The sixth time is the charm for Hakainde Hichilema, who has finally secured the job he fought 15 years for.

The perennial leader of the opposition will become Zambia’s new president in the days ahead, as the business magnate inflicted a crushing blow on the incumbent during the nation’s latest round of elections.


His backstory plays out like something from a Hollywood movie: Hichilema has gone from rags to riches, accumulating a significant amount of wealth and channeling his energy into political change.

His battles with the law have become the stuff of legend in Zambia, and just a few years after his last detention, the president-elect has secured the top job.

  • He was born to a poor family in the southern district of Monze
  • Hichilema is a practicing Christian from the Tonga ethnic group, and is married with three children.
  • The new president earned a scholarship to the University of Zambia, graduating with a degree in economics and business administration. He went on to obtain an MBA degree at the University of Birmingham, in the UK.
  • By the age of 26, he was CEO of the Zambian branch of a large international accountancy firm.
  • Hakainde Hichilema is one of Zambia’s richest men, with business interests spanning finance, ranching, property, and tourism.
  • After the 2016 election, he faced treason charges for allegedly failing to give way to the presidential motorcade.
  • The president-elect spent four months in a maximum-security jail for the incident, before the charges were dropped.

This came after he unsuccessfully challenged the result of the 2016 election, losing by under 100 000 votes.


With more than 2.8 million votes, he secured a landslide against his long-time rival President Edgar Lungu, who garnered just over 1.8 million of the ballots cast on 12 August. The victory is decisive, and eliminates the need for a run-off.

Hakainde Hichilema, who has described himself as just an ordinary “cattle boy”, has contested and lost every election held in the southern African country since 2006, though he has been buoyed each time by an increased share of the vote. Now, his dreams will become a very sobering reality, with Zambia’s debt crisis topping the agenda.

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