One group of people who stand to benefit significantly from the AfCFTA are women, particularly those involved in trade. Women have long played an important role in the economic development of Africa, with many engaged in small-scale cross-border trade. However, women have historically faced significant barriers to participating in formal trade, such as lack of access to finance, limited business skills, and discriminatory laws and regulations.

The AfCFTA has the potential to address some of these barriers and promote greater participation by women in formal trade. For example, the Agreement includes provisions to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers, which could make it easier for women entrepreneurs to access markets and grow their businesses. Additionally, the AfCFTA establishes a protocol on the free movement of people, which could help women traders to move more freely across borders and expand their business networks.

Moreover, the AfCFTA recognizes the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment for economic development. The Agreement includes a chapter on gender, which commits signatory countries to promoting women’s full and equal participation in the economy, including in trade. This chapter also calls for measures to address gender-based barriers to trade, such as discriminatory laws and regulations, and to support women entrepreneurs through access to finance, business development services, and other forms of support.

However, while the AfCFTA holds great promise for women in trade, there are also challenges that needs to be addressed. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of data on women’s participation in trade, which makes it difficult to design effective policies and programs to support women traders. Additionally, the informal nature of much of women’s trade means that they may not be able to fully benefit from the provisions of the AfCFTA, which are designed primarily for formal trade.

Another challenge is that female entrepreneurs face challenges in accessing finance, including high-interest rates, collateral requirements, and limited access to financial services. Governments and development partners can support women’s access to finance by creating targeted financing mechanisms, such as credit guarantee schemes, microfinance programs, and venture capital funds.

To address these challenges, it is important for governments, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to work together to collect data on women’s participation in trade and to design targeted interventions to support women entrepreneurs. This could include initiatives to provide women with access to finance, business training and mentoring, and other forms of support to help them grow their businesses and participate more fully in formal trade.

In conclusion, the AfCFTA represents a significant opportunity to promote greater gender equality and women’s empowerment in trade in Africa. By reducing trade barriers, promoting free movement, and addressing gender-based barriers to trade, the Agreement has the potential to support women entrepreneurs and promote greater economic growth and prosperity for all African nations. However, to fully realize this potential, it is important for stakeholders to work together to address the challenges facing women in trade and to design targeted interventions to support their participation in formal trade. By doing so, the AfCFTA can create new opportunities for women entrepreneurs and traders to grow their businesses, create jobs, and drive economic growth on the continent. Women’s economic empowerment can also help to reduce poverty, promote gender equality and create more inclusive societies. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that women have access to the resources and support they need to participate fully in the AfCFTA and the wider economy.

Since the piloting of the Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme in Kalomo in 2003, the programme has gained momentum and has shown strong positive impacts on the livelihoods of beneficiaries, particularly women and children who make up a significant section of the vulnerable in society. The programme has been scaled up over the years, growing from a target of about 700,000 beneficiaries to over a million. With the support of cooperating partners, Government has been implementing the programme to address high levels of vulnerabilities among key populations. These interventions are aimed at reducing the multiple vulnerabilities faced by the most destitute and incapacitated households in society to meet their basic needs, particularly on health, education and food security.

Over the years, an array of programmes have been added and are being implemented alongside SCT, providing an additional layer of social protection options to adequately respond to the vulnerabilities of various groups targeting different forms of vulnerabilities. A more recent pilot, targeting pregnant women, lactating mothers and children below the age of 24 months with the support from UNICEF in Western province is being implemented as part of the Cashplus Programme to improve nutrition in the first critical 1000 days. About 1,723 mother households have been targeted in Kalabo district of Western province and beneficiaries for this project receive K400.00 plus a nutrition top up amount of K150.00, bringing the total to K550.00 bimonthly while beneficiaries who are already on SCT receive a nutrition top-up of K150. Initiatives such as these, when implemented alongside SCT, play a pivotal role in reducing the multiple layers of vulnerability and expanding protection for the most marginalized Zambians.

Further, the impact on households receiving SCT is immense. An impact evaluation carried out between 2010 and 2014 found that the cash transfers improved all socio-economic indicators: schooling, health, general well-being, possession of shoes and blankets, and the regularity of meals. It was revealed that families were able to meet PTA fees, access health services and improve food security and nutrition (afford more than one meal per day). Findings from the Auditor General’s Report on Social Cash Transfer for the period 2014-2017 also indicate that SCT has helped with increasing the number of households owning assets such as bicycles, beds, chairs, radios as well as improved their dwellings from roof thatched houses to iron roofs and concrete blocks. Similarly, household assets had increased due to investment in small livestock such as chickens and goats from, which families could sell to send their children to school. Households were also able to hire labour for tilling their fields. In addition, it has been observed that there is a multiplier effect of the transfers in communities, adding between 49 and 69 Ngwee in value to every Kwacha transferred. Through spill-over effects, the SCTs have been instrumental in strengthening communities through improved social cohesion as households become actively involved in community economic activities. Beneficiaries are also able to contribute to the growth of their local economy, in that purchases for basic needs are made within their communities.

In view of the socio-economic benefits that the programme has demonstrated, there is need to strengthen this impact by providing an adequate legal framework that enshrines social protection as a basic human right to conform to a right’s-based approach in order to align with best practice through the enactment of social protection legislation that makes social protection justiciable. Countries such as South Africa and Kenya have enshrined these laws in their Constitutions, thereby making social protection a basic right that can be demanded by any citizen needing social protection and is justiciable. In the case of Zambia, social protection has been institutionalised and integrated in policy through the National Social Protection Policy and National Development Plans, however, citizens still cannot hold any office bearers to account for failure to implement these policies as is the case in South Africa. Therefore, law reforms surrounding social protection should be focused on aligning to best practice in order to adequately improve the livelihoods of the vulnerable in society.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a flagship project of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which is a blueprint for attaining inclusive and sustainable development across the continent over the next 50 years. The Agreement creates a single market for goods and services among African countries, with the goal of increasing intra-African trade and boosting economic growth. However, for the AfCFTA to reach its full potential, significant investments in infrastructure are needed.

Infrastructure is a critical ingredient for economic development, and Africa faces significant infrastructure deficits. The African Development Bank estimates that Africa needs to invest $130-170 billion per year in infrastructure to meet its needs against its annual investment of $60-70 billion per year. The AfCFTA can play a significant role in addressing this infrastructure deficit by providing a framework for regional cooperation and investment.

Infrastructure investments are needed in several key areas to support the AfCFTA. First, transportation infrastructure is essential to connect African countries and enable the movement of goods and people. This includes investments in roads, railways, ports, and airports. Improved transportation infrastructure will reduce transportation costs, making it easier and cheaper for businesses to trade across borders. It will also increase access to markets, opening up new opportunities for businesses in remote areas.

Second, energy infrastructure is crucial for economic growth and development. Energy infrastructure, including power generation and transmission networks, is critical to the success of the AfCFTA as it enables businesses to operate efficiently and effectively, particularly in sectors that are energy-intensive such as manufacturing and agriculture. Reliable and affordable access to electricity is essential for businesses to operate and for households to improve their quality of life. Investments in renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, can help Africa meet its energy needs sustainably and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Another important enabler of the AfCFTA which is becoming increasingly important for economic growth is digital infrastructure. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital connectivity for remote work, education, and commerce. Investments in broadband and mobile networks can help connect people and businesses across Africa, creating new opportunities for trade and economic growth. Digital connectivity can also help businesses access new markets and customers, reducing barriers to entry and promoting competitive intra-regional trade across African countries.

Finally, investments in social infrastructure will be essential for building human capital and ensuring that people can participate fully in economies. Social infrastructure refers to facilities and services that support the well-being of individuals and communities, such as healthcare, education and housing. Investing in social infrastructure is necessary to ensure that the benefits of increased trade and economic growth are shared widely and that no one is left behind. For instance, providing accessible and affordable healthcare services can improve workforce productivity, while investing in education can equip young people with the skills needed to compete in the job market. Thus, social infrastructure investments will be critical in ensuring that the AfCFTA contributes to sustainable and inclusive economic growth across the African continent.

The AfCFTA can help create demand and mobilize investments in infrastructure by providing a framework for regional cooperation and investment. The Agreement includes provisions for trade in services, which can provide opportunities for businesses in the infrastructure sector to participate in cross-border trade. The AfCFTA also establishes a framework for investment, including the establishment of an AfCFTA Investment Forum to promote investment in the region.

However, significant challenges remain. Financing infrastructure investments is a major obstacle, and many African countries face significant debt burdens. Corruption and lack of transparency can also hinder investment and make infrastructure projects more costly. Addressing these challenges will require strong political leadership, sound governance, and effective institutions. In conclusion, infrastructure investments are critical for realizing the full potential of the AfCFTA because it plays a key role in enabling trade. By investing in infrastructure, Africa can unlock its potential and create a more prosperous future for its people.

On the 17th of April 2023, President Hichilema signed into law the National Pension Scheme Authority (Amendment) Bill of 2023, which allows for the partial withdrawal of pensions. This legislation marks a significant milestone in Zambia’s social security system, as it provides more flexibility for contributors to access their pension savings. This article highlights the implications of the amendment on partial withdrawal and its potential impact on the pension scheme and the Zambian economy.

The law now facilitates the withdrawal of a portion of a contributor’s pension savings before reaching the retirement age of 55 years. The new legislation permits partial withdrawal for contributors who have contributed to the scheme for at least five years (at least sixty contributions). The amount that can be withdrawn is limited to a maximum of 20% of the total balance, and the contributor can only make one partial withdrawal.  This is a significant point to note – the one-off nature of the withdrawal places a responsibility on the contributor to ensure that use of the sum withdrawn is for their maximum benefit.

This legislative reform is a significant development in the social security system as it provides contributors with more flexibility and control over their pension savings early in their work life. The ability to access a portion of their savings before reaching retirement age can be beneficial to contributors – use can be applied to financial needs, such as medical emergencies, education expenses, or housing needs. Further, partial pension withdrawal can serve as a source of capital for individuals who wish to start or expand their businesses. This will invigorate and promote entrepreneurship and business development, leading to the creation of new jobs and ultimately economic growth. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are often considered the engines of economic growth, and access to pension funds can provide a valuable source of income for such enterprises.

The NAPSA (Amendment) Act of 2023 on partial withdrawal has potential implications for the pension scheme and the economy of Zambia. On the one hand, partial withdrawal may lead to a reduction in the total amount of savings that contributors accumulate over time, which could impact the sustainability of the pension scheme. However this is subject to further analysis over time. On the other hand, partial withdrawal may encourage greater compliance to the scheme, as it provides citizens’ with more flexibility and control over their savings. This, in turn, could increase the pool of pension savings and potentially stimulate the economy by providing more long-term funding for sustainable investments.

Furthermore, the NAPSA (Amendment) Act on partial withdrawal is consistent with global trends in social security systems, where there is a move towards greater flexibility and customization for contributors. Countries like South Africa have already introduced partial withdrawal options in their pension schemes, and Zambia’s move in this direction is a step towards aligning with global best practices. The introduction of partial withdrawal may also improve the overall perception of the pension scheme among the public, as it demonstrates a willingness to respond to the needs of contributors.

In conclusion, Government’s signing into law of the NAPSA Bill on partial withdrawal is a significant development in the social security system of Zambia. The legislation provides contributors with more flexibility and control over their pension savings, while also potentially stimulating the economy by increasing the pool of pension savings as well as individual citizen’s investment into various economic ventures that could spur job creation and improve household incomes. The introduction of partial withdrawal is consistent with global trends in social security systems and demonstrates a commitment to improving the overall perception of the pension scheme among the public. However, careful monitoring of the impact of partial withdrawal on the sustainability of the pension scheme is necessary to ensure its long-term viability.


By Alice Pearce (PMRC Senior Researcher)

In Zambia, the mining sector is the largest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and one of the major employing sectors. However, the sector only accounts for about 7.8% of women against 92.2% of men; this is according to Zambia’s 2020 Labour Force Survey. Despite the considerable environmental and economic benefits of inclusive participation of women in the sector, such as income generation and participation in the management of natural resources, many women continue to be exploited either informally or in its auxiliary sectors with impediments for women to penetrate. Factors such as education and stereotyping of women have been identified as major gender barriers. In other similar fields, low women’s participation is evidenced in the construction and energy sectors.

The emergence of organised Artisanal Small-Scale Mining (ASM) poses an opportunity for better participation of women in the mining industry. However, they tend to earn only one-quarter of what men earn in the ASM sector. In addition, women do not enjoy the same opportunities around access to, control over and benefits from artisanal mining in their communities.

A myriad of challenges negatively impacts women, such as inadequate technical skills, the cost of obtaining mining rights and related fees, limited access to financing, exploitative pricing of minerals as well as negative cultural norms and beliefs. These challenges are mutually reinforcing in nature in that various factors converge to impact women differently depending on their socio-economic status. For instance, women with inadequate access to financing are unable to meet the costs attached to obtaining mining rights which also makes their mining activities vulnerable as they operate outside the legal framework where formalisation strategies have little impact on their productivity. Similarly, they are less likely to have greater negotiating powers over their minerals, thus, limiting their potential to expand and reap the benefits of the sector. Inadequate technical skills and lack of access to geological information is also a major barrier for women to penetrate the sector and improve their financial capacity since geological information is crucial in developing bankable business proposals that can be avenues for funding. This calls for policies that promote women’s economic empowerment and inclusion.

The ASM subsector has the potential to drive economic growth, alleviate poverty, and contribute to development. As a new focus is being placed on income-generating opportunities, women can be involved in the various stages of the mineral value chain. The sector presents an opportunity for locals to own their minerals and engage in mining activities since ASM rights are reserved for local citizens as espoused in the Mines and Minerals Act of 1995. However, many of these activities remain undocumented and underdeveloped. Therefore, there is a need to map formalisation strategies. Similarly, there is a need to redefine the ASM subsector through the development of stand-alone legislation and directorate to adequately support the subsector’s growth.

Notwithstanding the various challenges, there are growing opportunities for women to tap into non-traditional minerals such as aggregate, flat stones and pebbles, among others which are relatively easy to identify and extract. Value addition in ASM is also able to create more jobs for women and youth and encourage innovation for mineral processing. A key example is in the jewellery and artefacts industry. The processing of minerals for value addition is a critical component to increase revenue generation and derive economic benefits for women beyond ASM activities. Therefore, there is a need to increase opportunities for women to earn income through value-added livelihood opportunities beyond ASM, which is directly linked to reducing poverty in artisanal mining communities. Thus, investments in processing centres such as the Gemstone Processing and Lapidary Training Centre are a critical aspect of the promotion of value addition of local minerals.

Finally, in order to advance women’s engagement in the sector, there is a need to improve access to financing and machinery necessary for productivity as well as build capacity and improve access to critical information such as geological information. Similarly, there is a need to support the formalisation of these activities in order to account for women’s contribution to the mining sector as well as extend financial and technical support to these ventures. In addition, there is a need to encourage cooperatives and joint ventures among women-led initiatives in order to facilitate economic development among women capable of contributing positively to the growth of the Zambian economy.


By Emmanuel Mumba – PMRC Research Assistant

The economic prospect for Zambia is in recovery mode, having experienced a wave of financial and economic deterioration in the last decades, which, together with the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that saw the country default on its Euro bond payments in 2020. The World Bank projects the economy to grow by 3.8% between 2022 to 2024. Critical to this projection which forms the basis of this article, include; a stable macroeconomic framework, predictable mining regime, positive copper price outlook, improved balance of payments and trade openness.

It is well documented that Zambia is comparatively located geographically. However, the country has not advanced itself to realise this potential. Against this background, the government has embarked on an economic agenda to reconfigure the country’s growth framework and has identified regional economic linkages as critical drivers. Among other economic linkages is the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Development Corridor, a market topology linking Namibia, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The significance of this development corridor is that Zambia already enjoys favourable trade balances with Namibia and DRC. Therefore, this lays a proper foundation for the country not only to scale up its trade volume with the two countries but also extend its footprints beyond Africa. However, critical to this depends on how the country essentially leverages its stable macroeconomic framework to attract the much needed private sector investment necessary to scale up production in the manufacturing value chain. The Foreign Private Investment & Perceptions Survey (2021) revealed that political stability and good governance environment are major determinants of the private sector investment influx in Zambia.  Further, the expended trade volume prospects will also depend on how the country leverages its agricultural potential. Empirically, aside from having favourable weather conditions suitable for a variety of crops, Zambia accounts for about 60% of natural water bodies in southern Africa, thus, making it better positioned to circumvent different acute climate patterns on crop productivity through irrigation schemes as compared to other countries in the region.  Further, the unfortunate food insecurity in the DRC establishes a natural demand for the country’s agricultural outputs, for which the supply has remained low.

Zambia exported US$1.35B to Namibia in 2020, representing a 37.7% annualised rate increase from US$2.24M in 2000. The major products included Raw Copper at US$1.15B, Refined Copper at US$126M, and Electricity at $46M. Meanwhile, Namibia exported US$226M worth of merchandise to Zambia, translating to about 28.2% annualised increase from $1.58M in 2000. The main exports included Non-Fillet Frozen Fish at US$70.9M, Acrylic Polymers at US$35.3M, and Steel Bars at US$32.1M.  Regarding trade directions with the DRC, Zambia exported $952M worth of products to that country (about 15.4% annualized rate increase from $26.6M in 1995). This included Sulphuric Acid at US$96.9M, Copper Ore at US$87M, and Quicklime at US$66.7M, among others. Similarly, the Democratic Republic of the Congo exported US$372M to Zambia in 2020 (about 20% annualized rate increase from US$3.88M in 1995).  The main products included Refined Copper at US$290M, Copper Ore at US$65.9M and Cobalt Oxides and Hydroxides at US$8.13M.

Therefore, for the country to fully harness and expand its export volumes with Namibia, DRC and beyond, as mentioned earlier, PMRC urges the Government to continue on a policy trajectory of maintaining stable macroeconomic frameworks for the private sector to flourish. In turn, this will advance the investment attractability of the country in key sectors such as mining and manufacturing.  Further, agricultural comparativeness, which the country enjoys, should be utilized and buoyed with increased investments in crop productivity and irrigation schemes.

By Alice Pearce – Senior Researcher at PMRC

In a bid to address the high unemployment levels in Zambia the Government has been implementing a number of empowerment programmes, particularly those under the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Arts, Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare, the Department of Gender, Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission and more recently, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, among others, targeted at supporting the economic empowerment drive of the women and youth. These programmes are aimed at fostering job creation and economic growth through entrepreneurship as a vehicle. These programmes also provide citizens opportunities to participate in the growth of the economy by accessing capital to invest in viable business ventures.

Although the empowerment programme initiative is commendable as it supports innovation and entrepreneurship which are the critical pillars for economic growth and social and economic inclusion, notable challenges have been observed in the effective management and accountability of empowerment funds to derive real economic benefit to the beneficiaries as well as the government at large.

Therefore, financial literacy has emerged as an essential pre-requisite for effective and efficient management of the funds accessed by beneficiaries venturing into businesses under the current empowerment programmes. Not only will enhancing the financial literacy of beneficiaries increase the sense of ownership within beneficiaries of the funds, it will equally enable them to fully take control of the opportunities available to them and guarantee their businesses to be self-sufficient. However, findings from the 2020 FinScope survey indicate that a significant amount of the population experience low financial capabilities with financial inclusion recorded at 71.2% for men and 67.9% for women. This has been attributed to low levels of financial literacy which is largely skewed towards the urban population at 31.9% and 16.2% among rural households. Hence, limited financial literacy remains a major barrier for the successful implementation of economic empowerment programmes in order to transform the economic outcomes of ordinary citizens.

It is crucial to note that empowerment should not only be about access to seed capital, it should rather focus on providing a comprehensive programme that is sustainable by giving more power to beneficiaries through education, information, coaching and counseling, as well as amplify the possibilities to get or create a job or business, access micro-credits and ICT networks in order to inculcate business values in the beneficiaries, particularly for those who are not typically familiar with running a profitable business. Further, enhancing relevant trade skills has the potential to make beneficiaries competitive in their respective fields in order to maximise profit margins. Hence, Government is urged to consider integrating these aspects into the current empowerment programmes.

Furthermore, there is need to create guidelines that clearly identify eligible candidates through a robust mechanism that seeks to provide tailored mentorship and training programmes of candidates to actualise their business proposals. At the onset of the empowerment programme, eligible beneficiaries should be taught financial literacy courses before fully embarking on their investments as this will form the basic foundation for the success of the programme. Similarly, building the capacity of candidates in requisite financial, negotiation, marketing and product development skills is necessary to effectively achieve the goals of empowerment programmes.

Moreover, enhanced financial literacy skills will enable beneficiaries to effectively track their expenditure and balance their income with expenditure which is critical for assessing the profitability of the venture. By embedding basic business management practices and principles into the current empowerment programmes will enable candidates to understand the basics of business management and develop their competencies to generate and sustain their income while improving the sustainability of the empowerment programmes, particularly in the case of revolving funds were beneficiaries need to pay back loans. Equally, for funds accessed as grants, beneficiaries need to account for the funds in order to achieve the goal of the programme that has a multiplier effect which should trickle down to improved quality of life of the beneficiaries and direct economic benefits within the community as well as the local economy.

In addition, when beneficiaries of empowerment programmes are financially literate, it can be expected that there will be a general motivation to access formal financial services in order to expand their businesses as they will be able to have balanced and well documented business transactions. Therefore, there is need to facilitate linkages between financial lending institutions and beneficiaries of empowerment programmes in order to improve financial inclusion through technical assistance that relevant financial service providers are able to give to the beneficiaries. This will also nurture the skill of saving and growing the savings of the business which is critical for the evolution of the business from one of empowerment to that of self-sustainability.