Lusaka, Zambia, 14 July 2022 (ECA) - United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Vera Songwe, delivered a public lecture on ‘Sovereign Debt, Growth and Channels of Transformation’ to over 200 students and academic staff of the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Economics on 14 July 2022. The lecture was organized on the margins of the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union in Lusaka, Zambia.
Ms. Songwe informed participants that since 2011, Zambia has moved away from relying on the multilateral lenders and the Paris club. She said the country’s top four creditors in 2020 included China, Private Sector bond holders, International Development Agencies and the United Kingdom. The ECA Chief noted, however, that Zambia’s debt stock increased from nearly 20% to about 125% of GDP between 2008 and 2020.
“We must, as a continent, focus on the rate of return on investment and bring more transparency to the use of debt to ensure successful debt restructuring. All creditors must participate in the dialogue and university students must engage in economic research on best practices on debt management frameworks that can contribute to accountability and sustainable growth,” said Ms Songwe.
In her remarks, Eunice Kamwendo, Director of ECA’s Office for Southern Africa, called on students to draw lessons from the lecture, stating “this lecture is an opportunity for us to reflect on the implications of national debt and its financing as we build a Zambian economy that is resilient to external and internal shocks, and explore debt management strategies that allow the country to prudently pursue socio-economic development "
Ms. Kamwendo said the lecture was timely as Zambia is making strides towards resuscitating the economy amid global shocks and challenges, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which greatly disrupted supply chains and constrained the fiscal space amid worsening debt burden.
The Chancellor of the University of Zambia, Prof. Anne Sikwibele, welcomed the lecture, organized by ECA in collaboration with the University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, noting that, "as a university we appreciate our place as a hub of youthfulness, the center of talent and innovation as well as "Single Window" for youth development.” She expressed appreciation for the collaboration and called on ECA to continue to broaden such interaction with academia.
Commenting on the importance of the lecture, the students and members of the ECA Young Economists Network (YEN), as well as members of the Zambia Youth Network for UN Agencies commended the ‘great learning experience’. “This allows us to be part of the conversation on how our economy is managed and to actively participate in efforts to reduce the national debt,” said Reuben Sapetulu and Tumelo Musole, UN Youth Association of Zambia.
In closing the lecture, Dale Mudenda - representing the UNZA academics - lauded Ms. Songwe for taking time off from the AU Summit to deliver the Public Lecture and, especially for including Zambian students in the conversation on debt management and economic recovery.
The Sub-Regional Office for Southern Africa
UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
P.O. Box 30647, Lusaka, Zambia.
Ms. Lavender Degre
Tel: +260 211 228502/5 Ext. 21307
DL: +260 211 376607