Kenneth Kaunda’s legacy and economic transformation of Zambia

(This is a transcript of the podcast posted on Monday, June 21st 2021. You can listen to the podcast by clicking on this link: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6N51Sqn8Jzs06kk8j47Owk?si=EQSpY52YSEmks9-Y-p0kFA&context=spotify%3Ashow%3A0iXz0YJU6dWxAxjKHCO8W8&dl_branch=1&nd=1)

Welcome to The Weekly Beat by Mansa with your hosts, Arnold Segawa, Maggie Mutesi, and Dumi Jere. Giving you all the info on Africa’s big finance and economic stories, The Weekly Beat by Mansa.

DUMI JERE:

Greetings ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Weekly Beat. My name is Dumi Jere and I’m coming to you from Johannesburg in South Africa. As always the ever so gracious, my beautiful sister, Maggie Mutesi is my co-host today. Maggie, how are you doing?

MAGGIE MUTESI:

I’m doing okay. I’ve seen that South Africa is back to level three with COVID-19. It seems like we’re not getting out of this cycle anytime soon, are we?

DUMI JERE:

It’s funny because I was actually having a discussion with someone and we were saying that until we are fully vaccinated, this is going to be the normal. We open the economy. We lock. We repeat, open, lock, repeat.

MAGGIE MUTESI:

It doesn’t look like the vaccines are coming soon.

DUMI JERE:

No, not anytime soon. So I guess until then we just going to continue encouraging everybody to mask up, sanitize, social distance that works.

MAGGIE MUTESI:

Social distancing. I think people are also getting tired of this, but there’s no way about it. I have seen Uganda has gone back into lockdown. Kenya has actually locked down some counties yesterday, proper lockdowns like the ones we saw at the beginning. Then we have South Africa here.

I saw a graph yesterday from South Africa about how the third wave actually is worse than the other two waves. This just left me aghast if that’s what it is, that something’s got to be done about this situation.

DUMI JERE:

It’s literally the same across Southern Africa, even in Zimbabwe, even in Zambia and speaking of Zambia, that’s our topic today. This past week we received sad news that H.E. Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s founding president and liberation hero, passed away at age 97 in Lusaka at the military hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia. Now obviously when you’re icons like President Kaunda are you always leave a legacy that is debated by people. Some will look at you in good light. Some will look at you in bad light. And so obviously they’ll always be up for a lot of debate.

MAGGIE MUTESI:

First of all, it’s a very sad story. It’s saddening news for the continent. He’s one of the independence revolutionaries, the only one who had remained, so it hits hard. But there are so many things to remember about guys like Kenneth Kaunda, guys like Patrice Lumumba, the likes of Julius Nyerere. I mean, these are guys that got Africa to realize that it needed its own independence.

If you read about Kenneth Kaunda, they say he got Zambia independence without any bloodshed. He was a peaceful man who just like many others, wanted the best for his country. Of course, there are lots of things to debate. We have debates even when presidents have achieved a lot economically.

I think one of the things for me that he’ll be remembered for is away from just getting Zambia independence was also helping Africa realize that it could get different partners that are away from just the West. And we’ve seen that he was the first African country to welcome the Chinese into their economy, like different partners away from the colonialists. And I think it’s another realization that countries are getting to realize now, but before we get into that, he will be missed.

DUMI JERE:

Yeah. I mean, obviously it is very sad. He was the last of we call them the stalwarts, Julius Nyerere, Samora Machel and all of those prominent frontline states leaders. And so he will definitely be remembered obviously for liberating. And there are some reports that say that the country sort of subsided or did not develop economically because he focused more on liberating Namibia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and all the other countries that were around him. So that’s why I was saying earlier on that sometimes obviously the legacy will be debated, but I want to touch on something that you said, you mentioned the Chinese element.

MAGGIE MUTESI:

Yeah, him opening up to the investments.

DUMI JERE:

And Zambia now it finds itself in a very tricky situation where it owes over $3 billion to Chinese entities in total of $12 billion external debts. And while Chinese presence is visible all over Africa, no way as much as in Zambia. China has invested the most in that particular country. Will Zambia be able to pay back all of these debts? Not to take away from some of the things that the Chinese have done. I mean, obviously there’s always a question of human rights and so forth, but they’ve invested heavily in the mining and industrial sectors and the agricultural sectors.

On the one end, it almost feels like the Chinese presence is a form of neocolonialism, but on the one hand you’re like, okay, but perhaps the investment’s coming. But what we can’t deny though is the fact that Zambia as an institution finds itself in a tricky position now where it owes a lot of money to the Chinese. And so it’s looking at any and every angle to try and boost its economy. And one such thing that it has done is the Kazungula Bridge.

MAGGIE MUTESI:

I was reading about it and seeing the potential it has to connect the Southern African countries in terms of trade. But I don’t know much to be honest. I know that it’s linking Botswana and Zambia over the Zambezi River, it’s about $259 million. I know for sure that there’s a lot of connectivity in the southern part of Africa and Eastern Africa. I don’t know, I think much more than the cost in terms of infrastructure, because I know you can connect from South Africa to Mozambique.

There’s a lot that has gone in terms of infrastructure that has also uplifted trade in the SADC, but from what I’ve read, they say that the facility will help traders from both countries move significantly. And of course it cuts down on the time spent by traders and freighters. And you know what’s funny Dumi much as we are talking about this bridge, I think it’s become more visible over the years that infrastructure is one of the key factors to growth across the continent. We have seen bridges like this in The Gambia Bridge.

DUMI JERE:

Yes, yes. Between Senegal and Gambia, yeah.

MAGGIE MUTESI:

Yes. And the amount of trade it has transformed between the two countries, but also regionally has been really massive, much as I don’t have the numbers. Because you can imagine if you have to pay $500 to fly to a country that is just 30 minutes away or take a ferry that takes a couple of hours, that might not be as safe to get to a country that should be actually 30 minutes away if there’s a road, then it comes back to the economics. Why not connect both countries with proper infrastructure or a bridge, a road that connects them?

So I think there’s a chance. It seems like a very massive project for both countries. It seems like it would dramatically reduce the time of moving goods between the countries. And it might be a game changer for trade, not just for Zambia, Botswana, but for countries within that region. I think Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

So it’s just not two countries, but it’s an entire region that could be transformed with just that investment. And we are talking about ACFTA, which we say is supposed to open up markets, but how do you open up markets if there’s no infrastructure to support the traders? Because it is okay we have opened up, I mean, it’s limiting especially the African traders also considering this is a continent relying massively on informal trade, I mean, on agriculture. You have to move the goods to markets, you have to have proper infrastructure to be able to trade with each other. So I think there is progress

DUMI JERE:

Yeah. Back in the day, the only smoothest way to get goods and services as well as people as well from South Africa into the rest of the SADC region was through Beitbridge and that saw Beitbridge being overwhelmed and congested and trucks delaying days upon days of delays which ended up costing the respective companies or the countries that are moving goods between the respective countries.

So the introduction now of Kazungula bridge will likely relieve some pressure of Beitbridge and over and above all of these being good for investment in trade and good for regional integration efforts as well as what you mentioned in the AFCTA, I think also for tourism. We’re talking about the confluence in both Zimbabwe and Zambia that we’re talking about Chobe that’s in Botswana, Zambia’s famous national parks. So the potential now to then boost that type of ecotourism offer is huge.

It’s very big and it will definitely benefit from a greater demand to nature and conservation destination. So it’s a good thing. And no doubt is going to boost the economies of Zambia as well as Botswana and by extension the rest of the region.

MAGGIE MUTESI:

What is quite exciting is to see how leaders in Africa are coming to the realization that infrastructure plays a key role in connecting these countries. Because I know when we read a lot of times, they’ll say, oh, there is no political will. And this is what we’ve seen in countries like Central Africa where you have to go through other ways, like connecting is usually hard. So it’s a good thing to see that there’s steps taken especially in some regional blocks and something like this should be a reminder to even other regions of what could be achieved if just a little bit was put into infrastructure development.

DUMI JERE:

I agree. And I think in just rounding it up, yes, leaders now have to work together. When you look at this bridge, it was a project for Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. But when you look at, call it the launch of the bridge, pretty much Botswana and Zambia were at the forefront. And this is because Zimbabwe pulled out of the project under former President Robert Mugabe who felt that it was going to reduce traffic through the country’s lucrative Beitbridge border posts with South Africa, but he saw the need to still be involved, which is a good thing. It doesn’t make sense for one economy to be the only one that is thriving while the others are not.

So if there are opportunities for all economies to work together to thrive, that will be great. And that’s something that President Kaunda would be known for, uniting the region so that they all get independence. I think that’s where we’re going to live it for today. Thank you so much Maggie, I really appreciate, and the team behind the scenes, as well as of course you the loyal listeners.

Please remember to visit our website, mansamedia.africa for news, and also in case you missed anything during the week, as well as follow our social media pages, Mansa Media Africa on Facebook, and @mansa_media on Twitter. Please follow our podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts or Amazon Music so that you are notified whenever a new episode goes live. I am Dumi Jere, yes to peace and profits.

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