CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
PROVOKED by their Luapula counterparts, the private sector in Central Province are set to host the first Investment Forum and Expo between October 16 and 20 this year,
The first trade conference in the region in recent years aims at linking the province to reputable investors, thereby promoting economic investments and growth.
Through this landmark event, Government is hoping to expose the region’s investment potential in areas such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, mining, energy and trade.
Agriculture is Central Province’s mainstay economic activity and the sector offers investment opportunities largely because the region has favourable climate and arable land for farming.
The aspect of agro-processing and industrial production has, however, not been unexploited.
The province also has tourism potential. It’s the home of the Kafue National Park in part, which extends to Itezhi Tezhi and Mumbwa districts.
The park is Zambia’s largest park and is the fifth largest natural habitat for different species of wildlife and home to four of the big five -lions, elephants, buffaloes, rhino and leopards.
There is also Kasanka National Park in Chitambo district, where Scottish explorer and missionary David Livingstone died on May 4, 1873, at the age of 60.
This is a wildlife sanctuary that is being marketed for unexploited tourism potential.
Lukanga (shared by Ngabwe, Chibombo and Kapiri Mposhi), Bangweulu Swamps, and the Luano Valley in Luano district are other tourist destinations with great potential.
Central Province’s centrality in Zambia and Southern Africa puts it at a vantage position and it has been identified as one with potential to transform the region into an investment destination of choice.
This entails that the province is easily accessed by air, rail and road.
By road and rail, the province guarantees access to the markets in southern and eastern Africa.
This potential will be showcased during the event to be held under the theme: ‘Promoting Multi-Sectorial Integration through Investment for Sustainable Development’.
“We want to show the world the potential that we have as Central Province,” Permanent Secretary for Central Province Chanda Kabwe says.
Outlining the importance of the inaugural five-day Central Province Investment Forum and Expo, Mr Kabwe says the event will focus on four key areas of the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP).
Mr Kabwe says Central Province has an environment that favours investments in different sectors.
If the region manages to woo investors in agriculture, this will facilitate crop diversification, increased crop production, value addition to farm produce and job creation.
“As a province [apart from maize], we also produce watermelons, butternuts and tomatoes. We want to be the food basket of this country,” Mr Kabwe says.
“We want to add value to our watermelons; we want to add value to our tomatoes and other crops.”
Preparations for the expo started last year and have gained momentum.
Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga expects the expo to woo both local and foreign investors.
“For us, this expo is supposed to be a game changer when it comes to providing an enabling environment to the local and foreign exhibitors,” Mr Mushanga says.
The expo is a private sector-driven undertaking but the Central Province administration is spearheading its preparations.
Investors from India, China, Turkey, South Africa and neighbouring countries have expressed interest to participate in the trade conference.
“We are using Zambian missions abroad to advertise this investment forum and expo,” the minister says
Traditional leaders are among stakeholders who have been engaged in the preparations of the expo.
During a recent Central Province Council of Chiefs meeting in Kabwe, traditional leaders endorsed the expo.
Chief Ngabwe says the participation of chiefs and their subjects is important for the expo to be successful.
“The expo is not going to start in October because it has already started,” Chief Ngabwe, who is chairperson of the House of Chiefs, says.
He says chiefs are happy that Central Province will host an expo because of its potential to attract investors to the region.
Central Province is expected to draw lessons from Luapula Province, which successfully held its expo and investment conference from July 26 to July 31, 2017.
Luapula Province Minister Nixon Chilangwa says the Luapula investment conference was successful because stakeholders put in a lot of work, resources and time in advance preparations.
“They should put in a lot so that they could do better than we did, that’s my hope,” Mr Chilangwa says.
When President Lungu officiated at the Luapula Expo and Investment Conference, he challenged other provinces to emulate the region, which vigorously marketed its economic potential during the five-day event.
“Luapula will not look back again because it’s going to develop. The province has potential for tourism, hydro-power, agriculture and agro- forestry,” President Lungu said.
Hopefully, the Central Province Investment Forum and Expo will be a vehicle for harnessing funding to support the growth of local businesses, boosting economic development and instilling the culture of public private partnerships in Zambia.
CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe