Zambia’s economy is in trouble and President Lungu decided the country needed a ‘day of repentance’

Zambia has been in trouble for a while now. As Africa’s second largest copper producer, the economy felt the pinch of the drop in global commodity prices. From soaring food prices and power cuts, to the Kwacha, Zambia’s currency, which has been tagged the worst in the world the country is in clear need for a plan to rebuild its economy. However, President Edgar Lungu, in dealing with these unforeseen challenges decided that in addition to creating a strategy, Zambia was in need of something more- God’s intervention. “Anxiety and distress prevail throughout the land “Indeed, hope seems to have deserted the minds of the people. It is almost as if the wise counsel of the learned among us are not a match to the crisis before us”, he said.

He declared Sunday, October 18 as the National Day of Repentance, prayers and fasting, urging all Zambians – at home and in diaspora- to ask God to revive the Kwacha.

In order to ensure the effectiveness of the prayer session, the government placed a ban on all entertainment activities and bars. In adherence to this order, the Zambian Football Association postponed all its games on Sunday.

Kwacha in deep trouble

In 2003, the kwacha made history as the first African currency to be made into polymer. However, it has been on the course to a downward slump since 2001. Bloomberg recently announced that the kwacha’s 45 percent slump against the dollar this year has been the worst so far. According to an analyst, the kwacha’s new low is credit-negative for Zambia as it will make foreign debt payments more expensive.

Mixed reactions over the day of prayers.

Some Zambians expressed support for the president’s realisation that the country needed divine power to solve national issues. They expressed hope that prayer would solve the nation’s mounting problems. For those taking part in the day of prayer and fasting, faith was expressed on Twitter with the hashtag #ZambiaPrays.

According to Bishop Simon, President of the International Fellowship of Christian Churches in Zambia,”God is a God of miracles and if we ask him, he will bless us and the kwacha shall be restored to its former strength and the prices of goods shall again go down.”

Although Christianity has deep roots in Zambia and about 80 percent of its population are Christian, not everyone believes that Lungu called the prayer session in good faith. In an Anglican priest’s opinion, it is all a sham.

“It is not surprising that they are calling for prayers because even thieves, armed robbers and murderers do their own prayers before they steal but you begin to wonder the God they pray to. When you declare a day of prayers, you must indicate your intentions. Why are you calling for those prayers? It’s very sad that people are now beginning to hide their atrocities behind God. They want to be seen as if they are godly people when in the actual fact, they are not.”- Father Richard Luonde.

Signs and Wonders?

After the prayers that were observed within the country and abroad by the Zambian missions in Malawi, South Africa, and Sweden, President Lungu declared -“Our God has heard our cries, He has forgiven us our sins and we are sure He will heal our country as we face serious socio-economic challenges.”

Many critics have called the prayer day a distraction and accused Lungu of not confronting the country’s economic troubles. However, some believe there was a sign from God; According to Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC), a bright circle in rainbow colours appeared around the sun at one of the prayer locations. The halo was interpreted by one of the pastors as a symbol that God wants Zambia to start afresh.

Way forward

Prayers and signs apart, financial analysts have advised the Zambian government should cut expenditure and pursue diversification programs to reduce reliance on copper.

Zambia is one of the top 10 producers of copper in the world. Over 70percent of export income is generated from copper and the sector employs over 50,000 people. However, copper is not the only natural resource the country is blessed with. They can invest more in agriculture and look into mining other minerals like uranium and tin.

Anna Rosenberg, Practice leader for Sub-saharan Africa at Frontier Strategy Group, a global research and advisory thinks “the government should boost investor confidence by being proactive and clear about reforms, spending less than they have been and emphasizing economic diversification dramatically.”

“They have got to send a very clear message that they are open for business and they understand the economic troubles.” She said.

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