By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
ZAMBIA’S economy registered growth in the first quarter of this year for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2019, mainly driven by the agriculture sector.
The Zambian economy kept a recovery trend since the second quarter of 2020 when growth hit its minimum at -5.9 percent.
This is according to the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) researcher Mataa Wakumelo.
Mr Wakumelo indicated that the growth was driven mainly in the agriculture, forestry and fishing, financial and insurance and Information and communication industries.
He said after registering negative growth rates throughout 2020, quarterly Real Gross Domestic Product growth ‘bottomed out’ to 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2021-about 1.1 percent shy of the 1.8 percent target growth rate in the 2021 National Budget. “The agriculture sector was among the top three sectors that contributed to positive economic growth in the first quarter.
“The country recorded a total production of 3, 620, 244 metric tonnes of maize in the 2020/21 farming season, a 7 percent increase from the previous 3,387,496 metric tonnes,” Mr Wakumelo said in Lusaka during the launch of the CTPD Mid-Year State of the Economic Brief.
For the first half of 2021, he said, economic activity started on a positive note as growth ‘bottomed out’ to 0.7 percent after contracting by 3 percent in 2020. Mr Wakumelo said inflation over this period averaged 22.83 percent, about eight percentage points higher than the 14.47 percent recorded over the first half of 2020.
He also indicated that domestic revenue generation increased and surpassed target amounts, but so did public expenditure, thereby yielding a fiscal deficit of about K9.6 billion.
“The Kwacha per United States Dollar exchange rate averaged K22.01, representing a 31 percent depreciation from the K17 recorded over the first half of last year.
“The trade balance improved, substantially as the trade surplus increased to K42 billion relative to the previous K13 billion,” Mr Wakumelo said.