Allow us to start by congratulating His Excellency Mr Hakainde Hichilema (HH) for being elected as the seventh president of the Government Republic of Zambia. His perseverance, resilience and focus speak a lot about his vision for mother Zambia. I hope most of us have learnt a lesson of life, that if you have a vision, it is not how many times you fail; all you do is pick up your pieces and continue with your journey to the promised land.
In his election speech, His Excellency referred to the analogy of a cow. Allow us to unwrap this analogy in the context of economic development. Technically, for a cow to produce milk, it has to be fed, vaccinated, treated, dewormed and given all other necessary husbandry and animal management practices. In short, it has to be cared for. If it does not receive these, it becomes sick and eventually dies, meaning that the farmer will not have milk for consumption and to sell to raise income to meet other household financial needs. The result is poverty, which leads to many other problems. Let us unpack this with regards to the economy that HH has inherited.
The election of HH as the seventh president of Zambia means that he has rescued a very sick and very weak cow. The “cow” was not being fed properly for the past ten years of the Patriotic Front (PF) Government. The cow is presently very sick and weak and in need of “food”. The animal scientists and veterinarians who run an important standalone Ministry, which is key in national development, have examined the cow and assured HH that he could save it if he finds enough money to buy food for it.
Remember that this cow does not belong to HH himself but the Republic of Zambia; thus, he cannot save it using his own money. The solution is that all Zambians must contribute money to buy food for the cow to give them more milk, which all citizens will then share equitably. The only way to get this “food” is for all the people to work extra hard despite the country currently having some of the worst and frightening levels of unemployment through engaging in economic activities, and registering their small businesses and making sure they pay their taxes on time. No business is too small to contribute to this food basket.
Additionally, we would like to point out that the weak cow that HH has rescued is also “pregnant” and will give birth in a short while, at which time the nation can get milk from her, provided we leave enough for the calf. It is important to note that the cow is currently dry, and the nation cannot expect to get milk straightaway. Once we as a nation begin to feed this cow, she also needs to put her reserves firstly into the maintenance of her own body, and secondly into the pregnancy, knowing that she will benefit more from this pregnancy in the future (by gaining a calf a well as milk).
However, the good news is that if every Zambian works exceptionally hard and pays their taxes, then our cow will thrive, and investors will go on to give us many other pregnant cows to also look after (providing even more milk for the citizens of Zambia). These “other cows” are other investments that will come our way.
Ladies and gentlemen, the “cow” in this analogy is the economy of Zambia, which is currently “weak” and in recession, characterised by the high foreign exchange rate, high cost of living, high cost of doing business, unconducive business environment, and high debt burden etc. The PF inherited an economy growing at a rate of over 7% from the MMD government, but they have managed to have it contract by over -9%, leaving the country in a total mess. From an economy cruising at 7% in Financial Year 2008-2011, growth slowed down to -2.8% in the Financial Year 2019-2020, the highest economic decline since Zambia started measuring these macroeconomic indices.
The “food” that the cow (economy) needs is the economic activities that you and I need to engage in to resuscitate the economy. The president has promised a conducive environment for work and business, but the rest is up to us. This is against the current status of massive unemployment coupled with widening inequality, which oversaw an explosion of social misfits in the name of “party carders.” The president should also be cognizant that over 9 million Zambians slid back into squalor and poverty under PF, with the burgeoning middle class that emerged during the MMD era being obliterated as it shrunk into oblivion.
The “milk” from the cow in the analogy stands for the goods and services that we produce and consume in the country. The UPND government is promising economic growth (GDP) of 10% per annum. Gross domestic product is the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services produced within the country in a specific period. This projection of 10% will NOT be possible if you and I do not engage in economic activities to produce goods and services and if we do not reveal these economic activities to the government by registering as taxpayers and telling ZRA on a monthly basis how much we are contributing.
If we produce many more goods and services, we will have more to consume locally and export to our neighbours in the region and world. The export of our goods will lead to an influx of more foreign exchange, which will make our Kwacha stronger against major currencies such as the United States dollar. We will then have enough dollars to import goods such as fuel, which we do not produce locally. The free healthcare and education that we seek is actually in our hands because these things are the milk that the cow will produce after we feed it.
The “pregnancy” in the cow analogy can also be seen as an investment into reserves for future use. More economic activities will mean more money in the reserves for future use (and a healthier calf on its way to being born). This well-cared-for cow, regularly giving birth to new calves, means that we will be able to pay our domestic and external debts ($12 billion), which the previous governments have acquired. Over a few years, Zambia will then be free from debt with stable macroeconomic indicators, which are conducive for business.
When the economy grows, becomes economically stable, and demonstrates good governance, we will get more investor confidence, which will attract more local and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). This will lead to even more goods and services, and each one of us will have adequate resources to acquire all of our needs and wants, and our country will become a middle-income country by 2030, as highlighted in the Vision 2030.
Finally, we will proudly shout, BALLY HAS FIXED IT! In closing, we call on all people in Zambia to be part of feeding the cow so that we all can have access to plenty of affordable milk.
Chisoni Mumba is Senior Lecturer of Livestock/Animal Health Economics at the University of Zambia, School of Veterinary Medicine. Email: email@example.com, Mobile: +260977717258
Amy Cantlay Kingdom is a Private Veterinary Practitioner and Commercial Farmer in Mkushi, 0966898910