Zambia’s opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema who took his oath of office on Tuesday promised to turn around the economy of the southern African country, plagued by an unsustainable debt, and to guarantee “real freedom” to all his fellow citizens.
Hichilema becomes the country’s seventh president, after a landslide election victory earlier this month over incumbent Edgar Lungu.
His victory is the 17th opposition win in sub-Saharan Africa since 2015.
“Over the last decade…,our national budget has been overwhelmed by debt servicing…the debt situation has become unsustainable, reducing the country’s capacity to invest,” said the man known on the street as “HH” or “Bally,” – an informal term for father to his well-wishers packed into a stadium in the capital, Lusaka.
“Our focus over the next five years will be restoring macroeconomic stability,” Hichilema said.
“We will pay special attention to lowering the fiscal deficit, reducing public debt and restoring market confidence in our country.”
Of Zambia’s $12 billion external debt, some $3 billion is in Eurobonds, $3.5 billion is bilateral debt, $2.1 billion is owed to multilateral lending agencies, such as the IMF, and along with another $2.9 billion of commercial bank debt.
The guests present at the swearing-in ceremony were opposition politicians from the region as well as former and current African leaders, including the presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.