By Ben Kangwa
The 2015 Zambia International Trade Fair was held in Ndola between the 1st to the 7th of July, 2015. The theme for the 51st Fair was “Prosperity through Business Reforms and Linkages”. Sixteen foreign countries had confirmed their participation in the show. The countries included China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Japan, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The Trade Fair was officiated by President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar C. Lungu and his Kenyan counterpart His Excellency, President Uhuru Kenyatta on 4th July, 2015.
On the sidelines, the Zambia International Trade Fair partnered with the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) to host the second Business Forum, the first of which was held in 2014. The Forum was highly interactive and dynamic whose plenary sessions were enriched with presentations, inputs from government, private sector and expert perspectives.
The Forum brought together policy makers, business Chief Executive Officers, diplomats and participants from Non-Governmental Organizations to interact and debate issues and in so doing create a business networking environment. Topics and discussions anchored by this writer included marketing, banking, business, investment, infrastructure, energy and education. Segments of discussion were sponsored and supported by Stanbic Bank, the Energy Regulation Board and the Zambia State Insurance Corporation and other Cooperating partners.
At a panel discussion session themed “National Prosperity Through a Transformed Public Private Relationship: Moving Zambia Forward”, on 2nd July, 2015, at which Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, Margaret Mwanakatwe officiated, she said, “This Forum provides me and colleagues from Government with an opportunity to interact and exchange views with you the business community at large. You will agree with me that it is through such valuable platforms that networks are created among the business community, regulators and service providers.”
She told her audience that the Government was making strides in providing an enabling business environment and that it had embarked on programmes aimed at reducing the costs of doing business through the implementation of various business reforms. Notable was the “Industrialization and Job Creation Strategy” which, she said, “is aimed at transforming the industrial sector and would create more than one million formal jobs in the next five years. Further, she revealed that her Ministry was in the process of reviewing the Commercial, Trade and Industrial Policy in order to come up with two separate policy documents namely the Industrial Policy and the Commercial and Trade Policy in line with international best practices that will ensure that industry and trade issues are comprehensively addressed.
“In this regard, my Ministry has since developed a zero draft Industrial Policy that has since been subjected to stakeholder consultation before finalization. The review of the Trade Policy is ongoing and will be completed soon,” she added.
Indeed, the conference also provided a platform for experience sharing by international speakers such as Professor Kenneth Mwenda who is Program Manager and Executive Head of the Voice Secondment Program at the World Bank in Washington DC. In his paper “Public-Private Partnerships: The Case Of Zambia”, Professor Mwenda observed that PPPs are typically medium to long term arrangements between the public and private sectors whereby some of the service obligations of the public sector are provided by the private sector, with clear agreement on shared objectives for delivery of public infrastructure or public services.
He further observed that since the PPP Act of 2009 was enacted, according to the Zambia Development Agency on its website dated January 2014, “there has only been one PPP Agreement signed between Government and the private sector.” And that the agreement was for the Redevelopment of Long Acres Lodge into a Five-Star Hotel, a shopping Mall, Conference centre, Office Complex and related infrastructure. The agreement was signed with Thuthuka Group International of South Africa.
In his presentation, Professor Mwenda also said although the political leadership in Zambia had made pronouncements and expressed desire and optimism to use the PPP arrangement to deliver public infrastructure and services, the country required political champions to drive the PPP agenda.
The Professor also gave examples of PPPs in Zambia in the Health Sector citing the Ultra-modern Center of Excellency Hospital in Lusaka and the three Diagnostic Health Facilities in Lusaka, Livingstone and on the Copperbelt.
The Transport Sector included the E-Governance programme, the Chingola-Solwezi-Lumwana-Jimbe Railway line, the Kazungula-Livingstone railway spur, the Nseluka-Mpulungu railway spur and the Tazara line in Chipata. Others mentioned were the Solwezi via Kasempa-Kaoma-Mongu to Katima Mulilo road, Njanji commuter, operation of train services between Chipata and Mchinji and the Kafue Lions Den.
In the Agriculture Sector, he mentioned the development of Kalumwanga Farming Block as well as the development of the Luena Farming Block while in the Energy Sector was the development of Kabompo mini-hydro, Kalungwishi and Mombututu mini-hydros.
From his perspective, the Director in charge of PPP at the Zambia Development Agency, Henry Sakala first gave a historical background of the previous PPPs as in Zambia Railways which was concessioned to Railway Systems of Zambia, the Mpulungu Harbour which was concessioned to Agro-Fuel and the Lubarma Market which was concession by the Lusaka City Council. He also informed the audience that the current PPP Projects include the Itezhi Tezhi Hydro Power between Tata and Zesco which is expected to produce 120 MW of power, the Kafue Gorge Lower being promoted by Zesco and is expected to produce 750 MW of power. Other projects include Major Trunk Roads, for instance Livingstone-Kafue, the Chirundu-Kafue-Lusaka Road and the Lusaka Ndola road which have been advertised by the Road Development Agency (RDA) to make dual carriage ways and then be tolled. He also mentioned that the Zambia International trade Fair would be turned into an ultra- modern facility to allow continuous year round activities.
During the question and answer segment as to what the benefits of Public Private Partnerships are in infrastructure development, the PPP Director said PPPs could help create more jobs in infrastructure and related services, adding, “Infrastructure investments has the potential to create more jobs quickly while providing a foundation for future economic growth and employment. He further said PPPs could also help develop local private sector capabilities through joint ownership and that they could create sub-contracting opportunities for local firms in areas such as civil works. The Stanbic Bank CEO Charles Mudiwa explained all about Risk Management Process in banking and how the economic climate and markets can be affected by exchange rates and interest rates. He mentioned that banks such as Stanbic Bank were willing to engage with business partners where possible.
As for Rob Stokes, a leading South African entrepreneur who is a founder and group Chief Executive Officer of Quirk SA who was also a speaker on a topic specifically titled “Marketing”, he confidently spoke about the role of Digital Marketing Strategy, Market Research, Content Market Strategy, Social Media, On-line Advertising in promoting business. Earlier, he gave a background of how he started his business into one of the largest Marketing Services Groups on the African continent.
Much later, Marius Krige, a South African expert involved with Information Technology and Finance Services for more than 20 years, also gave a talk entitled “Harnessing the changes in the Financial Services: the Good, the Great and the Ugly of Technology Integration.” He focused on the impact and role of IT in shaping and changing various payment strategies and products.
On the panel was the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) Director of Technology and Engineering Patrick Mutimushi, Fabian Hara Regional Manager at the Bank of Zambia based in Ndola and Leonard Mwanza from the Bankers Association of Zambia. Following this discussion was yet a presentation by the Bank of Zambia Deputy Governor in charge of Operations Dr. Bwalya Ngándu on the topic “Are Banks Meeting the needs of Corporate Zambia?” The two discussions were timely and drew a lot of questions from the audience during the question and answer segments.
The presentations were later followed by an interesting discussion on Energy. The title was, “Transforming the Energy Sector”. In his submission, Zesco Senior Manager- Patrick Mwila submitted that the current load shedding in the country was as a result of the lower water levels at the Kariba Dam and Itezhi- Tezhi that were affecting power generation.
Energy expert Andrew Kamanga on the same discussion empathized with Zesco on the water level situation but stated that it was time to look at non-hydro- power investments to enhance the security supply of power that would enable the country have a fall- back position. He said renewable energy would address some of the energy challenges the country was facing.
“With only three percent of the rural population and less than half of the urban population connected to the national power grid, we are seriously facing enormous energy challenges as a country that are in turn making us back track in development, “he said.
Director Economic Regulation at the Energy Regulation Board Alfred Mwila who first gave an overview of the Energy Regulation in Africa, in the SADC Region and finally in Zambia. He also noted that Zambia and neighbouring countries had for some time been facing challenges in meeting energy requirements thereby implementing load shedding.
The Business Forum also hosted discussions on the “Role of Education in Economic Development” whose session was addressed by the Permanent Secretary Education, Science, Technology Vocational Training and Early Education, Dr. Patrick Nkanza. The discussants included Zambia Chamber of Mines Industry Training Manager, Francis Mulimbika, Zambia Qualifications Authority (ZQA) Chief Executive Officer, Miriam Chiyaba, Director General of the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA), David Chakonta and Higher Education Authoritry (HEA) Interim Director General, Emmanuel Lutelo.
All said and done, the ZITF Business Forum was quite informative and educative as it provided a platform for policy makers, business executives, academicians, NGOs and diplomats to share ideas and experiences in a manner that encouraged networking. As Patrick Chisanga,the Board Member of the ZITF as well as Director-General of the Zambia Development Agency put it, “The Forum has been successful and it is our intention to make it much better next year.”
The writer is a Broadcast Journalist/Media Consultant