NANCY SIAME, Lusaka
PRESIDENT Lungu has warned Government officials against soliciting contracts for unqualified firms to build communication towers across the country, following the signing of a US$282
million loan agreement between Zambia and China.
President Lungu says as much as he wants Zambian companies to be sub-contracted in construction projects, it should not be at the expense of doing quality work.
The President said this yesterday after witnessing the signing of the US$282 million framework and loan agreement for the construction of towers under phase two of the project, which is expected to create 2,000 jobs.
“This event signifies a momentous chapter in our history because we shall now achieve population coverage of over 90 percent,” he said.
The agreement will result in the construction and upgrading of 1,000 towers aimed at improving communication in rural areas.
Secretary to the Treasury Fredson Yamba signed on behalf of Zambia while Chinese Ambassador to Zambia Yang Youming signed for his country.
The project, which has been financed by EXIM Bank of China, is expected to take three years with the main contractor being Huawei Technologies.
President Lungu said the agreement demonstrates Government’s resolve to accord every citizen an opportunity to achieve social and economic freedom through enhanced access to Information Communication Technology (ICT) services.
“We are committed to attaining an enhanced value addition and knowledge-based society in line with the principles of a Smart Zambia towards Vision 2030,” he said.
When completed, the towers will provide connectivity for entrepreneurs who will save time and costs by transacting online and promote financial inclusion by capturing the unbanked population.
President Lungu urged all ministries to utilise the investment by ensuring coverage of all Government outposts for the country to achieve improved public service delivery and integrated development.
He also called on the ministers responsible for ICTs to work with the private sector to bring down the cost of ICT equipment.
And Mr Yang said the project marks a milestone in the development of communication technology in Zambia.
He said China and Zambia enjoy widespread co-operation as a number of Chinese companies such as TopStar have made great contribution to the development of ICT in Zambia.
“The project will see the construction of over 800 new towers and over 100 wireless stations to increase both voice communication and internet connectivity,” Mr Yang said.
He urged the contractor, Huawei Technologies, not to rely on past achievements but complete the project within the stipulated timeframe and do a good job.
Meanwhile, Minister of Transport and Communications Brain Mushimba said phase two of the construction of communication towers targets dense clusters of settlements and economically active areas.