MWILA NTAMBI, Kitwe
LUSAKA can boast of Manda Hill Shopping Mall, Arcades Shopping Mall, Levy Business Park, Makeni Shopping Mall, East Park, Cosmopolitan Shopping Mall and Crossroads Shopping Mall, among others.
In the early mid-2000s, Kitwe residents were excited about the prospects of a shopping mall at Freedom Park that was supposed to be built by Platinum Gold Equity.
The excitement was high but it died down and the mall was nowhere in sight.
Freedom Park holds a special place in the hearts of many Kitwe residents with the historical heritage site known for hosting important meetings.
Construction of a mall at Freedom Park began in 2009 and projections were that it was supposed to be completed by the first quarter of 2011 but this was never the case.
Works stalled and stalled for a very long time.
However, there was hope when another mall was announced, envisaged to be Zambiaâ€™s largest on the Kitwe-Chingola road.
The mall in question, which was supposed to be developed by Phoenix Materials Limited at a cost of US$200 million, was supposed to create 3,000 jobs for the local people.
Mopani Copper Mines (MCM) handed over 440 hectares of land to the developer but four years down the line, residents are yet to see this mall.
Up until 2014, Kitwe residents have had to rely on Ndola and Lusaka for a shopping mall experience all because of lack of such facilities in the city.
Copperhill Mall came into being two years ago followed by the Mukuba Mall, situated just opposite Freedom Park, but the two facilities cannot match up to malls such as Manda Hill, East Park, Levy and other malls spread across Lusaka.
But the waiting for the people of Kitwe for Freedom Park Mall will soon come to an end following the National Pensions Scheme Authority (NAPSA)â€™s decision to resuscitate the stalled mall project at Freedom Park, with intentions of turning it into a mixed use development centre.
NAPSA, a State-owned company, spent US$223 million to acquire the incomplete structure and land covering 3.9 hectares including a portion of Engen filling station.
NAPSA director-general Yollard Kachinda told a gathering during the ground-breaking ceremony for the development of the Edgar Chagwa Shopping Mall that his companyâ€™s decision to acquire the incomplete mall and finish it was purely an investment decision meant to grow pensionersâ€™ funds.
NAPSA is expected to spend US$50 million to complete the project in addition to the US$223 million already spent on acquiring the site.
â€œThis project is owned by workers and pensioners,â€ said Mr Kachinda of the mall that has since been named after President Lungu in recognition of his hard work and exemplary service to the nation.
He said the Edgar Chagwa Lungu Shapping Mall will encompass a hotel, office park, and shopping mall and a world-class cinema.
Kitwe residents would for the first time in over 20 years, have an opportunity to access world-class cinema facilities since the days of the Astra Cinema.
The mall will also provide an opportunity to Zambians during and after the completion of the 18-month project to supply goods and services and sale their labour and in turn earn a living.
President Lungu, who was the guest of honour at the event, pledged Governmentâ€™s commitment in attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in all sectors of the countryâ€™s economy in order to create jobs for the citizenry.
President Lungu is elated that 1,000 jobs will be created during the construction stage and 800 more jobs when the mall becomes operational.
He said this will greatly reduce joblessness in a province that had been hard-hit by the sharp decline in copper prices globally thereby resulting into job losses in mining towns such as Kitwe and Mufulira.
President Lungu says the Patriotic Front (PF) government is resolved to turning around the economic fortunes of the Copperbelt Province through the implementation of economic policies, strategies and programmes that will attract local and foreign direct investments to foster job creation in all sectors of the countryâ€™s economy.
He says the mall project demonstrates the importance the PF Government attaches to the uplifting of the living standards and welfare of the citizenry.
He said the new investments in retail and service industries such as the NAPSAâ€™s Edgar Chagwa Lungu Mall should give the Zambian people great hope that there are green shoots on the horizon.
â€œThis event not only demonstrates the importance that my Government attaches to the uplifting of living standards and welfare of our people, but also a testimony that we are resolved to turn around the economic challenges of this great province,â€ President Lungu said.
President Lungu believes miners, who recently lost jobs following the slump in commodity prices on the international market particularly the price of copper could also take advantage of the business opportunities to supply various goods.
â€œWith the development of this shopping mall which will anchor many restaurants and food outlets, there is an opportunity for ex-miners who will utilise the allocated land to produce various food products to support the restaurants and other food outlets at the shopping mall. This will replace lost incomes for the affected household,â€ he said.
â€œShop owners who would occupy the mall once completed, are expected to support local products such as agro-products to boost the agriculture production in the country and improve the livelihoods of people.â€
The Head of State said the mall would also help to enhance revenue collection by institutions such as the Kitwe City Council and the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) through payment of rates and taxes.
He said Government would support all projects aimed at increasing household income and investing in people, which he said, is the surest way of ending poverty in the country.
Minister of Labour and Social Security Fackson Shamenda said NAPSA is a key player in the economy in terms of provision of social security and that it was important for them to invest into viable projects to grow membersâ€™ money.
Mr Shamenda said NAPSA had commenced a process of revising its investment policies and guidelines in order for them to undertake projects that are responsive to the needs of the Zambian economy.
He said NAPSA was serving as a development vehicle through infrastructure development.
Mr Shamenda was happy that the mall at Freedom Park would be contemporary and would include a car park and gymnasium and would take 18 months to be completed.
The Minister said the mall, being constructed by contractor Avic International Engineering, has been named after President Lungu in recognition of his tireless efforts in creating a better Zambia for all.
MWILA NTAMBI, Kitwe