Zambia’s developing international relations
7 March 2023
Zambia is central to a number of global concerns, including as a participant in the G20 Common Framework for Debt Treatments; as a democratic state and potential African ally for Western powers; and as a valuable producer of natural resources required for the global green transition. Since coming to power in August 2021, President Hakainde Hichilema has taken an assertive approach to Zambia’s international relations and retained the country’s tradition of ‘positive neutrality’ – which allows Zambia to proactively engage across global political divides. Hichilema has resuscitated relations with Western partners, especially the US and UK, and maintained Zambia’s important relationships with China and the African continent. New investments and development support from a diverse mix of partners, including Brazil, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Türkiye and the United Arab Emirates, illustrates the further expansion of Zambia’s relations. As a producer and a transit route for other regional mining deposits, Zambia is critical to the supply of minerals required for the global energy transition. Zambia aims to produce 3 million tonnes of copper per year by 2032 and use these resources to develop its economy. This will require significant international and domestic investment in infrastructure to transport the material, and a reduction of non-tariff barriers, such as border-post inefficiency. Beyond infrastructure, reviving the mining industry and supporting economic diversification will require tangible cooperation and collaboration between ministries, national agencies and companies across the region. The legitimacy of both the Hichilema government and international creditors will depend on much-needed economic reforms resulting in investment and concrete benefits for Zambia’s population. This will require structures and systems to strengthen the country’s capacity to absorb domestic, regional and international investment and development assistance. Combatting corruption is the first step towards ensuring that citizens have an equitable and sustainable stake in the nation’s strategic industries, especially mineral production. Zambia has the capacity to be a leader in its regional and international engagements, through the formation of alliances and lobbying blocs within international organizations. Strengthening domestic institutional development is key to demonstrating leadership on the global stage as it bolsters the investment environment, shows credible commitment to upholding agreements with investors and allays fears of resource nationalism.
southern africa managing natural resources africa programme investment in africa central africa east africa african union (au) energy transitions