Brannen and Sheehan-Connor (2012) argue that savings groups have the potential to facilitate access to financial services in remote areas where formal financial services may not exist. Moreover, members can borrow up to three times their savings if funds are available, while interest is generated on an individual’s total savings. Thus, encouraging members with a higher capacity to save more while also discouraging members from borrowing for unproductive causes. Annan et al. (2013) also suggest that informal savings and lending initiatives could potentially alleviate rural poverty through access to affordable credit and encourage saving among members. This assertion proves true among women in rural parts of the country, who may be reluctant to access loans from formal lending facilities that charge high-interest rates and often require collateral to access credit. Hence, savings groups offer an alternative source of capital and financing for women seeking to participate in economic ventures.
Notably, is that savings groups are one of the most inclusive financial initiatives and are relatively easy to run and engage in. According to a survey conducted by FSD (2018), the uptake of savings groups was not dependent upon one’s level of education in comparison to other financial services such as banking, insurance, pension funds, and capital markets. This means that anyone was capable of running and joining this program. Data from the same survey also indicates that more female respondents reported being part of savings groups and Chilimbas than men. This can be attributed to the fact that these initiatives are community-centric and gendered social norms entail that women are more inclined to community social interactions than men, making them more attractive for women to save with such programs. Furthermore, the survey concluded that Savings Groups and Chilimbas were the most inclusive financial services for Zambian women and more rural women were willing to take up these services as opposed to formal financial services that required some level of education, as well as a higher socio-economic status.
In addition, eligibility for a loan with savings groups is fairly relaxed. There is no documentation or collateral required to access a loan, other than being a trusted member of the group. Another attractive feature is that interest generated is shared among group members thus, acting as a ‘return on investment’ even for borrowers. Furthermore, there are no delays in processing of loans since they are obtained during meetings at each saving, while banks and other formal financial service providers on the other hand, often delay the process due to documentation and bureaucratic procedures in assessing one’s eligibility for a loan. Some of the requirements by banks and other formal financial service providers include; a copy of National Registration Card (NRC), latest payslip, latest utility bill or confirmation from employer, salary account bank statements for the last 3 months, employment contract and collateral in some cases. It must be noted that many of these women do not engage in formal employment and often do not have formal contracts with employers. Moreover, many of them engage in small-scale agriculture and roadside businesses, making it challenging to have a steady and predictable flow of income. In addition, evidence from the 2015 Finscope Survey indicated that while 93.5% of adults had access to an NRC, only 15.9% had access to a proof of residential address document. These findings suggest that formal banking requirements to access loans do not take into consideration the circumstances of rural households, thus they are excluded from these services on this basis.
A baseline survey conducted by Rural Finance Expansion Programme (2018) found that women were better savers and less likely to default on paying back loans than men, however, they had limited access to financial services in comparison to men. The survey also suggests that the rise of mobile money presents great potential for enhanced financial inclusion of women. In relating financial inclusion through digital money services, at least 74% of survey respondents reported to have owned a phone and 95% that reported to use mobile money services indicated that they were ‘comfortable’ to ‘very comfortable’ with the use of these services. The same study found that Zoona was more popular in the rural areas than Airtel and MTN mobile money services with 58% having used it to receive, while 38% used it to send money. However, less than 4% indicated that they used the service to store money. Hence the need to integrate these services into how savings groups conduct their business and encourage the use of these services for saving purposes.
Earlier this year, the Energy Regulation Board approved ZESCO Limited’s application for an upward tariff adjustment effective 1st January 2020 and since then there have been a number of positive power sector policy and regulatory reforms that have taken place. The Government of the Republic of Zambia approved the Revised National Energy Policy, 2019 which is anchored on the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) and Vision 2030 in order to guide the development and management of the energy sector by considering technological advancement and developments in the energy sector. The Electricity and Energy Regulation Acts were revised to provide for sale and purchase of electricity within and outside Zambia and improve the regulatory environment among other objectives.
Adequate and reliable power supply underpins any successful economy and Zambia has struggled to generate enough electricity to meet growing demand as the country has developed.
Load management has in the past and present time led to severe consequences for the economy as businesses and small to medium sized enterprises have scaled back production and households have had to grapple with long hours of darkness. As demand continues to grow it is essential that Zambia gets the power sector generation mix right for the country to fulfill its potential for growth.
Under investment in the power sector over the years has been largely due to below cost tariffs and a bureaucratic regulatory environment which has slowed private sector investment. Some of the challenges identified include;
- Over-dependence on Hydrological sources of power which made up 80.45 percent of installed capacity as of 2019. The remainder of the generation mix comprised of coal (10.06%); HFO (3.69%); diesel (2.80%); and solar (2.99%).
- Modelling trends from Zambia’s river basins suggest that hydropower potential will gradually decline in the future due to climate change and increasing water demand from other sources.
- Low rates of access to electricity in rural areas at around 4.4%. Despite this the Rural Electrification Authority successfully completed the implementation of ten carry-over projects in six provinces across Zambia consisting nine Grid Extension Projects and One Mini Hydro Power Project
- Below cost tariffs which have constrained ZESCO’s ability to undertake new investments and to a degree its ability to raise capital which in turn is linked to its financial situation.
This mix of factors point to the need for Zambia to focus on attracting private investment in the power sector and speeding up projects that are near completion through;
- Prioritization of projects that have potential to yield high economic returns in the short to medium term and stemming cost escalation.
- Establishment of a central planning function in the Ministry of Energy, to develop a strategic vision and delivery plan for increasing and diversifying power capacity in the country through investment in Independent Power Producers.
- Establishment of a central procurement function to sit alongside the planning function and secure investment in line with the Government’s strategic vision. The procurement process is lengthy and opaque, which has discouraged investment across the board. The planning function should look to centralise commercial capability, run more competitive tenders and streamline the procurement process, which will lower barriers to entry for investors and deliver value for money for consumers.
- Improve the credit-worthiness of ZESCO: as an off-taker, it is essential that investors have confidence that the organization can purchase the energy generated, which can be improved through increased financial transparency and providing more secure guarantees. ZESCO further needs to revisit the administration of its lifeline tariff by exploring viable options for reforming the current subsidy policy whose targeting is poor (The lifeline subsidy policy currently covers all households regardless of income status).
Historically, Zambia’s approach for power development has been for the Government, via ZESCO, to undertake investment in capacity. The Government has also led the recent Zambia Power Rehabilitation Project which involved various capacity and transmission upgrades as well as demand-side management measures. Recently, ZESCO Limited and Power China signed three contracts to develop 600MW (AC) grid-connected Solar PV Power Plants to be located in Chibombo, Chirundu, and Siavonga Districts. This marks a giant step in ZESCO’s efforts to diversify the energy mix in the wake of climate change.
As noted in the 7NDP, Zambia has plentiful resources for electricity generation, including hydropower, solar, biomass, geothermal. The challenge is getting investment in power plants that can convert these resources into useful electricity. There is no shortage of potential pipeline projects. However, many of these projects can only reach completion if the correct policy framework is developed and supported.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted industrial and economic output in countries and regions around the globe with each industry facing unique characteristics that present novel challenges in the context of the pandemic. Zambia’s mining industry which is considered an ancient and global industry with origins that date back to the foundations of civilization and has had a positive impact on economic development throughout history has not been spared.
Zambia’s mining industry in the context of COVID-19 is now faced with many significant challenges, many of which we’ve never seen. The prevailing conditions have made it difficult for mining companies to dial-up capacity while managing the risks of the pandemic in the wake of declining commodity prices triggered by sudden economic stoppages in several regions around the world. This drop in prices has affected operational margins for players in the industry with some being pushed into negative cash flows. While it can be argued that price volatility is familiar to the mining industry, the steps taken in managing it in each context pose a challenge for industry players that must be tackled by building consensus from all stakeholders.
PMRC, therefore, welcomes the Government’s decision to constitute a team of cabinet ministers, technical experts and trade unionists to look at the sustainability of the mining sector during and beyond COVID-19. While protection and sustainability of mining sector jobs is vital the team needs to ensure that the following measures are strongly considered;
- The immediate focus must be placed on the protection of health and safety of employees while striving to keep mines functioning as effectively as possible. This can be achieved through the deployment of crisis response units for critical decision making and to monitor the financial health of the mines to maintain cash flows in efforts to ensure continuity in operations and supply chains. Government is urged to mitigate risks to disruption by instituting early warning mechanisms and implementing measures to protect industry cash flows by deferring tax obligations, considering an extension of deadlines and suspension of tax measures that have potential to stall mining and supply chain operations.
- As easing of restrictions around the world is rolled out, Government is urged to prioritize and maintain the safety and well-being of employees in the face of possible COVID-19 risks. Timing of the sector’s recovery period is likely to vary across the globe and there’s need to plan how this will affect operations and business processes with the possibility of restricted travel. Government is urged to institute a fiscal regime that will respond to the prevailing times and attract greater investment to spur a quick rebound. Government is further urged to ensure minimal disruptions to the supply chain especially critical supplies and consumables that keep the mining sector functional.
- The effects of the pandemic may inflict changes that in some cases may be permanent (“The New Normal”). It is therefore important for industry players to re-think strategies around commodity demand and pricing, workspace layout, social distancing and response to future crises. Given the economic impacts of the crisis, mining sector players are urged to prioritise local suppliers while establishing a fair balance with international suppliers.
Like many industries with big challenges to future growth, change is being driven in mining by technology, innovations, better processes, social demands and even new opportunities. The unprecedented impact and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many worlds over and disrupted livelihoods. The situation continues to be dynamic and calls for rapid solutions and effective monitoring. Government is urged to consider the immediate priorities and forecast the future of the mining industry and its evolution. This is one sure way to designing smart strategies to gain competitive advantage and staying ahead.
As we dust off our challenges with masks on and examine what the future holds for the mining industry we need to embrace the “new normal” and accelerate efforts to make operational employment in the mining sector safer and sustainable to support Zambia’s Economic Development Agenda.
Public Financial Management (PFM) reforms entail changes to laws, systems and processes used by Governments, to mobilise revenue, allocate public funds, undertake public spending, account for funds and audit. A strong PFM system is essential for effective Governance because effective delivery of public services is associated with poverty reduction and growth. To this effect Government has made reforms to the Public Finance Management Act and has intentions of reviewing the Public Procurement and the Loans and Guarantees Act;
Public Financial Management (PFM) Act of 2018; From 2004 when the PFM of 2004 was enacted, few PFM legal reforms occurred. There had been challenges in achieving the intended purpose of the Act because of gaps such as absence of portions for handling cases of financial misconduct. The Revised PFM Act of 2018 came into effect due to stakeholder’s request as well as Government’s own realization to strengthen the legal framework aimed at improving management of public resources.
Public Procurement Act; In 2015, Government introduced an electronic Government Procurement (E-GP) system aimed at enhancing transparency, riding the Government system of corruption and supporting provisions of the PFM Act. The E-GP system is designed to enhance socio-economic development and adherence to the national development plan by reducing the procurement cycle and associated costs. However, the current procurement system features structural and content inadequacies to support the PFM Act leading to avoidable losses for the Government. There are inadequacies in fund release delays and inflated quotations, affecting project implementations and contract management. For this reason, there is need to revise the Public Procurement Act to incorporate price referencing and bench marking to seal revenue leakages.
Enactment of the Planning and Budgeting Bill of 2019. Once enacted this legislation will help to ensure that there is an increase in transparency, accountability and citizens participation in public finance management. The poorest in society will be incorporated in decision making especially on matters that hinge on budgeting. The powers which lie in Cabinet and Parliament on budgets and plans will be equally distributed among citizens and their representatives.
Review of Loans and Guarantees legislation; This will empower Parliament to monitor debt contraction by the Executive. The Minister of Finance will be compelled to table before Parliament justifications for contracting debt. This will guarantee debt sustainability for continued economic growth and therefore enhanced public finance management.
Enhancing domestic Resource Mobilisation (DRM)
Legislative reforms from the expenditure side of the budget need to be matched with reforms to the revenue side through enhanced DRM. DRM refers to the generation of Government revenue from domestic resources. Tax revenue, as a percentage of GDP is one measure of the degree to which the Government controls the economy’s domestic resources. In the 1970s Zambia’s tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 42 % compared to 15.2% in 2017 and 19.1% earlier projected for 2021 [ this figure has since been downgraded in view of the COVID-19 pandemic]. The statistics mean a lot needs to be done to raise domestic revenues given the hard-to-tax informal sector in Zambia. The informal sector’s tax potential in Zambia is about 42% of total tax revenues. Amongst the several strategies that could be used to enhance DRM is the need to upscale the Massive Land Titling Programme which can enhance payment processes from ground rates. There is also need to equip revenue administrators with knowledge and tools to raise revenue in the hard-to-tax sectors through the use of intermediaries. The need to fight tax evasion through early detection cannot be overemphasied. This could be achived through , smarter auditing,effective investigation and prosecution that hold evaders accountable and thus create public confidence in the tax system.
Zambia has been pursuing economic diversification ever since the first republic and copper mining has been the major forex earner but with notable fluctuating trends over the years. As early as the First National Development Plan (1966-1970), both the need to diversify away from copper, as well as the emphasis of growth of other sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, were emphasized. Economic diversification is the process of shifting an economy away from a single or dominant revenue source towards multiple sources from a growing range of sectors and markets. Economic diversification is widely viewed as a positive objective in sustaining economic growth as it enables countries to be less vulnerable to adverse terms of shocks by stabilizing export revenues. According to the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP 2017-2021), the key sectors towards Economic Diversification in Zambia include; Agriculture, Tourism, Energy, ICT and Manufacturing sectors. One of the primary benefits of diversification is that a diversified economy creates a sustainable cycle of economic activity where sectors and businesses continually interlink and share benefits even as the economy grows. This also increases prospects for employment and growth and is in alignment with the multi-sectoral development approach being espoused in the 7NDP today. Zambia has continued to pursue economic diversification with policy shift away from mining towards agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism among other sectors. The focus of this article is the manufacturing sector.
The Manufacturing sector in Zambia accounts for approximately 11% of the country’s GDP and has been growing at an average annual growth rate of three (3) percent in the last five years, based on figures available from the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA). Zambia’s manufacturing sector has considerable investment potential as the domestic economy is relatively well endowed with resource factors such as raw materials, required labour force, abundant water and rich minerals. The priority areas for investment in the sector include; food processing, textiles and clothing, mineral processing, chemical products, engineering, leather products, electrical goods, pharmaceutical products and packaging materials. (ZDA, 2018). In a quest to diversify the economy in the manufacturing sector, the Government has been working on setting up Multi Facility Economic Zones, Industrial Parks and other support infrastructure to accelerate industrialization. The actualized investment into the Multi Facility Economic Zones is estimated at US$ 3.3 billion, with more than 15,000 jobs created. In a bid to promote local content, the Government is implementing the National Local Content Strategy aimed at fostering business linkages between micro, small, medium and large enterprises. The strategy is also meant to enhance local content along the value chain, which will benefit Zambians as millions of dollars are spent annually on goods and services, which are imported into the country. The Government through the Zambia Development Agency is also implementing the business linkage programme aimed at creating synergies in industry and market access for micro, small and medium enterprises.
The success of diversification depends on the mix, sequencing, and timing of investments, policy reforms and institution building, and on the consistency with the underlying assets and related comparative advantages of the country. Investments in skills, infrastructure, institutions and governance quality (ie. enhancing the transparency, accountability, and predictability of Government decision-making) increase the likelihood of success of diversification but are in turn affected by the extent of diversification. Providing the foundations for structural transformation and private sector-driven growth is an essential element in achieving a broader base of economic activities. Further, clear, transparent and predictable business regulations that provide a level playing field among investors (small and large, foreign and domestic) are essential for economic diversification.
Zambia has to make fundamental policy shifts if the country is to achieve the objectives of the Vision 2030. Achieving these objectives is essential to repositioning the Zambian economy onto growth and development, in a manner that makes the country less susceptible to both domestic and external shocks. This is seen as a critical area of focus midway before the expiry of the Vision 2030. The Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) provides a clear roadmap of what needs to be done to diversify our country’s economy, going forward there is dire need for the mobilization of resources that will finance the various strategies and policies as outlined within the 7NDP towards the realization of economic diversification.
Several effective strategies for reducing the barriers to women’s economic participation have emerged over the years. It should be stressed that the experience gained so far is inevitably country-specific. However, studies have shown that there is particularly strong evidence of what works in five areas which include; education, health, wage labour, agriculture and natural resource management, and financial services.
Improving women’s access to education requires the development of strategies aimed at expanding girls’ enrolment. The Zambian Government has made efforts of improving girl child enrolments which include Re-entry policy and reserving places for female students, for example, the University of Zambia reserves a percentage for female students whereas the rest remains competitive between male and female students. Other strategies could involve the reduction of direct and indirect costs of education to persuade parents to send their daughters to school and scholarships for girls among others
The opportunity cost for girls’ education that arises from the heavy burden of household chores can be addressed by reducing their work through the establishment of daycare and early childhood centers for their younger siblings, improving the supply of accessible water and fuel as well as providing flexible hours to allow girls to complete home chores before or after school which is being implemented in various countries such as Bangladesh, China, India, Morocco, and Pakistan.
The Seventh National Development Plan highlights recognises the importance that health plays in enhancing human development. In this regard, the Government intends to invest in primary health care by strengthening fundamental components of the health system. Primary health care will be the pillar of the health system and will be central to preventing epidemics; improving women’s and children’s health; controlling major infectious diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV and AIDS; and managing the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiac disease, and cancer. Other strategies that can be adopted with regards to improving women’s access to health is through the provision of community-based health services. Community-based health services have been cost-effective in improving women’s health. The Ministry of Health has made efforts with regards to improving women’s access to health facilities through the establishment of health posts across the country as well as upgrading of clinics into Level One Hospitals. The Ministry has also facilitated the training of community health workers who go around communities sensitizing on good health practices as well as family planning among others.
Community-based health services with Integrated services that combine nutrition, family planning, safe sex, maternal and child health services, and primary health care- tend to be the most effective in reaching out to women. Women’s access to health can also be improved by increasing funding towards the health sector in line with international protocols such as the Abuja Declaration of 2001, which states that health must be allocated 15% of the national budget.
- Wage labour
The principal strategies for increasing women’s participation in the formal labour force include; removing legal and regulatory barriers, raising women’s productivity, easing the constraints on their time, and improving the efficiency of the labour market by providing information on job opportunities. Legal reform, education and training, improved access to information, and affordable childcare are the keys to enhancing women’s participation in formal labour markets.
- Agriculture and natural resource management
Given that most poor rural women work in the agriculture sector, the main strategy is to help women obtain title to the land and to open the doors to financial services as well as Government assistance. Women also should be enabled to exercise the full range of land rights to sell or mortgage the land and to get the full benefit from crop sales.
Environmental degradation increases women’s burden, as they have to trek long distances to fetch firewood and water. The direct and indirect costs of environmental damage for women need to be assessed and included in natural resource management projects and policies. Women’s participation in decisions on issues relating to environmental policies is critical for setting appropriate priorities. Women can participate more effectively if they are trained in the analysis of the causes and consequences of environmental problems.
- Financial Services
High transaction costs, high perceived risks of default, a lack of collateral, and social resistance commonly bar women’s access to credit. One way to reduce transaction costs is group lending, in which members accept joint liability for loans. This relieves the lender of the costly process of checking the creditworthiness of individual borrowers and lowers the administrative costs per loan, which is particularly important if the average loan is very small. Group lending also lowers the risk of default. The combination of peer pressure and cooperative gains from participation in a group has proved to be an effective motivator for repayment in many different countries and settings worldwide. Lack of collateral is a pervasive problem for the poor, and particularly for poor women, who rarely have title to significant assets. joint-liability groups replace collateral with a collective guarantee in many programs. World Bank, 1994.
Globally, women continue to face significant cultural, institutional, and structural barriers to meaningful economic participation which include;
- Lack of child care- Absence of good child care options and decent maternity leave.
Various studies have shown that the lack of childcare services is a major barrier for working women in developing countries. In the absence of affordable childcare facilities, working women have no option but to alter the amount and type of market work to engage in so that they can be able to balance it with household responsibilities. Women’s ability to afford childcare services is also dependant on the number of children that they may have. As the number of dependent children increases, the cost of childcare becomes higher, which may result in women dropping out of the labour force to take care of their young.
The lack of childcare services is less onerous in countries where extended families predominate. In many African and South Asian economies, children are not a major barrier to the female labour market participation, and childbearing does not reduce \the working life of females relative to males. However, the physical demands of childbearing and childcare make it harder for women and girls to seek education, training, and employment away from home which hinders their economic participation and opportunity.
- Low investment in women’s education and health
Not having a school within easy reach of home is an important barrier to girls’ enrolment. Lack of childcare not only affects women but girls as well as most often girls take up the responsibility of taking care of their younger siblings. Lack of child care facilitates in such a case would result in girls dropping out of school to take care of their younger ones. Equally societal norms that require women and girls to take on the responsibility of most household chores hinder girls from acquiring an education. Lastly in developing countries which have high poverty levels especially in rural areas tend to have high dropout rates due to the cost of education which may not be affordable for certain household.
A significant barrier to better health for women is the lack of access to family planning services, to help plan for the number and timing of pregnancies. The various aspects related to maternity impose a substantial burden on women’s time. And this is of course a biological burden uniquely borne by women. Moreover, maternity is not only a burden in terms of time. It is also risky and often imposes on women a substantial burden in terms of health. Tzvertkova, 2017
Since the start of the global HIV epidemic, women in many regions have been living with HIV and AIDS-related illnesses remain the leading cause of death for women aged between 15 and 49. HIV disproportionately affects women and girls because of their unequal cultural, social, and economic status in society. Intimate partner violence, inequitable laws, and harmful traditional practices reinforce unequal power dynamics between men and women, with young women particularly disadvantaged. HIV is not only driven by gender inequality, but it also entrenches gender inequality, leaving women more vulnerable to its impact. Global information and education on HIV and AIDS, 2019
- Lack of access to credit
Lack of access to credit both formal and informal is another major barrier, often restricting women’s ability to smoothen consumption over time and undertake productive activities. The Global Findex, a comprehensive database measuring how people save, borrow, and manage risk in 148 countries, reveals that women are less likely than men to have formal bank accounts. In developing economies women are 20 percent less likely than men to have an account at a formal financial institution and 17 percent less likely to have borrowed formally in the past year. Even if they can gain access to a loan, women often lack access to other financial services, such as savings, digital payment methods, and insurance. Restrictions on opening a bank account, such as requirements for a male family member’s permission, restrict women’s access to accounts. Lack of financial education can also limit women from gaining access to and benefiting from financial services (Isaac, 2014).
Property that is acceptable as collateral, especially land, in some cultures is usually in men’s names which may be unacceptable by formal financial institutions. Given the heavy household responsibilities such as childcare, taking care of the sick and elderly among others, restrict women’s working hours and mobility in ways that affect their economic participation. Women’s businesses thus tend to be smaller-and grow slower-than men’s. They are also more likely to be home-based and to be in sectors that are technologically unsophisticated and overcrowded to the point of market saturation. These business characteristics mean that women entrepreneurs are perceived as poor credit risks hence may not be awarded loans from lending institutions.
- Legal and regulatory barriers
Legal and regulatory barriers prevent women in some countries from fully participating in formal labour markets. The World Bank’s 2016 report on Women, Business, and the Law offer a stark picture of the ways in which laws and policies continue to undermine women’s economic productivity. Of the 173 economies surveyed, 90 percent have at least one regulation on the books that impede women’s economic opportunities. Gender-based job restrictions remain common: about 100 countries impose limitations on the jobs that women can hold. In thirty economies, women face a constellation of barriers, with ten or more laws inhibiting women’s economic participation on the books, and in eighteen countries, husbands or male guardians can legally prevent women from working altogether. These obstacles have a multidimensional effect of women’s opportunities: lower levels of gender equality in national laws are associated with fewer girls attending secondary school, fewer women in the formal workforce or running businesses, and a wider gender wage gap. (Vogelstein, Tackling Barriers to Women’s Economic Participation, 2016)
5. Societal perceptions
In almost all societies, women are perceived as primary caretakers/ homemakers, while men take on the role of providers. Women frequently have to withdraw from the labour market because of the demands of marriage and children. Women are therefore more likely to choose jobs that allow them greater flexibility in hours worked, which often results in a drop in earnings. Women also lag behind men in the accumulation of human capital as a result of discontinuity in employment which may be one of the leading factors of low participation rates as well as poor advancement in careers.
Socialization plays a critical role in the upbringing of children. From a young age, females are expected to play a motherly role as well as that of a caregiver. In most societies, girls aspire to marriage as opposed to having a career. What is deemed as being socially acceptable in most cultures is for women to get married and to start a family as opposed to career advancement. Most cultures respect married women with children more than their spinster counterparts hence forcing women to aspire more to marriage than advancing their careers.
6. Career and family planning
The age at which many women begin to think about starting a family coincides with one of the most productive periods of one’s career. Given women’s biological clocks, most tend to start a family as oppose to advancing in their careers.
Approximately 50% of adults in rural areas are unbanked or have no access to financial services (Finscope Report 2015). Access to financial services has been a challenge due to various reasons, which among others include low population density in rural areas and extremely poor infrastructure, compounded by low productivity, making it difficult and expensive to provide such services. The importance of increasing access to financial services cannot be overemphasized because of the key role it plays in reducing poverty, increasing employment and attracting development. This can consequently help to bridge the rural-urban economic divide; with 77% poor people in rural areas compared to only 23% urban areas (Living Conditions Monitoring Survey,2015).
To this effect the Zambian Government developed the Rural Finance Policy and Strategy of 2012, a key policy document aimed at promoting access to financial services in rural areas and thereby reducing vulnerability and promoting prosperity of the rural population. Some of the interventions/strategies that have been implemented by the Government as stated in the Rural Finance Policy and Strategy to promote access to financial services include the following among others:
1. Enactment of the Credit Reporting Act in 2018 to provide for the establishment of a Credit Registry and the overall governance and management of credit reporting agencies including the protection of data subjects as well as information sharing and reporting, to enable assessment of credit worthiness of data subjects.
2. Support efforts to enable inter-operability of the national payment switch to reduce the cost of financial services and modernize payment systems. The interoperability of payment systems was effected in 2019 and it is hoped that this will effectively facilitate better access to financial services for the unbanked in rural areas by reducing costs of financial services and modernization of payment systems.
3. Revision of the National Payment Systems Directives on Electronic Money Issuance. In 2018, the Bank of Zambia revised the National Payment Systems Directives on Electronic Money Issuance that were initially issued in 2015. The key changes to the directives included the following:
- Permitting customers to hold multiple wallets.
- Permitting both commercial banks and approved non-bank financial institutions to host Holding Accounts for electronic money.
- Inclusion of specific guidance on the use of interest earned on Holding Accounts.
- Provisions for consumer protection and the need for e-money institutions to have procedures for dealing with customer complaints.
Consequently, the volume of transactions processed on mobile money platforms in 2018 rose by 76.0% compared to 2017.
4. Support towards the implementation of micro-insurance products in the agriculture sector; In 2017, Government awarded Mayfair Insurance Company a contract to offer weather-based index insurance to all farmers who benefited from Government input subsidies through Farmer Input Supply Programme (FISP).
5. In September 2018, Government established the Rural Finance Unit to coordinate rural finance, under the Department of Investment and Debt Management at the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
6. In 2016, Government enacted the Movable Property Security Interest Act (MPSI) to Support efforts to fully establish unified collateral registry, including the use of movable property. The Act is aimed at making the business environment attractive for lenders to accept movable property as collateral. The MPSI Act seeks to make movable property a reliable form of collateral, thereby diversifying the nature of mobile assets used as collateral resulting in enhanced borrowing.
7. The Bank of Zambia has also been at the fore of promoting the Financial Literacy Week aimed at empowering people with knowledge on available financial products and services as well as creating momentum on both the supply and demand side information for the development of consumer-centric financial products and services.
In order to further upscale financial inclusion in rural areas specifically and the entire country generally, the following issues need to be addressed:
- The Central Bank of Zambia needs to urgently develop Agency Banking Regulations to guide and accelerate agency banking in underserved rural areas and consequently increase the agency banking’s share of transaction volume by financial agents.
- The Development Bank of Zambia needs to play an active role as an apex financial institution providing finances to micro-financial institutions for onward lending to rural areas as espoused in the Rural Finance Policy and Strategy and Rural Finance Expansion Programme (RUFEP) programme design.
- Government and Zambia Agriculture Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE) needs to put in place measures that will guarantee smallholder farmers’ active participating in the agriculture commodity exchange as opposed to the current scenario where majority of farmers having access to the agriculture commodity exchange are well-established farmers.
- The Pensions and Insurance Authority (PIA) needs to upscale its efforts in ensuring that the necessary micro-insurance guidelines/principles are promptly put in place to promote growth of insurance uptake in rural areas and the country at large. Additionally, legislation (Insurance Act) needs to be amended to accommodate licensing of micro-insurers and facilitate the opening up of the distribution space.
- Following the enactment of Movable Property Security Interest (MPSI) Act in 2016, Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) and other stakeholders need to increase sensitization in rural communities on the new options available to smallholder farmers through MPSI Act regarding use of movable assets as collateral to access finance.
- The Zambia Statistics Agency needs to include “financial inclusion variables” in its routine national surveys to be able to measure financial inclusion statistics as opposed to the country relying on private sector sanctioned surveys to measure financial inclusion.
- The Ministry of Agriculture needs to decisively deal with complaints specifically relating to inconsistencies in Weather Insurance Index payouts where some farmers receive payouts while others do not, yet they are residing in the same geographical area affected by the drought. Enhanced confidence in Weather Insurance Index will enhance uptake of other micro-insurance products by farmers.
- Some of the key activities during the Financial Literacy Week need to be extended to the rest of the year and priority should be given to rural areas with lower levels of financial inclusion.