Zambia swears in new president Hakainde Hichelima today

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Zambian will swear in a new president today in the person of veteran opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, after he won presidential polls of August 12 by a huge margin over the incumbent.

Hichelima beat outgoing president Edgar Lungu by a million votes, polling 2.8 million votes against President Edgar Lungu’s 1.8 million votes, achieving one of the biggest electoral wins in the country’s history.

Hichilema, a 59-year old businessman contesting the presidency for the sixth time, promised democratic reforms, investor-friendly economic policies, better debt management as well as “zero tolerance” to corruption.

While Lungu’s outgoing government embarked on large infrastructure projects, the spending resulted in a “huge increase in the country’s foreign debt portfolio” from around $2 billion to over $12 billion, political analyst Reginald Ntomba told the AP.

The opposition leader’s win was backed by young people, Ntomba continued, with “enormous expectations” amongst supporters for the incoming president to drive change and create more economic opportunities.

In the capital Lusaka, street food vendor Memory Zulu echoed this, complaining of the high value of the dollar and speaking of her desire for change.

Zambia recorded economic progress for more than a decade and achieved middle-income status in 2011, but now the country is beset by high inflation, high debt and allegations of corruption.

The COVID-19 pandemic hurt the already stuttering economy even further. Lockdown measures pushed Zambia into its first recession since 1998 and the economy contracted by 1.2%, according to the World Bank.

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