Mining is the dominant industry in Zambia. Many years of trying to develop competitive alternatives have now begun to bear fruit. The construction and food industries are growing, as is the tobacco industry and companies that engage in large-scale cultivation of cut flowers.
In addition to mining operations, during colonial times there was virtually no industry at all in Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia), as British colonial power chose to relocate factories to Southern Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe). Even today, the Zambian industry is almost completely dominated by the mining industry (see Natural Resources and Energy).
After independence in 1964, the socialist Kaunda government wanted to strengthen the manufacturing industry by protecting the domestic market from outside competition with the help of high tariffs. A number of state-owned factories were set up, which required state subsidies to survive.
When the more market-oriented Chiluba government came to power in 1991, many state-owned companies were privatized. During the 1990s, tariffs were also abolished on a number of imported consumer goods, which led to many Zambian companies going under. The textile industry was particularly hard hit by competition from cheaper imports and also trade in used clothing from the West. Industrial production fell and thousands of workers lost their jobs.
Since 1998, development has turned upward, especially for the manufacture of textiles, leather, food, beverages and tobacco, which a few years into the 21st century together accounted for 75 percent of the country’s total industrial production (mining industry not included). In 2013, the manufacturing industry contributed about a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) according to the African Development Bank.
- COUNTRYAAH: List of top trading partners of Zambia. Includes countries that imported most shipments from and exported most goods to the country.
The construction industry has also grown since the turn of the millennium. The industry benefits from the many efforts to improve rural infrastructure.
However, Zambia’s industry continues to face major problems: high transport costs are one, the prevalence of HIV / AIDS among professionals is another (see Social conditions). As the industry is heavily dependent on importing raw materials and inputs, it often suffers from a lack of foreign currency. The government has tried to alleviate this problem by lowering tariffs on raw materials.
The state of emergency is lifted
Justice Minister Lubinda informs Parliament that the state of emergency introduced after the unrest in July will be lifted at midnight on the night of October 12.
Demonstration against corruption
Police clash with about 100 protesters gathered outside Parliament when the country’s finance minister presents the 2018 budget. The protesters accuse the government of corruption and point to the purchase of 42 fire trucks for more than SEK 8 million each as an example of waste with state funds. A number of protesters are arrested and taken away by police.
No charge against Hichilema
Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is released since the state prosecutor’s office decided not to prosecute him for high treason (see April 2017). It happens on the same day that the trial of Hichilema would begin, a process that could have caused widespread political unrest in the country.
Detained opposition politicians released
Opposition politician Savior Chishimba is released by Lusaka police after a week in custody. Chisimba had recently publicly criticized President Lungu. Police say that Chisimba has been charged with defamation but that they do not intend to proceed with the case.
Exception laws are extended
Parliament extends the state of emergency by three months. This is justified by the need to strengthen security forces’ efforts against “politically motivated fires and vandalism against important electricity cables”.
The president faces an emergency permit for seven days
Zambia has been shaken by several fires that are suspected of being created, including the biggest market in Lusaka destroyed by a fire. Power lines have also been cut, causing power outages in some mining areas, and fires have erupted in several public buildings. Tensions in the country have risen since the opposition leader, the well-to-do businessman Hakainde Hichilema, was arrested in April and charged with treason. The wave of fires causes President Edgar Lungu to decide to impose an emergency permit for seven days. The opposition criticizes the decision they believe is to make it easier for the police to arrest opposition supporters.
Parliamentarians are suspended
48 MPs for the opposition party UPND are suspended from their missions for 30 days. They are being punished for boycotting President Lungu’s speech to parliament in March in protest of his disputed election victory. The President urges them to resign if they do not acknowledge that Lungu has been legally elected. In the meantime they are suspended, they must not enter the premises nor receive any salary.
Opposition leader Hichilema is arrested
Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who refuses to acknowledge President Lungu’s election victory, is arrested and charged with treason. The official reason for Hichilema being arrested again (see also October 2016) is that his high-speed vehicle column must have blocked the way for the presidential election when they were both on their way to a traditional ceremony in western Zambia. By his actions, Hichilema is said to have put the president in danger. Hichilema spends over four months in custody before being released in August.