Prior to the independence of Zimbabwe and Zambia, the two countries were part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which also incorporated Malawi. This means that the economies of the two countries were intertwined, to an extend run as one economy. Fast forward to the post-independence era, the two Southern African countries formed several binational organisations to drive economic activities along the two countries’ border lines and beyond.
The organisations run and jointly owned by Harare and Lusaka include the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) and Emerged Railways Properties (ERP).ERP owns and runs properties such as the Victoria Falls Bridge, the Victoria Falls Hotel and mineral rights in countries such as South Africa.
On the other hand, the ZRA superintends over the Kariba Dam and is currently implementing the Batoka Hydro Electric Scheme on behalf of the two neighbours.
In terms of trade, the two countries are pals. According to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade Zambia’s exports to Zimbabwe were US$101.07 million during 2020 while Zimbabwe’s exports to Zambia were US$52.56 million during the same period pointing to strong business ties.
Products on Harare’s exports list to Lusaka included cement, paper, iron and steel, tobacco, plastic, electrical and electronic equipment while Lusaka’s export list to Zimbabwe had oil seed, oleagic fruits, grain, seed, fruits, cereals, iron and steel, cement beverages, spirits vinegar and others.
Between 2011 and 2020, Zimbabwe’s exports to Zambia have averaged about US$60 million annually while Zambia’s exports to Zimbabwe hovered around US$150 million during the same period.
In addition, Zambia and Zimbabwe recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to implement a joint industrialization project spearheaded by COMESA Secretariat. The Joint Industrialization Project will promote self-sustained, balanced and inclusive economic growth between the two countries. It will provide opportunities for the private sector to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area through enhanced competitiveness.
The two countries also are the backbone of the north-to-south corridor which links Durban in South Africa and the rest of Africa.
Together with other Southern African countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia are also members of the Southern African Power Pool, Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market for East and Southern Africa, Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) and others.
This said, it will be gross misrepresentation for anyone to dream that either of the two countries can go it alone without the other. It can only be a narrative that is peddled by detractors that hate development and regional integration.
For the benefit of the people of Zambia, the newly elected President Hakainde Hichilema would want to further strengthen these binational bodies and deepen economic ties for the benefit of those that voted for him. He would love to see trade between Zimbabwe and Zambia growing into billions of dollars and have numerous joint industrialisation projects during his tenure in office.
Hichilema might be from the opposition trenches, yes, but for the benefit of the Zambian people on the economic front he has no choice but to work with Zimbabwe and other regional countries within SADC and beyond.
Anything to the contrary the United Party for National Development (UPND) will be isolating its self from the region cutting its stay in power. Zambia needs Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe needs Zambia; its nature it cannot be changed neither do any machinations by any opposition political party can change this permanent status quo.
In a first in the region, Hichilema’s party invited leaders of opposition parties in the region, Nelson Chamisa included attend his inauguration. The purpose of the invitation was push Government and opposition political parties to work together for the benefit of their respective countries. This is an indication that opposition parties in the region should be patriotic, they should not call for sanctions on their Governments; they should work for the development of their countries so that citizens don’t suffer.
Cleary, Hichilema is already drifting away from opposition to national politics. Failure by opposition political parties to notice this transition will lead to their demise. Watch this space!!
If Hichilema is pledging to work with opposition political parties what stops him from working with political parties in power?
It might not be received well by people from other quarters because of various reasons; Zambia has little or nothing to gain from regional opposition parties especially on the economic front hence need for the New Dispensation in Zambia to collaborate with Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries.
Congratulations and all the best to UNDP.