in different industries. With increased industries, there will be increased goods and services which the country will export, at the same time creating employment for the citizens and improved wages.
At the moment the country imports almost everything. This means that the country has to spend more and more by importing public goods and services in order to provide or deliver services to the citizens. On the other hand, we have consumers spending on goods and services as well as enterprises spending on capital goods for their operations. By virtue of importing numerous goods and services more than we export, the country is increasingly spending its financial resources and hence subtracting from the GDP, most likely creating a deficit.
The Government on its own, without the involvement, support and contribution of the general citizenry and all the stakeholders, may not manage to undertake all these activities very well. The country has various experts with technical and management know-how. This is what must be shared to advance the well-being of the nation.
Our forefathers put their heads together to gain political independence and now let’s all put our heads together to gain economic independence and reduce economic dependence. Various economic activities have the potential of leading the country to economic stabilisation and creating a relatively stable macroeconomic environment.
As we may all know, Government has made efforts to macro-economically increase the GDP by use of major economic fundamentals. The private sector can further augment this partnership with Government to enhance its collaborative relationship and boost the possibility of increasing local exports.
The country is evidently said to have vast water bodies. Aquaculture is one area of economic diversification to increase the product portfolio of local exports, which by the way leads to job creation and increased domestic revenue mobilisation. I remember, in this area, last year, plans were made to promote cage fish farming on Lake Bangweulu, Kariba, Mweru and Tanganyika and other water bodies in the country with a planned expenditure of K71.6 billion.
To a certain extent, in mitigating the effects of drought caused by environmental changes, the use of our water bodies must be enhanced to support the agricultural sector, which is said to contribute more than 20 percent to GDP and reduce overdependence on the rains, although we all know that rains can never be substituted entirely. I recall, in this vein, in 2018, Government planned to boost agriculture by way of introducing farm block models in Muchinga, Northern and Copperbelt provinces with the aid of a loan of US$40 million obtained from EXIM Bank of India.
The country should strive even in economic hardships to keep the economic pendulum clock ticking and grow the GDP even by 0.1 percent. They say, a journey of one thousand miles starts with one step. For sure, I do know that this country has great minds and expertise. Therefore, it’s time we put our hands together for economic liberation.
The author is former chairperson for Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Zambia.
Growing economy through diversified local exports
Analysis: JOSHUA BANDA