President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has for nearly 15 years faced tremendous huge challenges relatively to many other African presidents but has performed pretty well.
Joseph Kabila in 2001 inherited a country that was split by war into three zones and almost all its neighbouring states had been dragged into it. Joseph Kabila made huge compromises and within a year there was relative peace in most of the regions – apart from in the eastern provinces and Katanga where several militia remained active.
In 2001, the economy of Congo was in very poor state: Inflation was high, there was no GDP growth, the currency was hopeless, and infrastructure was in desolate condition. Today, despite the low global copper prices, inflation is lower, the Congolese franc has been stabilised, and sectors such as telecommunications, construction and infrastructure are doing pretty well. Congo is today producing more copper than Zambia.
For 2015, we reckon with a higher GDP growth rate for Congo compared to Zambia. Similarly, the other economic fundamentals will be favorable for Congo. Of course Joseph Kabila has still a lot to do; poverty levels have to reduce, the economy requires diversification, peasant agriculture needs more policy support and economic governance systems have to be improved. However, the bigger picture is that Joseph Kabila, has achieved what no other Congolese President has managed, to stabilize the economy and achieve relative peace. This is good news for Zambia.
As Zambians are anxiously looking forward to 2016 and the year’s possible implications on their lives, it is appropriate to keep the region’s geo-political context in sight. Zambia is today showing all signs of a deep social, economic and political crisis. A stable and supportive regional environment is therefore critical in moderating the deepening crisis in Zambia. Out of all the neighbouring countries, developments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will have a huge spill-over impact on Zambia. The DRC has become one of Zambia’s biggest trading partners and the projections are that the economic ties will continue to grow over the next decade. Social and political ties will also continue to grow. A politically stable and economically strong DRC is what Zambians wish and support.
Apart from this explicit economic and political self-interest, the greatest majority of the Zambian people directly migrated from the Congo starting from 500 B.C. until as late as 1800 A.D. The DRC is a great part of our historical roots and Zambians have an emotional attachment to DRC (or Kola).
But it is becoming apparent each day that Joseph Kabila is under siege. The pending 2016 elections are slowly providing a platform for all sorts of criticism and demands from all over the world. We hope the President will continue making informed decisions in the interest of the Congolese people as he has done in the past. A democratic and political stable Congo is also in Zambia’s interest.