How a bug brought the world to its knees
Amb. Anthony Mukwita wrote from Berlin:
25th Feb 2021
The economic fortunes of the globe, and those of Zambia do not look good for next month or next year due to the adverse effects of the coronavirus according to experts.
Developments in Beijing, Berlin and Washington will inevitably dictate how Zambia eventually completes 2021 as you and I grapple with the dilemma of the bug.
Zambia, our beautiful country has not experienced this (current) rapid rise in inflation in a straight five months period in the last five years, until the pandemic slowed down the entire global economic machine.
Today we´re all global economic citizens and like dominoes, when one falls in Washington and Beijing, Lusaka catches a cold too.
Double digit inflation is something we are not used to but it’s something we might have to grudgingly live with for a while, as the bug rages on and the bat keeps flying away.
A February analysis in The Economist, the Zeitgeist of economic publications in my view gives some insight regarding what to expect on the global economic front.
The Economist says “high inflation” may emerge as a huge issue during the pandemic at the start of 2021 and beyond.
A headline article in The Economist starts by pointing attention to how the eurozone inflation rose at its fastest pace in five years due to the pandemic to America where, “some economists fear President Joe Biden’s planned $1.9trillion stimulus, that includes $1,400 cheques for most Americans (poor) struggling to survive, may overheat the economy once vaccines allow service industries to reopen fully and affect inflation.”
A global inflationary dawn is looming and we must prepare for it and come up with copping measures as global citizens.
In Zambia we are less economically equipped compared to those in the eurozone, America or China that ca print money despite facing the same challenges of illness and fatalities as a consequence of the bug.
However, we are more blessed to come out of the bug cesspool a better country and continent in my personal view and also based on my romanticism approach to life.
As a diplomat, I see our collective perceived weaknesses as a major collective strength we can weaponize to attract investment in organic food, which is scarce and expensive in the eurozone, America and China moving forward.
As the adage goes, “they thought they had buried me but did they not know I was a seed,” so must go the continent. We must rise above the ashes of the bug.
Me myself, personally, I won´t stop touting our 11.8 million square land largely arable as COMESA, the largest economic group in Africa with almost 1 billion people, mostly youths with a combined GDP of about $1 billion.
The AFDB and local banks could come up with a cluster or grants and soft loans for youths to invest in agriculture, IT etc because we must put our money where our mouths are and not wait for a foreign saviour.
If memory serves me right, we have not risen to the goat and swine challenge for the UAE and China yet or have, we?
China, the largest consumer of pork globally was last year set to eat about 40.3 million tons of pork, they are the largest pork producers on earth, but what they produce is not enough for their consumption needs.
Can you imagine if Zambia exported just 1 million metric tonnes of pork to China given the friendship we enjoy as part of a covid relief deal?
We could be laughing all the way to the bank.
We have a beautiful country well endowed with arable land and a great climate we must weaponize for the future and escape the throes of poverty after the covid pandemic.
The bug killed about 500, 000 people in America at the time I penned this essay, reportedly the largest number of fatalities that country has recorded surpassing two world wars and the infamous Vietnam war.
In Zambia, a combination of good leadership management and luck has helped us keep the numbers low below 1000 fatalities but the damage to the economy remains insurmountable.
Lets use the weak position the bug has forced us to negotiate better economic deals for the future generation.
Its heartening to note that its not all gloom and doom because various vaccines are now being administered and Zambia might get one under the COVAX initiative on Cabinet approval.
Under COVAX, at least 1.3 billion COVID-19 doses or vaccines will be made available to 92 lower income economies by the end of 2021, Zambia included according to reports.
Let the bug be the pandemic that saved us not the one that ended our life as we know it.
This personal essay was penned by H.E Anthony Mukwita, the Ambassador of Zambia to the Federal Republic of Germany who has a special interest in economic diplomacy.