Heaven help Zam­bia

Financial Mail - Investors Monthly - - Late Trades - Pic­ture: iS­TOCK


Nh­lanhla Nene missed a trick dur­ing this month’s mid-term bud­get pol­icy speech. A few weeks ago, al­most all of Zam­bia came to a halt as ev­ery­one was urged by pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu to take part in a “na­tional day of prayer” to re­vive the econ­omy.

There’s no dis­pute that the coun­try is re­ally strug­gling. It re­lies heav­ily on cop­per, but the com­modi­ties rout as well as the woes of Glen­core have hurt Zam­bia so badly that its cur­rency has fallen nearly 50% against the dol­lar, re­ports Reuters.

At the same time, elec­tric­ity short­ages have in some cases lasted up to 14 hours at a stretch. Zam­bia’s elec­tric­ity crunch has puts Eskom’s 4-hourly load-shed­ding sched­ule (mer­ci­fully ab­sent for some months) in per­spec­tive. The power prob­lem is due to er­ratic rain­fall, which led to wa­ter short­ages at Zam­bia’s hy­dropower plants in Kariba and Ka­fue Gorge power sta­tions. The so­lu­tion to Zam­bia’s “anx­i­ety and dis­tress”, ac­cord­ing to Lungu, is prayer. So soc­cer matches were can­celled, res­tau­rants shut, bars weren’t al­lowed to open un­til 6 pm, and ev­ery­one knelt down to plead for an eco­nomic re­vival.

Lungu be­lieves it will work. “Since we hum­bled our­selves and cried out to God, the Lord has heard our cry,” he said on the day. It re­mains to be seen whether it works, Prayer is an un­con­ven­tional tool that seems to have largely fallen out of favour in other eco­nomic min­istries, where re­spon­si­bil­ity for fis­cal man­age­ment is seen as a hu­man duty.

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