COVID-19 takes toll on Zambia’s economy

Man disinfecting surfaces in Zambia. PHOTO/AP
Workers disinfect the Zambezi market in Lusaka, capital of Zambia, May 15, 2020. (Xinhua/Martin Mbangweta)

As the world battles COVID-19, the pandemic has taken a huge toll on Zambia’s economy.

Following the outbreak of the disease in the Southern African country, the government imposed various measures which also ended up hurting its economy.

For instance, the closing down of the Victoria Falls, the country’s main tourist attracting site, resulted in a slump in tourism, forcing the government to reopen it.

In ordered to ascertain the real effects of the pandemic on businesses, the Zambian government commissioned a study which was meant to assess the real impact of the pandemic.

The survey, commissioned in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), was also aimed at providing evidence-based data to inform government on the necessary measures required to help businesses respond during and beyond the pandemic.

Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Christopher Yaluma said during the launch of the report that the report also focused on understanding the possible socio-economic repercussions in order to propose policy recommendations aimed at mitigating the impact on the economy.

“It is my expectation that the report has generated sufficient information indicating the areas that need improvement in terms of policy interventions for private sector development,” he said in the preamble to the report.

UNDP Zambia Resident Representative Lionel Laurens said the United Nations in Zambia is ready to assist in identifying committed technical and financial partners to join the efforts to mobilize the required expertise and financial resources that could be used to design and implement some critical recommendations of the report.

According to the findings of the report, the pandemic has adversely affected business operation with 71 percent of respondents, indicating that they were partially closed while 14 percent of businesses were totally closed.

The education, transport, catering and accommodation sectors were impacted particularly hard compared to others, with 85 percent of organizations working in the education sector reported to be completely closed, the report added.

However, the report indicates that the majority of enterprises are determined to continue their operations by adhering to the new normal requirement during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The businesses believe that it is of uttermost importance for government to come up with policy decisions that will support the business environment to economically re-activate business operations.

As of Sunday afternoon, Zambia had reported 1,895 COVID-19 cases and 42 deaths, according to data from the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.