In Further Pursuit of an IMF-Programme: Possible Pathways for Zambia and Lessons for Africa

Since 2015, Zambia’s real GDP growth has declined markedly, its local currency has depreciated notably with episodes of serious volatility, and the risks of fiscal and debt distress have mounted. As the country searches for solutions, one viable international economic diplomacy instrument might be the IMF. Since its creation in 1945, the IMF has fostered global monetary cooperation, secured financial stability, international trade, high employment, sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction, mainly through: lending, surveillance and capacity building. Zambia has been pursuing an IMF-supported economic programme since about 2016, but with dismal success. In contrast, other economies like Ghana and Zimbabwe appear to be making headway. Key questions emerge from the foregoing: what does the evidence say about the relevance and significance of an IMF-supported programme for Zambia? Why has the country’s recent quest for an IMF deal failed? Does Zambia have feasible pathways to an IMF deal? This paper tackles these issues using simply descriptive statistical analysis, stylized facts and a political economy lens. We highlight a number of specific pathways that Zambia could follow in further pursuit of an IMF-support programme.