Legal Market Overview
Zambia’s economy faced significant challenges in 2020, with the global slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic worsening concerns over ballooning debt and below-average economic growth, culminating in a bond default in November, the state failing to pay its debtors. Bailout talks are ongoing with the IMF ahead of an August 2021 election.
President Edgar Lungu has faced criticism on a number of fronts, including accusations of political authoritarianism following his suspension of Zambia’s Parliament during the pandemic, as well as the continuation of his ‘local control’ policy towards the country’s mineral deposits, including the derision to allow state mining company to take on $1.5bn of loans to take over Glencore’s Mopani Copper Mines, as well as a stated commitment to stimulus spending, creating further doubts among international bondholders. Mr Lungu is standing for a second term in August 2021.
The Zambian economy remains reliant on agricultural production and mining, with key employers including the state sector and mining giant Glencore. Mineral production forms around 12% of the nation’s GDP, while agriculture comprises around 20%, with maize a crucial cash crop. The latter factor leaves the economy vulnerable to weather-related slowdowns, which similarly impact the country’s hydropower energy plants.
Attempts to diversify the economy, largely through Chinese investment, continue apace; although the global economic slowdown impacted investment, key infrastructure projects such as Copperbelt International Airport and the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway project are ongoing.
The legal market is relatively small, but well-established, dominated by a combination of full-service law firms and boutique players largely specialising in litigation. Firms are largely based out of capital Lusaka, though some also maintain offices in Kitwe for mining work. International firms have a presence through domestic alliances: Dentons collaborates with noted litigation firm Eric Silwamba, Jalasi and Linyama Legal Practitioners; while Andersen works with Mulenga Mundashi Kasonde (MMK) Legal Practitioners, which also focuses on contentious work.
Transactional and cross-border firms of note include Chibesakunda & Co (a member of the DLA Africa alliance), Corpus Legal Practitioners, and Musa Dudhia & Company (part of the ALN alliance), while ECB Legal Practitioners is also noted for its specialist litigation expertise.