Zambian President Edgar Lungu. Picture: REUTERS/TIKSA NEGERI
Zambian President Edgar Lungu. Picture: REUTERS/TIKSA NEGERI

Johannesburg — Zambian President Edgar Lungu has named commerce minister Margaret Mwanakatwe as finance minister, replacing Felix Mutati in his biggest cabinet shuffle since winning the 2016 elections in Africa’s second-largest copper producer.

Mutati becomes minister of works and supply, the presidency said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. Richard Musukwa replaces Christopher Yaluma as mines minister and Yaluma takes over as commerce minister.

Mwanakatwe becomes finance minister as the country tries to secure a long-delayed loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), negotiations which Mutati had been driving.

The change in leadership could prove pivotal for the planned $1.3bn loan after talks stalled last year, according to Chibamba Kanyama, a Lusaka-based independent economist who previously worked at the Washington-based lender as a communications advisor.

"It’s either a deal breaker or a deal maker," he said by phone. "The next two weeks will determine how the IMF discussions go". Either the process will collapse, or the parties will decide to "re-engage afresh", he said..

Zambia is looking to restructure its bilateral debt with China, the presidency said on Tuesday.

Yields on Zambia’s $1bn eurobonds due in 2024 have climbed by 42 basis points since the planned restructuring was announced. Yields on the debt rose the most since November 2016 to 7.3% by 7.05pm in Lusaka on Wednesday.

Mwanakatwe is a chartered accountant and has worked for various banks including Barclays Africa Group and United Bank for Africa.