Thoughts about Zambia

I’ve only been in Lusaka few hours, and of all the adjectives to describe it, I really didn’t think I’d be reaching for this one first: green. Looking out the airplane window, the sheer greenness stretched for miles in every direction. It was like peering down over Galway in Ireland. Ok, minus the clouds, cliffs and sheep.

I guess what I find so extraordinary about the green is what it says to me about Zambia’s economic potential. This is not desert, swamp or jungle, but a country of lush, fertile land. And yet, tragically, it remains one of the poorest places in the world, ranking 163rd out of 179 countries in the UN human development index.

Zambia’s biggest industry by far is copper. It is, in fact, Africa’s largest copper producer. But the need for a more diverse economy is a theme that comes up again and again. With copper prices on the ropes (they have more than halved since the start of the downturn), it may really be the time for the government (and investors) to take agriculture more seriously.

Over the next couple of days, my colleague, Komla Dumar, will be exploring the factors that have kept investment out of the sector. He’ll also be profiling one Zambian company that is becoming a regional farming powerhouse. So listen out.

As I say, I’ve only been here a few hours, but something tells me I’ve already seen the future – and it’s green!

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