Good Things Come To Those Who Wait
You may have noticed that we were quiet for a while. It’s not that we run out of topics, but our resources were stretched. We started a new venture, financing the mining supply chain and are just about to open our Kitwe office. We will get back to you on this soon.
As a keen reader of our posts, you also realised that we have always avoided political comments in our blog. This has led sometimes to internal discussions, re-writings and meandering around the point we really wanted to make – we did that because we are not politicians but investors, economists and business builders. Well, today’s blog cannot be free of political opinion. Zambia just elected a new president, Hakainde Hichilema. Congratulations HH after 15 years of being in opposition yourself and 23 years of United Party for National Development’s existence! This is a monumental victory. One needs to be living in a place like Zambia to appreciate the hurdles that must be overcome to win an election against the incumbent regime. From intimidation to imprisonment, rigging attempts and shutting down of information flow. HH and his team did an outstanding job, moved the campaign very much online to talk directly to the young population of the country. The median age of the population is below 18 years and I understand that 50% of the voters were younger than 35 years of age.
It was not that difficult to get a message of change to the people of Zambia. Fifty percent of people are living below the poverty line, retail prices have soared, public services are in a dire state, while very few at the top were living large. The legacy of the last ten years, of mis-managing the government coffers by over-spending, on the back of a heavily increased debt mountain, will be a treacherous path for the economic transformation agenda that HH is promising. But where there is a will there’s a way. In his party’s manifesto he points out areas of focus, such as improving governance and delivery of governmental institutions and strengthening the economy or managing the financial situation.
Less corruption and more efficient institutions will certainly make a massive difference to the way businesses on an individual level and the economy as a total can be run and managed. Fighting corruption is not straightforward though. It is institutionalised in many departments and in many functions. Smart Government could address these issues but that can’t be implemented overnight. Being transparent will make a huge difference to how the public will see government.
The economic recovery depends on areas such as tackling the debt mountain, strengthening the private sector, generating jobs, improving skills as well as providing a stable legal and policy environment in which companies can thrive and that can attract long-term investment including restoring the rule of law. In my view many of these points can be tackled and will be addressed by the incoming government, but it is obvious that this will take time. The longer-term projects are not a pressing matter in my view, the question is how to juggle all the short-term stakeholder expectations from day one of the new tenure. The balancing act is to keep voters happy, taxpayers alive, donors motivated, investors convinced, lenders engaged and the IMF invested. Short-term gains will be important but there are only a few low-hanging fruits that will make a direct impact to the daily lives of the ordinary Zambian. I hope for an open and transparent approach, a pro-active engagement with stakeholders, which I believe should make a massive difference in how the new government is perceived and how much time they will be given to implement mid- to longer-term changes. It will also be a crucial tool in building back the trust basis that has eroded over the last years and it will keep many more partners on HH’s side while he and his team will move Zambia.
I have no doubt that HH has the stamina to pull many of his election promises through. He stood six times for president before he won. Many people had written him off, he certainly did not. He’s starting his tenure with a lot of hope and expectations. I’m convinced that he’ll work relentlessly on getting Zambia back on her feet. We need to give him some time - good things come to those who wait.