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Zambia should improve accountability – World Bank

THE World Bank says while Zambia is “a very stable, peaceful country”, there is need to improve its record of governance and levels of transparency and accountability. Meanwhile, finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe says Zambia’s undersized human capital index worries her, so much that: “I want to go under the table and hide.”

During the launch of the World Bank Country Partnership Framework (CPF) 2019 to 2023 at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday, CPF senior operations officer Hellen Mbao explained that Zambia’s partnership framework was approved by the World Bank’s Board in February this year.

She said in all the World Bank member countries, Zambia included, “we have an engagement plan that we follow.”

“We start with the systematic country diagnostic (SCD) which is like an analytical piece of work to inform how we are going to be supporting each country. Once that’s done, then we do the country partnership framework. In Zambia, the SCD was done for the most part of 2017 [and] it was published in March 2018,” Mbao said.

“Just to mention that the country partnership framework for Zambia is from this year to 2023. It (CPF) was jointly developed with the government, in particular Ministry of Finance and Ministry of National Development Planning because the bank is actually supporting the government’s priorities.”

She said Zambia’s systematic country diagnostic was “underpinning,” as it informed stakeholders its analytic work: “for us to understand what’s happening in the Zambian economy.”

“They (economists) will always tell us that Zambia, for more than two decades, has been growing for more than seven per cent. But even after that growth, we still have a lot of poor people around Zambia. The SCD was trying to inform us on why is that the case for Zambia. What can we do better, is the question. What are the underlining characteristics that were identified by the systematic country diagnostic?” Mbao noted.

“[They] were that we depend so much on extractive-based growth; it’s the copper. [When] the copper prices are high, we celebrate [but when] they are low we have pain. There’s uneven territorial development; we talk about the rural/urban divide.”

She said there were more poor people in the rural areas than in the urban areas.

“Of course, that’s not to underestimate the deep pockets of poverty in the urban areas. Zambia, of course, is a very stable, peaceful country,” Mbao said.

“But we’ve been talking about the need to improve governance, the need to improve transparency and accountability. So, those are the underlining characteristics about the Zambian economy and these are challenges to the growth itself.”

World Bank country manager Ina Ruthenberg later highlighted how significant the CPF was to Zambia’s developmental agenda.

She reiterated that: “there are still very high levels of poverty in Zambia, particularly in the rural areas.”

“So, we have designed, together with the government, a programme to be focused on this. Any travel around Zambia…. The levels of poverty that we visibly see…. The evidence [of poverty] is quite shocking,” Ruthenberg said.

“So, we really made a big effort to design this CPF around the challenges, around the rural economy. The agriculture is the engine, of course. We need health, educated people.”

She said women were a hub of inclusive growth and that the World Bank was keen on seeing their sound socio-economic state in Zambia.

“Evidence around the globe shows that to invest in women and girls doesn’t affect only those women and girls [but] it benefits the entire family, the community, the entire country,” noted Ruthenberg.

Mwanakatwe indicated the CPF is going to be transformational in many areas.

The minister, however, stressed that the education and health segments mattered most, for her.

“The most important segment, for me, is the education piece. That is absolutely critical for us; two things – health [and] education. [On] education, we have a lot more to do. When I’m told that my human capital index is where it is today, I want to go under the table and hide. We cannot continue with the stuntedness that we have as Zambian people; we need to educate our people,” said Mwanakatwe.

“We need to educate that girl who is getting pregnant at a very early age. Can we ensure that they go back to school. We need to reduce the stuntedness because when that brain grows, this economy will benefit. So, education is absolutely critical.”

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