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Zambia

Executive Summary

Zambia is a landlocked country in southern Africa that shares a border with eight countries: Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. It has an estimated population of 17.86 million, GDP of $19.3 billion and GDP per capita of USD $1,086.

Zambia has been in a financial and economic crisis since at least 2020, when the country became the world’s first COVID-era default after Zambia missed a payment on $3 billion of outstanding Eurobonds. The Zambian economy contracted in 2020 by 3.0 percent and grew by a meager 1.0 percent in 2021. The IMF forecasts 2022 real GDP growth of only 1.1 percent. Zambia’s debt overhang remains a severe inhibitor of economic growth, effectively eliminating the government’s access to international capital markets and forcing it to finance a persistent budget deficit through domestic borrowing, which crowds out private sector access to capital and limits growth.

Despite broad economic reforms and debt relief under the World Bank’s Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative in the early 2000s, Zambia has generally struggled to meet its full economic potential. A decade of democratic and economic backsliding under former President Edgar Lungu and the Patriotic Front resulted in widespread use of corruption and economic rent-seeking that has further damaged Zambia’s reputation as an investment destination. Cumbersome administrative procedures and unpredictable legal and regulatory changes continue to inhibit Zambia’s immense potential for private sector investment, compounded by insufficient transparency in government contracting, ongoing lack of reliable electricity, and a high cost of doing business due to poor infrastructure, high cost of capital, and the lack of skilled labor.

President Hakainde Hichilema achieved a resounding victory at the polls in August 2021 on a platform of democratic and economic reform and renewal. By December 2021, Zambia achieved staff-level agreement with the IMF on a $1.4 billion Extended Credit Facility that is expected to anchor macroeconomic and fiscal reforms and restore investor confidence. With the appointment of respected economists and technocrats to lead the Ministry of Finance and the central bank, the Hichilema administration has made significant strides reducing inflation, which has dropped from nearly 25.0 percent in July 2021 to 13.1 by the end of March 2022. The Hichilema administration is currently seeking debt restructuring under the auspices of the G-20 Common Framework, which would provide the basis for IMF board approval of Zambia’s Extended Credit Facility. A successful businessman and investor in his own right, President Hichilema has pledged to tackle fiscal and regulatory reforms aimed at strengthening Zambia’s investment climate.

Zambia remains highly dependent on its mining and extractives industry. It is Africa’s second-largest producer of copper and is an important source of several other critical minerals, including nickel and cobalt. According to the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, mining products accounted for 77 percent of Zambia’s total export earnings and 28 percent of government revenues in 2019. Investment in the mining sector fell substantially during the Lungu era due to multiple changes to Zambia’s minerals tax regime and an unstable regulatory environment. The Hichilema administration in its maiden budget introduced a key reform to Zambia’s minerals tax policy that is expected to attract new investment in the sector. The agriculture, healthcare, energy, financial services, and ICT sectors all offer potentially attractive opportunities for expanded U.S. trade and investment.

The U.S. Embassy works closely with the American Chamber of Commerce of Zambia (AmCham) to support its American and Zambian members seeking to increase two-way trade. Agriculture and mining remain headlining sectors for the Zambian economy. U.S. firms are present and are exploring new projects in tourism, power generation, agriculture, and services.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2021 117 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/
research/cpi/overview
Global Innovation Index 2021 121 of 190 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/
analysis-indicator
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2020 $21 https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm
World Bank GNI per capita 2020  $1,160 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/
NY.GNP.PCAP.CD

1. Openness To and Restrictions Upon Foreign Investment

3. Legal Regime

4. Industrial Policies

5. Protection of Property Rights

6. Financial Sector

7. State-Owned Enterprises

There are currently 34 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operating in different sectors in Zambia including agriculture, education, energy, financial services, infrastructure, manufacturing, medical, mining, real estate, technology, media and communication, tourism, and transportation and logistics. Most SOEs are wholly owned, or majority owned by the government under the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) established in 2015. Zambia has two categories of SOEs: those incorporated under the Companies Act and those established by particular statutes, referred to as statutory corporations. There is a published list of SOEs in the Auditor General’s annual reports; SOE expenditure on research and development is not detailed. There is no exhaustive list or online location of SOEs’ data for assets, net income, or number of employees. Consequently, inaccurate information is scattered throughout different government agencies/ministries. The majority of SOEs have serious operational and management challenges.

In theory, SOEs do not enjoy preferential treatment by virtue of government ownership, however, they may obtain protection when they are not able to compete or face adverse market conditions. The Zambia Information Communications Authority Act has a provision restricting the private sector from undertaking postal services that would directly compete with the Zambia Postal Services Corporation. Zambia is not party to the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) within the framework of the WTO, however private enterprises are allowed to compete with public enterprises under the same terms and conditions with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations such as licenses and supplies.

SOEs in Zambia are governed by Boards of Directors appointed by government in consultation with and including members from the private sector. The chief executive of the SOE reports to the board chairperson. In the event that the SOE declares dividends, these are paid to the Ministry of Finance. The board chair is informally obliged to consult with government officials before making decisions. The line minister appoints members of the Board of Directors from within public service, the private sector, and civil society. The independence of the board, however, is limited since most boards are comprised of a majority of government officials, while board members from the private sector or civil society that are appointed by the line minister can be removed.

SOEs can and do purchase goods or services from the private sector, including foreign firms. SOEs are not bound by the GPA and can procure their own goods, works, and services. SOEs are subject to the same tax policies as their private sector competitors and are generally not afforded material advantages such as preferential access to land and raw materials. SOEs are audited by the Auditor General’s Office, using international reporting standards. Audits are carried out annually, but delays in finalizing and publishing results are common. Controlling officers appear before a Parliamentary Committee for Public Accounts to answer audit queries. Audited reports are submitted to the president for tabling with the National Assembly, in accordance with Article 121 of the Constitution and the Public Audit Act, Chapter 378.

In 2015, the government transferred most SOEs from the Ministry of Finance to the revived Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The move, according to the government, was to allow line ministries to focus on policy making thereby giving the IDC direct mandate and authorization to oversee SOE performance and accountability on behalf of the government. The IDC’s oversight responsibilities include all aspects of governance, commercial, financing, operational, and all matters incidental to the interests of the state as shareholder.

8. Responsible Business Conduct

The government in theory limits its direct involvement in business to strategic investments deemed critical for the delivery of public goods and services and seeks to maintain high standards of consumer protection. While Zambia is a high performer among low-income countries in terms of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC), it lacks clearly formulated or well-implemented RBC policies.

The government has sought to improve implementation of legislative and regulatory reforms that impact RBC. As an example, most investment ventures are required to create and submit environmental impact assessments as a prerequisite to the approval process. The government requires many investment sectors, such as insurance, banking, and financial services, to submit annual audited financial statements as a licensing condition. In the case of financial services, quarterly publication of financial statements is compulsory and rigidly enforced by the BoZ.

Zambia has ratified a number of international human rights conventions, such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. At the national level, the lead authority for upholding human rights norms is the Human Rights Commission (HRC), while the Industrial and Labor Relations Act addresses labor issues. The Act provides the legal framework for trade unions, employers’ organizations and their federations, the Tripartite Consultative Labor Council, and the Industrial Relations Court. The Employment Act, Chapter 268, is the basic employment law, while the Minimum Wages and Conditions of Employment Act makes provisions for the regulation of minimum wage levels and minimum conditions of employment. Currently, the average minimum wage per month for employees, starting with general or domestic workers, stands at 1,132 kwacha (~$62@04/2022), to include food and transportation.

The government supports measures that encourage responsible business conduct and has recognized the importance of adopting international practices. The main challenges include domesticating international practices and strengthening regulatory capacities. In many cases, the business sector is encouraged by the government to adopt practices that promote responsible business conduct on a “voluntary basis.” For example, the Institute of Directors Zambia (IODZ) actively advocated the introduction of “Board Charters” that set out good corporate standards (such as ethical conduct) with which business enterprises will be associated and will implement. The Citizens Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) is also promoting the adoption of “Sector Codes” by the business sectors that commit themselves to supporting citizens’ economic empowerment. In addition, a number of public institutions have established Integrity Committees that address the strengthening of internal policies and procedures for combating corruption, in compliance with the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012. The private sector is also encouraged to either establish similar Integrity Committees or to strengthen their corporate governance standards to effectively address corruption.

The Zambian government seeks to maintain high standards of consumer protection by, for example, following the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection. The Competition and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 seeks to encourage competition in the economy, protect consumer welfare, strengthen the efficiency of production and distribution of goods and services, secure the best possible conditions for the freedom of trade, expand the base of entrepreneurship, and regulate monopolies and concentrations of economic power. Most local manufacturers of consumer products have submitted to voluntary product testing and certification by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZABS); ZABS certification is then embossed on the product labels as a “mark of quality” indicating the product’s suitability for consumption. Legislative measures have also been agreed with food processors and drug manufacturers that indicate product manufacturing and expiry dates.

A number of mining companies have acceded to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), adapted in February 2009 for Zambian conditions, and allow independent audits of their operations and financial reporting. EITI audit results are available to the general public. Zambia has been an EITI compliant country since September 2012. The government receives revenue in the form of taxes and royalties from all extractive industries, including mining. The mining sector accounts for about 12 percent of GDP and around 70 percent of export revenue. All exploration and mining activities are governed by the Mines and Minerals Act of 2008 and other mining related regulations that include: the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act, the Explosives Act, and the Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Act. The GRZ, through the Ministry of Mines and Minerals, conducts open bidding and grants mining licenses to qualified bidders. The Zambian Revenue Authority collects all payments from mining companies and remits them to the Ministry of Finance. The Zambian Revenue Authority regularly publishes production volumes for copper, cobalt, and gold, and the names of companies operating in the country.

9. Corruption

Zambia’s anti-corruption activities are governed by the Anti-Corruption Act of 2012 and the National Anti-Corruption Policy of 2009, which stipulate penalties for different offenses. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is the supreme institution mandated to fight corruption in Zambia and works with partner institutions-Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Agency and Intelligence Services. While legislation and stated policies on anti-corruption are adequate in theory, implementation often falls short due to limited technical capacity and suspected corruption within key government institutions. The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act of 2010 provides for the disclosure of conduct adverse to the public interest in the public and private sectors. However, like with other laws and policies, enforcement is weak. Zambia lacks adequate laws on asset disclosure, evidence, and freedom of information. Although the ACC has the mandate to investigate corruption and sometimes prosecute, it lacks autonomy to fully prosecute cases, often requiring authorization to prosecute from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). This practice has been criticized as a conduit for shielding high level crime and corruption through the executive which is perceived as influencing the DPP as an appointing authority. In March 2019 Cabinet approved the Access to Information Bill (ATI), but the draft bill has not been made public or presented to Parliament as of March 2022. The bill aims to ensure the government is proactive and organized in disseminating information to the public. Versions of the ATI Bill have been pending since 2002.

In 2021, Zambia established a fast-track financial crimes court to prosecute public corruption cases. The Hichilema administration has dismissed several key civil service staff and arrested numerous former government officials on suspicion of corruption. Zambia maintained a ranking of 117 out of 180 countries in the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report — a drop from 113 in the 2019 report. The legal and institutional frameworks against corruption have been strengthened, and efforts have been made to reduce red tape and streamline bureaucratic procedures, as well as to investigate and prosecute corruption cases, including those involving high-ranking officials. Most of these cases, however, remain on the shelves waiting to be tried while officials remain free, sometimes still occupying the positions through which the alleged corruption took place. In March 2018, Parliament passed the Public Finance Management Bill, which allows the government to prosecute public officials for misappropriating funds, something previous legislation lacked. The government published the implementing regulations in November 2020. Despite this progress, corruption remains a serious issue in Zambia, affecting the lives of ordinary citizens and their access to public services. Corruption in the police service has emerged as an area of particular concern (with frequency of bribery well above that found in any other sector), followed by corruption in the Road Transport and Safety Agency. The government has cited corruption in public procurements and contracting procedures as major areas of concern.

The Anti-Money Laundering Unit of the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) also assists with investigation of allegations of corruption and financial misconduct. An independent Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) was established in 2010 but does not have the authority to prosecute financial crimes. Zambia’s anti-corruption agencies generally do not discriminate between local and foreign investors. Transparency International has an active Zambian chapter.

The government encourages private companies to establish internal codes of conduct that prohibit bribery of public officials. Most large private companies have internal controls, ethics, and compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery. The Integrity Committees (ICs) Initiative is one of the strategies of the National Anti-Corruption Policy (NACP), which is aimed at institutionalizing the prevention of corruption. The NACP received the Cabinet’s approval in March 2009 and the Anti-Corruption Commission spearheads its implementation. The NACP targets eight institutions, including the Zambia Revenue Authority, Immigration Department, and Ministry of Lands. The government has taken measures to enhance protection of whistleblowers and witnesses with the enactment of the Public Disclosure Act, as well as to strengthen protection of citizens against false reports, in line with Article 32 of the UN Convention.

U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to foreign direct investment. Corruption is most pervasive in government procurement and dispute settlement. Giving or accepting a bribe by a private, public, or foreign official is a criminal act, and a person convicted of doing so is liable to a fine or a prison term not exceeding five years. A bribe by a local company or individual to a foreign official is a criminal act and punishable under the laws of Zambia. A local company cannot deduct a bribe to a foreign official from taxes. Many businesses have complained that bribery and kickbacks, however, remain rampant and difficult to police, as some companies have noted government officials’ complicity in and/or benefitting from corrupt deals.

Zambia signed and ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in December 2007. Other regional anti-corruption initiatives are the SADC Protocol against Corruption, ratified in 2003, and the AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, ratified in 2007. Zambia is not a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions but is a party to the Anticorruption Convention. Currently, there are no local industries or non-profit groups that offer services for vetting potential local investment partners. Normally, the U.S. Embassy provides limited vetting of potential local investment partners for U.S. businesses, when contracted as a commercial service.

10. Political and Security Environment

Zambia has benefited from almost 30 years of largely peaceful multi-party politics, with 3 peaceful transfers of executive power. Zambia does not have a history of large-scale political violence. National elections in 2021 were largely peaceful and former President Edgar Lungu conceded defeat to Hakainde Hichilema. The rise in street crime remains a significant concern as the Zambian economy struggles to create meaningful employment opportunities for young people.

11. Labor Policies and Practices

About a third of Zambia’s employed population works in the formal sector. While an abundance of unskilled labor exists in Zambia, investors complain that the supply of skilled and semi-skilled labor is inadequate, while labor-management relations vary by sector. Zambia’s population is estimated to be around 17.86 million, the majority being of employable age. Zambia’s 2020 Labor Force Survey reported that the working-age population (i.e., 15 years or older) was 9,905,071. Labor demand, however, does not match supply and Zambia has high rates of unemployment, youth unemployment, and underemployment while living costs have risen steadily. The government adheres closely to International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions and has ratified all eight ILO core conventions. The government has continuously sought to revise labor laws and improve compliance, but there are still gaps in law and practice. Strikes are not uncommon in the public sector and often are related to the government’s failure to pay salaries or allowances on time, but lawful strikes are very difficult to hold due to several restrictions and conditions.

Labor laws provide for extremely generous severance pay, leave, and other benefits to workers, which can impede investment. Such rules do not apply to personnel hired on a short-term basis. As such, the vast majority of Zambian employees are hired on an informal or short-term basis. In September 2018, the Minimum Wage and Conditions of Employment Act 276 of the laws of Zambia were revised following issuance of Statutory Instrument (SI) number 69 of 2018 covering domestic workers. This revision doubled the minimum wage of certain classes of low-wage workers. The Employment Code Act No. 3 of 2019, which went into effect in May 2020, furthers the employees’ protections and expands severance and gratuity payments, whether the employee is terminated or come to an end of contract, regardless of who employs them.

The Employment Act, Chapter 268 covers employment and labor related issues. While the law recognizes the right of workers to form and join independent unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively, there are statutory restrictions limiting these rights. Police officers, military personnel, and certain other categories of workers are excluded from exercising these rights. No trade union can be registered if it claims to represent a class of employees already represented by an existing trade union. At least 25 members are required, and registration may take up to six months. The government has discretionary power to exclude certain categories of workers, including prison staff, judges, registrars of the court, magistrates, and local court justices from labor law provisions. The law also gives the labor commissioner the power to suspend and appoint an interim executive board of a trade union, as well as to dissolve the board and call for a new election.

The government generally protects unions’ right to conduct their activities without interference. Trade unions are independent of government, but the Ministry of Labor and Social Security is ultimately responsible for employment exchange services and enforcing labor legislation. An employer is allowed to terminate a contract of service on grounds of redundancy; however, the Employment Act requires the employer fulfill certain conditions before terminating a contract of service on such grounds. One of these conditions is notifying the employee’s trade union. The Act makes a clear distinction between layoffs and severance. In the event an employee is summarily dismissed, he/she shall be paid upon dismissal the wages and allowances due up to the date of such dismissal. The government formally permits employment of expatriate labor only in sectors where there is scarcity of local personnel, but investors promoting large scale investments can negotiate the number of work permits that they can obtain from the Department of Immigration to employ expatriates.

The law does not limit the scope of collective bargaining, but it allows either party, in certain cases, to refer a labor dispute to court or arbitration. The law also allows for a maximum period of one year from the day on which the complaint is filed within which a court must consider the complaint and issue its ruling. The law provides for the right to strike if recourse to all legal options is first exhausted. The law prohibits workers engaged in a broadly defined range of essential services from striking. Under Zambian law, essential services are defined as any activity relating to the generation, supply, or distribution of electricity; the supply and distribution of water and sewage removal; fire departments; and the mining sector. Employees in the Zambian Defense Forces, judiciary, police, prison, and the Zambia Security Intelligence Service (ZSIS) personnel are also considered essential. The government has power to add other services to the list of essential services, in consultation with the tripartite consultative labor council.

The process of exhausting the legal alternatives to a strike is lengthy. The law also limits the maximum duration of a strike to 14 days, after which, if the dispute remains unsolved, it is referred to the court. A strike can be discontinued if the court finds it not to be “in the public interest.” Workers who engage in illegal strikes may be dismissed by employers. The Industrial and Labor Relations Act, Chapter 269, Part IX covers the settling of labor disputes. Aggrieved parties may report the matter to a labor officer, who would take steps deemed fit to affect a settlement between the parties and would encourage the use of collective bargaining facilities where applicable. In the event of a collective dispute between an employer and a trade union regarding the terms and conditions of employment, claims and demands must be put in writing and both parties must have held at least one meeting with a view to reaching a settlement. Such disputes are referred to a conciliator or board of conciliators to be appointed by both parties to the dispute. If the conciliator fails to resolve the problem, the conciliator will inform the Labor Commissioner, who will call on the Minister of Labor to appoint a conciliator who will again call the parties to consider dispute resolution. If all efforts to resolve the matter fail, it is then taken to the Industrial Relations Court for arbitration.

Other internationally recognized fundamental labor rights, including the elimination of forced labor, child labor employment, discrimination, minimum wage, occupational safety and health, and weekly work hours are all recognized under domestic law, but enforcement is often weak. The government has supported the development of programming to empower adolescent girls and reduce child labor in rural areas. However, children in Zambia continue to engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in the production of tobacco, and in commercial sexual exploitation, sometimes as a result of human trafficking. Gaps remain in the legal framework related to children; for example, the Education Act does not include the specific age to which education is compulsory, which may leave children under the legal working age vulnerable to the worst forms of child labor. In addition, law enforcement agencies lack the necessary human and financial resources to adequately enforce laws against child labor. There is no documented number of children in Zambia who are engaged in child labor, but studies point to a yearly increase in the number of these children, who work primarily in the agriculture and mining sectors. Cotton, tobacco, cattle, gems, and stones are included on the U.S. Government’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor in Zambia.

The Department of Labor and the Department of Occupational Safety and Health of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security monitor labor abuses, as well as health and safety standards in low-wage assembly operations such as construction. Two primary labor stakeholders, the Zambian Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Zambian Federation of Employers (ZFE), assist with Ministry of Labor enforcement. The worker and employer organizations are consulted at tripartite gatherings on any proposed policy document or legislation, and they participate in labor inspections. The Ministry of Labor produces annual inspection reports, which are made available to social partners. In December 2015, Parliament passed, and the president signed a suite of amendments to the Employment Act that prohibit casual labor and increase protections for unskilled workers. Zambia has benefited from duty-free and quota-free market access from the GSP in the U.S. market under AGOA.

13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($BM USD) 2020 N/A 2020 $18.11 https://data.worldbank.org/
country/zambia
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 N/A 2020 $21 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2020 N/A 2020 -$1 BEA data available at
https://apps.bea.gov/international/
factsheet/factsheet.cfm
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2020 N/A 2020 1.3% UNCTAD data available at
https://unctad.org/en/Pages/DIAE/
World%20Investment%20Report/
Country-Fact-Sheets.aspx
 

* Host country statistical data released is almost non-existent. If it exists, there is not a central source for retrieving the data, and at most times it does not match international sources.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data**
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Stock Outward Direct Investment Stock
Total Inward $12,383.6 100% Total Outward $725.8 100%
Canada $3,387 27.4% Switzerland $165.8 22.8%
China $2,439 19.7% United States $22.3 3%
Switzerland $2,382 19.2% South Africa $6.5 0.9%
Netherlands $1,775 14.3% Mauritius $3 0.4%
Australia $890 7.2% Rest of the World $2.6 0.4%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

**Bank of Zambia Private Capital Flow 2021 Report

14. Contact for More Information

U.S. Embassy | Political/Economic Section
Commercial Team
Stand 100, Kabulonga Road, Ibex Hill, Lusaka, Zambia
+260 211 35 7000
Email Address: CommercialLusaka@state.gov 

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