CHISHALA MUSONDA, Ndola
INVESTMENT to the tune of more than US$1.5 billion into various projects on the Copperbelt for the next three years is a magnificent venture
by Government that will steer development and generate hundreds of business and job opportunities in the province.
With colossal sums of money invested in the aviation, construction and rebuilding of roads and cement manufacturing, Zambians will in the near future start enjoying the fruits of today’s investment.
This is all because of Government’s ambitious development agenda for the country, and the Copperbelt being the mainstay of Zambia’s economy, such investments are timely to drive the plan of taking the country to another level of economic growth.
Constructing of transport infrastructure is a core area the Patriotic Front (PF) government is focusing on because of its proven importance to delivering development in many economies across the world.
A proper transport system makes the environment of conducting business far much easier.
“Government has prioritised the development of transport infrastructure as it is essential for the economic development of the country,” President Edgar Lungu indicated on June 25 this year when he launched the construction of the US$397 million Greenfield international airport to be situated outside Ndola.
“It is important that the construction of the airport is taking place here as Copperbelt is a cherished economic hub.”
Truly a cherished hub, the Copperbelt further witnessed President Lungu commissioning investment projects with over US$1.2 billion.
The investments were in:
• The US$458 million Central African Cement in Masaiti, a cement manufacturing factory with two 20 megawatts coal fire thermal power plants; a partnership venture between the ZCCM-Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) and China Machinery Industry Construction Group (Sinoconst).
• The US$461 million Zambia township road project is intended to rebuild and upgrade 306km of township roads to bituminous standard in all the 10 districts in the province.
• The K701 million to rebuild the Ndola-Mufulira road up to Mokambo on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
• The US$100 million power cable plant by a private company Neelkanth Cables Limited in Masaiti signifies Government’s commitment of the supportive private sector partnership to grow the economy.
With business and employment opportunities on offer following this momentous development, people have expressed happiness and are looking forward to be part of the growth that is driving Zambia to a middle-class income country.
More so, President Lungu stated that the business community on the Copperbelt should benefit from commercial contracts that will be available during the construction period of the development in the province.
For a Kitwe businessman, Daniel Makina, this is the showing of care by President Lungu for the people in the province.
“It shows the care that the President has for us on the Copperbelt,” Mr Makina said, adding that the benefits from the business from the construction works will help uplift the economic status of many.
“Whatever some people will earn from the jobs on the Copperbelt will go to assist people. Many will be employed and many will be in business.”
Mulenga Mulilo of Masaiti was happy that he may one day get a job as the construction of the cement plant was soon going to get underway.
“The government is opening a cement plant because it wants to improve the country’s economy and it is also going to employ us,” Mr Mulilo said.
“It is our hope that women, youths and our husbands will be considered for employment,” said 27-year-old Patricia Mutale, a Masaiti resident.
“The people of Masaiti should be considered first for employment. This is a good thing the government has done.”
And to stress the importance to empower locals, President Lungu stated that the contractor engaged to carry out works on the project should ensure that 20 percent of the works are sub-contracted to Zambian contractors as per government policy.
Estimated to be completed after three years, the new airport will, during this period, provide the much yearned-for employment of about 3,000 at the construction stage and the figure will go up to 5,000 when it is finalised and fully operational.
The airport will also house a business complex and a hotel, and will be able to accommodate the latest aircraft like the airbus, with its fitted 3.5km runway.
Advantageously positioned on the edge of Kitwe, Luanshya, Mufulira and Ndola, the new airfield is earmarked to be a hub of cargo with Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo as the countries expected to effectively utilise the airport in lifting freight from Zambia.
And President Lungu indicated that once completed, the new airport is expected to attract reputable airlines which will increase revenue for the country from tourists and other businesses as Zambia’s presence on the global market will be enhanced.
He foresees the country’s aviation industry competing favourably with others once the new airport is completed.
The cement plant, to be the biggest cement producer at 5,000 tonnes a day once fully operational, is anticipated to create 1,000 new jobs during construction with more people expected to be employed full-time when completed and some to also benefit through contractual engagements.
And as a new entrant in the cement market, this new product is expected to create competition in the sub-sector and make the product more affordable as it joins five other players in the industry.
The current price of a 50kg bag of cement is K59.50.
And as the President observed, that the Copperbelt, being largely a mining area and with cyclical nature of the industry that has affected the job security of many locals, the project would not have come at a better time than this.
With most township roads having undergone rehabilitation in Lusaka, the Copperbelt was desperate for the same and President Lungu broke the ground in Chingola to clearly indicate the government’s vision of improving people’s lives with the US$461 million road project to cover 306km of township roads in the province.
The 10 districts on the Copperbelt will get a share of 306km upgrades of roads because roads are important for development.
True, a good road network will ease the movement of people and, most importantly, the transportation of farm produce from farm blocks to the marketplace.
Driving for two hours on a 70km road, President Lungu admitted that this road had to be rebuilt as it is of economic value to the province.
Goods cannot be transported on the stretch just because of the countless number of potholes that make driving a nightmare.
Last worked on in the 1980’s, the Ndola-Mufulira road has remained abandoned and underutilised by motorists just because of its bad state, leaving road users with no choice but use the longer route, the Ndola-Kitwe dual carriageway.
Once completed, the Ndola-Mufulira road will be a shorter route to the northern part of the country and it will also help in lessening traffic on the Ndola-Kitwe dual carriageway and also reducing on the time of doing business.
Neelkanth Cables Limited, a privately-owned power cable manufacturing company, has shown investor confidence in the Zambian climate with the setting up of a US$100 million state-of-the-art technology able to produce PVC cable grade with a capacity of 600 metric tonnes a month.
The company’s total installed capacity of copper rod production is 720 metric tonnes a month and the power cable production is 1,500 metric tonnes monthly.
The firm is involved in the manufacturing of a wide range of copper and aluminium power cables and conductors which are used in underground mines, houses and overhead transmission of power.
The power cable plant particularly impressed the President because it sources most of the major raw materials locally from the mines on the Copperbelt.
Operating at 40 percent production with 180 staff employed, the company is expected to contribute to the employment of Zambians to over 400 once the operations are at full capacity.
A local contractor in Ndola said the coming of Neelkanth is a welcome development as it will be manufacturing good quality cables for companies in the construction industry.
Kaplov Trading and Contracting Limited director Felix Kapwenge said the cable-manufacturing firm is bringing a wide range of products and competition on the market.