A hostage economy: the impact of Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence on Zambia, 1965-79
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In November 1965, Rhodesia’s Prime Minister Ian Smith announced a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), prompting the United Nations and the British government to impose economic and financial sanctions on his government. In the context of regional politics of decolonisation, the Zambian government interpreted UDI as a moral affront to African freedom, independence, dignity as well as posing a grave danger to the country’s national security. They responded to the crisis by supporting international sanctions on Rhodesia and embarked on an exercise to extricate the economy from dependence on the illegal regime. This article traces part of these strategic initiatives employed by the Zambian government in response to UDI and illustrates how strict compliance to international sanctions along with economic disengagement severely strained the country’s economic stability. It argues that although UDI immeasurably compromised Zambia’s development efforts and brutally exposed the limitations and vulnerability of its economy, ultimately the government exploited the situation to its advantage by promoting the country’s development agenda through establishment of alternative transport routes, new sources of energy and electricity, and import substitution industries. Economic diversification became a major priority of government policy in the wake of UDI. The article utilises evidence from the Zambian archives to investigate the nature and extent of the challenges and opportunities UDI imposed on Zambia’s economy between 1965 and 1979. Until now, scholars have hardly interrogated this aspect.