Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 881–919 | Cite as

The Zambian Resource Curse and its influence on Genuine Savings as an indicator for “weak” sustainable development

  • Adrian BoosEmail author
  • Karin Holm-Müller
Case Study


The empirical evidence that economies predominantly reliant on their natural resources are characterized by slower economic growth—the so-called Resource Curse (RC)—is in many ways confirmed by the case of Zambia. Haber and Menaldo (Am Polit Sci Rev 105(1):1–26, 2011) identify Zambia’s extreme dependence on copper exports as one of the worldwide most striking examples for a country suffering from this “curse.” In topical literature, the RC is traced back to the generation of natural resource rents regardless of economic performance, which among other problems leads to suboptimal reinvestment. The World Banks indicator for the “weak” sustainable development of a country—the so-called Genuine Savings (GS)—considers exactly this reinvestment of rents from the depletion of natural capital rents into physical or human capital. Although it has been shown empirically that countries dependent on primary exports on average feature negative GS rates and that the determinants of the RC influence both present economic growth and future sustainability as measured by GS, no case studies have been conducted to confirm this. Against this background, we qualitatively survey the relationship between the most discussed determinants causing the RC in Zambia and the country’s GS rate. We show that all theoretical relationships between the GS rates of a country and RC determinants such as consumption behavior, volatile world market prices, the so-called Dutch disease as well as political and institutional structures apply to Zambia between 1964 and 2010: an extreme dependency on copper exports and insufficient reinvestments of income from the depletion of Zambia’s natural capital constitutes one of the main reasons for slow growth and negative GS until the copper price booms in the second half of the 2000s.


Zambia Resource Curse Genuine Savings Weak sustainability Natural capital Sustainable development 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Resource and Environmental Economics, Institute for Food and Resource EconomicsUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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