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Zambia Re-Basing Later This Year May Boost Economy Size

Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Zambia’s statistics agency estimates that a re-basing exercise later this year will show that the country’s $20.7 billion economy is a fifth bigger than currently measured as its mining industry has expanded.

Africa’s biggest copper producer has “completely” changed structurally since 1994, the current base year used for calculating the size of the economy, John Kalumbi, director at the Central Statistics Office, said yesterday by mobile phone from Lusaka, the capital.

“The mining sector was in disarray at that time,”said Kalumbi. “In the last three or four years the mining sector has changed in terms of structure and contribution. There are other sectors that have come on board in the last 10 years or so, and these have also completely changed the structure of the economy.”

Zambia began selling its copper mines to private investors in the 1990s, reversing a nationalization program in the 1970s. Production plunged to 263,000 metric tons in 1997 from 750,000 tons in 1973, according to the Chamber of Mines. The country has benefited from growing private investment in mining, as well as increased investment in agriculture, with GDP growing by 7.3 percent last year, according to the World Bank.

The Central Statistical Office will re-base the coutry’s GDP numbers once it has assessed the results of an economic census in October, which will form the base of the exercise, Kalumbi said.

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“It will be in the range of 20 percent higher,” Kalumbi said.

Zambia produced 818,000 metric tons of copper last year, and this will grow to 1.1 million tons by 2015, Yamfwa Mukanga, then minister of mines, said in April.

The re-basing may “entice more business interest,” in the country, Johannesburg-based ETM Analytics Ltd. said in an e-mailed note to clients today.

The southern African country re-based its currency, the kwacha, at the start of this year, removing three zeros.

Nigeria, Africa’s second-biggest economy also in December plans to update its base year for GDP calculations to 2010. The move will probably lift the size of that country’s economy.

The Zambian kwacha has declined 3.4 percent against the dollar this year. It traded at 5.37 to the dollar as of 4:40 p.m. in Lusaka.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at mhill58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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