‘We cannot simply parrot lines about how democracy is good for citizens. It must be felt. Democracy is delicate’
“A breath of fresh air”; “sensible”; “pragmatic” – this is how international investors have described Hakainde Hichilema – also known as HH – who became Zambia’s president in 2021. Under his leadership, mining in the country has attracted renewed activity from international miners. Some of the international mining firms include First Quantum Minerals, Anglo American, and more recently KoBold Metals, a Californian-based metals explorer, with millions of dollars of investments boosting Zambia’s state coffers.
Hichilema unfortunately has had to deal with numerous legacy problems created by his predecessors, such as an unstable tax regime and ever-changing mining policies. Investor confidence does not change overnight, and the initial promises he made have been slow to come to fruition. The positives of a Hichilema presidency, however, might be overshadowed after the seeming collapse of Zambia’s debt restructuring arrangements, which, despite being painstakingly negotiated for months, are at risk of derailing.
In June 2023, the Zambian government agreed that $6bn in debt be rearranged over a minimum 20 years with a three-year grace period. But the entire deal is at risk after the G20’s creditor committee rejected it on the grounds it breached the principle that no creditor should receive more favourable treatment than others. This is a blow to Hichilema’s efforts to undo the wasteful expenditure of his predecessor, Edgar Lungu. Hichilema’s image could also be tarnished by reports that he has been cracking down on political rivals. According to the Law Association of Zambia, his political opponents are increasingly being victimised. A case in point was the recent arrest of Fred M’membe, leader of the Socialist Party of Zambia and a former journalist, on charges of espionage
LIFE OF HAKAINDE
Hichilema holds a BA in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Zambia and an MBA from the University of Birmingham in Britain. His corporate career in the business world includes stints as CEO at then Coopers & Lybrand and later Grant Thornton. Hichilema is also a trained business negotiator, a qualified change management practitioner, and a former member of the Zambia Institute of Directors. Considered a self-made businessman because of his commercial cattle farming and investments in the country’s tourism sector, Hichelema became leader of Zambia’s United Party for National Development in 2006. He contested five previous elections between 2006 and 2016.