Zambia to host economic forum this week
Livingstone, Zambia will come alive this week as almost 500 business executives, including President Lungu converge at the most important event on the Zambian calendar thus far.
A brain child of the Economic Association of Zambia EAZ under the stewardship of association president Dr Lubinda Habazoka, the event is expected to attract many top Zambian business executives plus others from abroad.
“We are expecting entrepreneurs and possible investors at the Economic Diplomacy summit,” Dr Habazoka said, “the response has been positively overwhelming it’s amazing how much interest Zambia apparently attracts both locally and abroad regarding business.”
President Lungu is expected to attend the conference on Wednesday.
Dr Habazoka, a Russian trained economist said the ‘success’ of the event is largely owed to the fact President Lungu gave it his approval, even since it has attracted influential foreign leaders such as President Kenyatta of Kenya, former President of Tanzania Mzee Jakaya Kikwete and South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki.
As a result of the high profile Presidents attending the event, Zambia can expect to get its fair share of international media attention this week, likely to shine light upon the country’s economic potential and preference as a top investment destination. Media giants such as Bloomberg, Reuters and BBC are expected to cover the event with of course local media such as Zambia Daily Mail, Daily Nation, ZNBC and the Times of Zambia.
EAZ has received wide commendation for putting together the vast business event. They have plans to expand annually, with the aim of increasing the numbers of heads of stated and business leaders attending it.
Dr Habazoka is keen for Zambia to become a haven for local and international investors. With him stating that he wishes the country to become the most fertile African country for investment, especially since President Lungu’s calls for diversification and value addition of products, rather than merely the exportation of raw materials. Zambia is Africa’s number two copper producer with the commodity being responsible for about 80 percent of all foreign currency receipts. However this is something President Lungu is keen to change drastically whilst he is in office.
Unfortunately recent events do not paint Zambia as an ideal country for international investment, despite Dr Habazoka’s claims. Although the country has been known internationally as a preferred destination for business due to it’s undisrupted peace of about 55 years, the tales in recent months of Vedanta have rattled international investors. The reality is Zambia and more specifically President Lungu, have stoked fears among international businesses about the rule of law after the government oversaw the placement of a mining operation operated by India’s Vedanta into administration with plans to sell it.
Since President Lungu consolidated power in a disrupted 2016 election, has become increasingly authoritarian. He has clamped down on critical independent media and civil society and embraced Chinese loans to pay for infrastructure. Whats more economic growth this year is expected to be at its slowest in two decades and Zambia’s debt, which has doubled to $10bn in the past decade, is edging close to default. The country exemplified fears that a Chinese “debt trap” on the continent will lead to Beijing scooping up assets on the cheap.
Considering each of these points it is hard to see how Zambia is set to become the “most fertile African country for investment.” However miracles can happen, so we look forward to seeing the outcome of the EAZ conference this week.