Zambia may become the most recent African country to move its capital city as authorities consider a proposal to move Zambia’s capital from the fast-developing Lusaka to a nearly uninhabited marshland district in the center of the country.
The national planning and development minister told AFP about the plans on Thursday, saying that;
“Within the next 10 years, you will not be able to conduct business in Lusaka because of congestion,”
“The city is over-crowded, and so the sensible thing to do is move the capital out.”
Lusaka has been Zambia’s capital since 1935 when Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia under British colonial rule. The new proposed site for Zambia’s capital, which is to be discussed by President Edgar Lungu’s cabinet within the next two weeks, is Ngabwe district.
The proposed Ngabwe district is a little-known rural district in Zambia’s Central Province, close to Kabwe town and about 120km – or two hours’ drive – north of Lusaka. According to AFP, when rains come it is often flooded but the national planning and development minister insists that the district is well-positioned in the middle of the country.
As part of his arguments for the move, Mulusa said that Ngabwe would be planned to ensure it could host regional bodies such as the African Union (AU), based in Addis Ababa, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), based in Gaborone, Botswana.
If Zambia goes ahead with this plan it will join the likes of Nigeria, which moved its capital from Lagos to Abuja in 1991, and Myanmar which under military rulers, moved its capital 200 miles north from Yangon to a new site at Naypyidaw in 2005.
Other countries have also started up such a process and abandoned it. For instance, Tanzania made Dodoma its capital city in 1973, but the official relocation from Dar es Salaam is still a non-starter.
There is also Côte d’Ivoire’s change in 1983 which saw Felix Houphouët-Boigny moving the capital from Abidjan to his hometown of Yamoussoukro but Yamoussoukro never really took off as an urban center despite the construction of a massive church.
The plan to move Zambia’s capital to Ngabwe does not seem especially smart considering the remote nature of the town but Mulusa argues that Lusaka has struggled to keep pace with rapid urbanization. He also adds that Lusaka will not be able to maintain Zambia’s “commerce and industry and official activities” in the next decade.
While many people argue those points, some others see the plan as a distraction from the challenge on Zambia’s democracy under the leadership of President Edgar Lungu. The arrest of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is still causing whispers that the country is sliding towards autocracy.