Bank of Zambia

  • Posted on: 1 December 2010
  • Updated on: 12 August 2022
  • By: radmin


Dr. Denny Kalyalya

Headquarters Lusaka 10101
Established 1964
Currency Kawacha - ZMK (ISO Code )

As the view grew stronger that a currency board was inappropriate, the Bank of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was established in March, 1956. It was equipped with the full powers of a conventional central Bank such as conducting monetary policy, banker to government and commercial banks, manager of foreign exchange reserves and so on. The bank was also empowered to lend to the territorial and the Federal governments up to a limit based on their expected revenues in that fiscal year.

The Bank of Zambia was established to take over from the Bank of Northern Rhodesia on the 7th of August,1964 although its Act was only passed in June, 1965. The Bank of Northern Rhodesia was itself constituted from the Lusaka branch (established in September, 1961) of the Bank of Rhodesia and Nyasaland after it broke up together with the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland on the 31st of December, 1963.

The Bank started operations with about 100 staff organised around only two departments, namely the Chief Cashier's or General Manager's department and the Secretary's department. The former was responsible to the Governor for monetary policy implementation, currency issue, banking, government securities, exchange control and foreign exchange management. The Secretary was responsible for personnel, administration, internal auditing and the Board.

With time, the number of departments at the Bank started to increase. One of the earliest to be established was the Research Department in 1967. The Operations Department was created in 1976, and later, especially in the 1980s, the pace accelerated when other departments such as Personnel and Administration (1977) Exchange Control. Import and Export Control, Estate and Properties (all in 1981) were created. They were followed in 1982 by Banking and Currency, Small Scale Industries, Inspection and in 1984 by National Debt, Transport, and Government Securities.

The increase in the number of departments at the Bank partly reflected the increased demand on the functions which it had to perform, most of which centred around administering government imposed regulations such as exchange controls and import and export controls. In turn there was higher demand by the Bank on support services for these core activities. In addition, however, it is also true that the Bank, like many other organisations both inside and outside Zambia then, did not make hard distinctions between core and peripheral responsibilities and, hence, utilise resources accordingly. To give a concrete example, it was an accepted practice in Zambia that employers should find accommodation for their employees and in some cases, even furnish that accommodation. Institutions therefore acquired substantial property which required manpower and organisation to manage. In some cases there were economic arguments, which were considered sound then, which led to organisational expansion. In the foreword to Ten Years of Banking in Zambia, a Bank of Zambia publication, former President Kenneth Kaunda wrote as follows:

"Our highest priority now is the rapid development of the rural areas where the masses of our people live. In this connection, I am confident that the Bank of Zambia would not restrict itself to the orthodox central banking concept of monetary stability only. I would like to see the banking system as a whole take the challenge and devise effective tools in order to facilitate the dawn of a new era of prosperity for the rural areas in particular and the other sectors of the country in general ...,"

As already indicated above, this was an acceptable position at the time in the developing world and one of its strongest proponents among practitioners was the Reserve Bank of India. Applied to Zambia, it included the establishment of a department for Small Scale Industries and, later, a credit guarantee scheme. The expansion of the functions of the Bank saw a rise in the number of staff from 400 by 1975, to 1 226 in 1988 and to 1 400 in 1994. The Bank premises therefore had to be extended to accommodate the numbers. The new building (currently corporate head office) opened in 1975 while the Regional office in Ndola opened in 1979. Annex buildings were subsequently added to Lusaka and Ndola.

This expansion resulting from this extension of functions was unfortunately, not underpinned by a strong organisational structure. Instead, and in the words of a consultant in 1989. "The Structure of the Bank has evolved over time more in response to staffing factors than the real needs of the Bank". One major cause for this has been the extreme rapid turnover of Governors. Since 1964, there have been ten appointments to the post (excluding the current Governor) over a period of 28 years making an average tenure of 2.8 years for each. With instability at the top, continuity and strategic planning for the future were bound to suffer.