A Tightening Balancing Act: Economic Implications of Zambia's Balance of Payments Performance

International trade, development and investment are primary drivers of globalization. In 2014, Zambia’s trade openness – in terms of total monetary flows on all export and import transactions combined – was estimated at 79.6% of GDP while the total (cumulative) stock on inward FDI was 66.5% of GDP. The recent economic headwinds in Zambia and abroad motivated this review of the country’s external position relative to the rest of the world. This paper highlights the changes in the balance of payments (BOP), a key tool for monitoring Zambia’s economic performance vis-à-vis the rest of the world. The balance of payments shows that Zambia’s financial transactions with other countries in the world, recording the flows of money into and out of the economy through a number of payments accounts. Checking the economy’s balance of payments position offers useful insights about its external sector’s health. In a sense, the monetary flows through the balance of payments reflect Zambia’s net dependency on the rest of the world. The context of the analysis in the paper is about the economic malaise of 2015. The paper thus demonstrates that the economic debacle of 2015 is not an unfamiliar experience for Zambia. It draws on the country’s recent economic history, identifying parallels between the past and the present. It seeks to offer guidance to policy-makers, towards fostering cost effective and reliable responses to the external balance challenges. Particularly, the paper analyses the fundamental elements of Zambia’s balance of payments, describing their recent behaviour and highlighting some of the main drivers of imbalances in the different payments accounts. It recommends measures for correcting some of the imbalance in the balance of payments, seeking to contribute to the improvement of the external sector’s performance.