Hakainde Hichilema (pictured above) is a very wealthy business magnate in Zambia who had sought the presidential seat 6 times before winning in this year’s election. Hichilema won with a margin of over one million votes beating the incumbent, now former president, Edgar Lungu, undisputably. Hakainde Hichilema was inaugurated in the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on the 24th of August. Hichilema is seen as a business-minded individual and many in the country, especially the youth, see him as capable of reinvigorating Zambia’s economy. As with all of Africa, a majority of Zambia’s population is under the age of 35, and Hichilema to them is exactly the kind of person the country needs to ensure a solid future for them.
Hichilema Expected to Undo Lungu’s Drawbacks
Hakainde Hichilema’s pursuit of the presidency was somewhat boosted by Edgar Lungu’s failure. Former president Lungu had been seen to heavily clamp down on dissent even going as far as to conduct surveillance in the University of Zambia. He also ran down the country’s economy, cozying up to the Chinese and letting them take advantage of the country’s copper, together with mining, its only substantial source of foreign income. Mr. Lungu, arguable a strongman, was also seen to be out of touch with the needs of the youth and failed to inspire them enough to get their votes. He was a president who did not seem to care enough about the plight of his people, the common people, and the youth, to ensure that he does all he can to bolster the country’s economy.
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From Cow Herder to President
Hakainde Hichilema, on the other hand, comes from rural Zambia and is seen as someone who understands what the people are going through and have been going through. As a success story himself, he is seen as someone who is rooted enough to do all he can to see the country’s economy changed for the better. Even in his home region, Monze District, Hichilema is respected as he is a cattle rancher in the region and has helped create jobs for the locals. He is seen as a man who has the charm and the wit to ensure that Zambia has a better future. Zambia’s election was lauded as a fair and credible one and was largely peaceful even as there had been some clashes. Edgar Lungu came out and conceded the election once Hichilema won, and set a good precedent, and did the noble thing to ensure peace. He even went as far as to call Hichilema his “brother”. In Africa and an African country, that is really commendable. Hats off to Lungu and we wish him the best.
A Huge Economic Challenge
Hichilema has a huge task in front of him and an economy such as Zambia, with a highly devalued currency, the Zambian Kwacha, will not be a walk in the park to turn around. He requires a mix of good governance, a halt to corruption, and a charm to inspire those around him to do good by Zambia’s economy. According to the African Development Bank, Zambia fell into a deep recession owing to the adverse effects of COVID-19.
A Call to Unite Zambia
Hakainde Hichilema will also be tasked with uniting the country and rolling back some of the injustices committed under Lungu’s leadership. For instance, Lungu’s regime had relocated a good number of Zambians to really low-standard and almost uninhabitable homes to pave way for Chinese projects. Those relocated had not even been compensated for their land. There have also been concerns that Lungu’s government allowed China and Chinese companies to take over most industries in Zambia, chief among them the copper industry, and mistreat workers. There were also concerns that Chinese copper refineries were allowed to emit dangerous chemicals to the environment. These, among many other concerns, will be in Hichilema’s in-tray and Zambians expect him to roll back some of the injustices of the past regime and weed out corruption. In an already reeling economy, corruption only comes in to stifle progress and even lead to more dilapidation for the citizens of a nation. We wish president Hichilema all the best and we hope he will do right by Zambia.