In 1991, Zambia launched one of the most orthodox structural adjustments programs (SAPs) in Africa. The last and longest chapter of its fitful history with the IMF and World Bank, Zambia’s SAP commenced during the euphoria following the ouster of long-time President Kenneth Kaunda, when it was presented as the only strategy for dealing with the country’s economic collapse. What followed was one of Africa’s most striking experiments with rapid liberalisation, leading to budgetary stabilisation and increased investment but also sudden unemployment and impoverishment. If in retrospect liberalisation seems inescapable, given the ballooning debt of Kaunda’s last years, Zambians at the time envisioned alternative futures. The years leading up to the 1991 election saw vibrant debate among activists about how to fix the country’s failing economy, with reform plans ranging from marketisation to redistribution. After 1991, however, the newly elected Movement for Multiparty Democracy shelved these proposals in favour of a SAP championed by international donors. As a result, many economic ideas advanced at the time have been forgotten, and structural adjustment has come to seem inevitable. As part of a wider book project on ahistoricism in international development, my paper tries to recover Zambia’s “missing narrative” of economic reform by surveying local debates on political and economic change in the 1980s and 1990s. Examining how SA won out over alternatives has implications for our understanding of the politics of economic reform in the decades of neoliberal ascendancy
"Zambia’s Missing Narrative of Structural Adjustment,"
Zambia Social Science Journal: Vol. 9:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/zssj/vol9/iss1/4