Zambia Economic Outlook Gloomy as Cholera Outbreak Persists

Downtown Lusaka

Lusaka's Central Business District

Economic analysts have advised the Zambian government to put in place adequate measures to contain the current cholera outbreak as it may have a negative impact on the country’s economy.

Cholera, a deadly water-borne disease characterised by extreme vomiting and diarrhoea, which broke out in October 2017 in Lusaka has now spread to other parts of the country.

According to the Ministry of Health, cumulative cholera cases have now reached 2,148 countrywide, with Lusaka accounting for 2,091 of the cases and 51 deaths.

The government has responded swiftly by closing markets and banning street vending in affected townships, and suspending transportation of farm produce to the capital while some fast food outlets have also been affected.

This move has negatively affected many small business owners in the city.

On Thursday, authorities closed several food outlets in Lusaka after investigations revealed that their food had traces of vibrio cholera – the bacterium that causes Cholera.

While commending the government for the measures put in place, Yusuf Dodia, chairperson of the Private Sector Development Association, said the economic prospects may be bleak if the outbreak persists.

"Of course this is not good for business because there is no trading and if this continues, obviously it has implications," Dodia said.

He added that owing to the cholera outbreak, some neighbouring countries have put stringent screening measures on Zambian traders involved in cross-border trade which may also negatively affect the economy.

Chibamba Kanyama, a local economist, said the cholera outbreak should be treated as a real crisis that may result in an economic catastrophe.

"Very soon, the limiting of public gatherings will be extended to supermarkets. Should this happen, the impact on VAT collections by Zambia Revenue Authority will be lowest this month of January," he said.

According to Kanyama, the economic implications of the outbreak could not be underrated as the government has been forced to divert financial resources from other planned projects to contain the outbreak.

"This is certainly not a small matter that has in the past been about statistics of how many new cases and deaths. It is affecting the country, including the once safe and unaffected upmarket communities. It is a matter that requires urgent, effective, collective and vigorous national response," he added.

Government has disclosed some funds collected from Toll gates will be diverted to the fight against Cholera.

For the Zambia National Farmers Union, an umbrella body of farmers, the closure of Soweto Market has impacted negatively on farmers whose livelihoods depend on daily sales of fresh produce.

Jervis Zimba, the association's president, said farmers have lost out in monetary gains as tonnes of their fresh produce has gone bad due to lack of sales following the closure of the popular market.

"We are asking the government to set up a wholesale market space exclusively to farmers that would enable them to sell their fresh produce from 06.00 a.m. to 2 p.m. to avoid further losses," he said in a statement.

While lauding government efforts to contain the cholera outbreak, the farmers' body feels that the government should look into the plight of the farmers as their incomes have dwindled.