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Key findings
  • Nearly two-thirds of Zambians (65%) see the country as heading in the wrong direction
  • Economic issues rank high among the most important national problems identified by citizens and dominate reasons that one in four Zambians have considered emigrating.
  • Six in 10 Zambians (60%) describe the country’s current economic conditions as “fairly bad” or “very bad,” a sharp increase from 36% in 2013.
  • A similar proportion (62%) think the current administration is performing poorly in managing the economy, an increase from 35% in 2013.
  • Almost half (46%) of Zambians describe their personal living conditions as “fairly bad” or “very bad,” an improvement from 2009 but considerably worse than in 2013.

For a decade, Zambia had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies: Between 2004 and 2014, the gross domestic product (GDP) averaged annual growth of 6.7% (Index Mundi, 2017). In 2011, the World Bank reclassified Zambia from a low-income to a middle-income country (Guardian, 2011).

But according to the government’s 2015 Living Conditions Monitoring Survey Report, poverty levels have consistently remained above 60% (Central Statistical Office, 2016). In rural areas, three out of four persons (75%) are poor.

Then economic growth dropped by more than half in 2015 and 2016, to just under 3%, as copper prices fell, power generation was reduced, and the value of the kwacha declined to unprecedented levels before rebounding slightly in early 2017 (Index Mundi, 2017; Trading Economics, 2017).

In Afrobarometer surveys, Zambian citizens’ perceptions of the country’s economic situation and their personal living conditions follow a similar trend. After reaching a record high in 2013, positive assessments have dropped back to more typical economic dissatisfaction by the majority. Citizens cite economic issues as the country’s most important problems and are largely critical of the government’s performance in addressing them.

Gugu Nonjinge

Gugu Nonjinge is a researcher.

Andrew Turnbull

Andrew D. Turnbull is a political science student at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, U.S.A.