Covid-19 : A steppingstone or stumbling block for Zambia’s Export Growth .
By Emmanuel Muma(Mr)
Inter - Trade Expert.
Globally , COVID-19 has drastically affected social and economic livelihoods of people and in the process disturbed economic activities . In particular and of interest in this article , international trade flows worldwide decreased by 7% in 2020 owing to a number of factors. These include government induced COVID-19 containment measures resulting in reduced human mobility and cross border trade. Further , temporary shift of government policy attention and resource allocations towards addressing national health impacts and behavioural change generally contributed to underperform of international trade. Although COVID-19 seems intuitively to many as having caused more damage than benefits to trade, at a country level ,the effects could be analysed in either direction , i.e., positive and or negative taking on Imports or Exports specific categories . In this article however, I will focus on demystifying Zambia’s export performance of Traditional Exports (TE’s) amidst COVID-19 between 2019 and 2020. In the next article, the focus will be on Non -Traditional Exports (NTE’s).
COVID-19 & TRADITIONAL EXPORTS (TE’S)
An analytical lens as shown in figure 1 below gives the picture that year by year beginning from 2019 onwards to 2020 , Zambia’s Traditional Exports ( mainly refined copper and its associated metal articles ) has been recording a significant increase than expected amidst COVID-19 pandemic in both export volumes and earnings . Intuitively and expectedly by many , cross border trade flows are expected to decrease initially owing to a number of negative impacts of COVID-19 on trade. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of Covid-19 as a pandemic on 11th March 2020 and during the same month on 18th March 2020, Zambia confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19. Despite the pandemic outbreak , Zambia’s Traditional Exports (TE’s ) maintained and gained a good fair trade annually both in terms of export volumes and earnings. Annual Traditional Export (TE’s ) posted the highest value as high as K 10,9469.00 (Million) in the year 2020 compared to the previous year’s 2013-2019.
To help us understand better some of the factors that could explain the strange performance of copper specifically amidst COVID-19, Figure 2 below shows monthly performance of exports of Copper in Metric Tonnes and changes in copper prices per ton on the London Metal Exchange , from January up until December 2019
It can be seen that before COVID-19 was first notified to the WHO on 31st December 2019, Copper price on LME and export volumes was declining sharply beginning in April 2019 up until September 2019. From September 2019 onwards, Copper exports and price stated rising , maintained and gained a good fair trade both in terms of export volumes and earnings . Copper exported in December 2019 increased by 8.0 percent from 67,415.2 metric tonnes in November to 72, 826.9 metric tonnes. The Copper prices on LME market for the corresponding months increased by 3.5 percent, from US$5,859.7 per metric tonnes in November 2019 to US$ 6,062.4 per metric tonne in December 2019 (see figure 2 above) . With the kind of exceptional performance of Refined Copper price on LME as well as export volumes amidst COVID-19, could it be that the pandemic opened a new era of demand for global use of copper for its goods and services?. Can we associate to some extent the performance of refined copper amidst Covid-19 with the new developments from the tech industry as a result of COVID-19 such as the development of the Copper -Coated polypropylene filter face Mask with SARS-Cov-2 antiviral ability?. Indeed new developments such as Copper-coated COVID-19 face masks among other things is evidence of COVID-19 helping as a steppingstone for the export growth of refined copper and its associated metal articles and ultimately Traditional Exports (TE’s).
About The Author.
Mr Emmanuel Muma holds a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies with Economics and he is a master’s fellow in Economic Policy Management at the University of Zambia. Emmanuel is an economic development specialist with 7 years of hands-on experience in research and economic policy formulation and implementation with a particular focus on trade and investment and private sector development. Mr Muma was appointed and currently seat as the SADC Desk officer on the Zambia SADC national committee.
Emmanuel has extensive cross-cultural experience in research, managing and leading local/international trade and investment programmes that have realized great value to both the private and public sector in Zambia. His wide experience extends to working collaboratively with government institutions, private sector, civil society, small scale farmers/traders and other stakeholders in a multi-stakeholder setting to achieve goals.
Emmanuel has supported the implementation of projects funded by the European Commission, UK DFID, Oxfam Zambia, OSISA, JCP, SAT, TJN and SIDA. He has conducted and core published a number of research and policy brief papers including assessing the performance of multifacility economic zones in Zambia.
Email ✉️. [email protected]