Zambia means business

IT IS gratifying to note that the launch of the Zambia Chapter of the Zambia-South Africa Business Council (ZSABC) in Lusaka on 27th May, 2016, is promising to foster healthy investment partnerships. At the time of the launch, 27 leading South African commercial farmers were in the country to hold high- level investment discussions with Government. The bedrock of the talks was to help in responding to economic and social challenges posed by foreign investment. ZSABC also facilitated discussions between Zambia and South Africa on the issue of energy solutions in Zambia which resulted in an agreement where South Africa was to supplement Zambia with electricity supplies. Undoubtedly, Zambia has a conducive investment environment in the region. However, it is one thing to have the favourable investment environment and another to market the investment prospects so that the benefits can accrue to the ordinary citizenry. It is basic knowledge that the heightened economic activity in recent years is what has led to an increased demand for energy particularly in the mining, manufacturing and agriculture sectors. How will Zambia remain a favourable investment destination with the current electricity deficits being experienced? What is the role of the Industrial Development Corporation in attracting foreign direct investment? Reliance on the hydro-power generation as a source of energy will definitely not offer sustainable, conducive and favourable environment for investment. There is need to explore other sources of energy particularly renewable energy. Foremost, there is need for deliberate efforts to attract investment into the energy sector because it is the hub of meaningful and sustained attraction of investment in other sectors of our economy. We are cognisant of the fact that despite the abundant water bodies in some parts of this country which could be tapped for power generation, investors have been discouraged to do so due to the prevailing low tariffs. What is Government’s policy on liberalising the energy sector? Is Government inertia to liberalise the energy sector a way of shielding the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation (ZESCO) from competition that would arise from other players in the power generation industry? We are aware that ZESCO is a monopoly and an integrated one for that matter but it cannot be a bad investment idea to allow other companies enter the market and be solely involved in generation while ZESCO remains as the conduit for distribution. The conscientious decision by Government to establish the Industrial Development Corporation provides an opportunity to accelerate the industrialisation programme, achieve economic diversification of the country and maximise economic growth potential and wealth creation. We think that the IDC is a useful tool in driving the economy in the right direction in the similar manner that the original concept under UNIP’s INDECO helped the country establish various parastatal companies. Through the IDC, Government will also help open up and facilitate more investment opportunities, mutual trade relations and business cooperation with other nations. For instance, the ZSABC is one such good initiative that we think the IDC must harness to propel the diversification of the economy into agriculture. We equally urge the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA), Government ministers and other officials to be good investment lobbyists each time they have engagement with prospective investors. We concur with President Lungu when he says that Zambia will diversify her economy through partnership with other nations, and attracting foreign direct investment is a major part of this thrust.