CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
MIKE Fox, who worked in Kabwe as an urban and regional planning adviser in the department of Physical Planning and Housing in the Central Province about three or so years ago, wrote about how his work as a volunteer under the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) was enriching.
“…That’s right, not only has volunteering in Zambia been a life-changing experience in the professional sense, it has been life-changing in the personal sense too,” Fox wrote in a piece titled ‘A letter from Kabwe – The experience of an urban planning adviser in Zambia’.
“I have met my bride-to-be, a fellow development worker, while working as a planner here in Kabwe. While VSO advertise a ‘life-changing experience’, I don’t think even they can promise that!”
But away from him finding a bride while working in Kabwe, Fox also wrote about the planning system in Zambia being largely based upon a model left by the British colonial administration in 1964.
“Derived from British planning approaches, but adapted to the somewhat questionable ethos of colonial interests (such as segregation and car-oriented development), the current planning system applies to only 10 percent of the land within Zambia – namely the main administrative centres and mining towns,” he wrote.
“As a result, planning is a largely piecemeal and reactive process that is failing to rise to the scale of the challenge it faces, which is considerable, with a population of 13.46 million in 2010 forecast to increase to 23.36 million by 2025, an increase of over 40 percent in 15 years.
“As a result the majority of development (approximately 70 percent or more) happens outside formal planning procedures. The forward planning that does happen promote low-density car-oriented development with little thought for social and economic context, built form, public space, local identity or environmental sustainability.”
Not too sure what Fox and his bride would have thought of the piece of land that once belonged to the Zambia-China Mulungushi Textile Joint Venture, where now sits the Kabwe Mall built at a cost of US$20 million by Heriot Property Development Limited.
This is the first shopping mall in the whole of Central Province.
The residents of Kabwe are happy.
Before its opening, they had to trek all the way to Lusaka to have the experience of shopping in a mall.
“It [Kabwe Mall] has given the people of Kabwe a wider choice of where to do their shopping and create jobs for our young people,” says Elizabeth Ngongola, president of the Kabwe Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Previously, there wasn’t much choice.
If you did not want to go to Lusaka, then it is Shoprite Kabwe or Shoprite Kapiri Mposhi for bulk buying.
But shopping from Shoprite Kabwe had its own challenges such as overcrowding.
Not only that, some products were not just available in Kabwe.
For Ms Ngongola, she sees the shopping mall as being a clear indication that Kabwe, whose fortunes declined considerably with the closure of the mines and the difficulties that Zambia Railways was going through, is now a viable investment destination.
Central Province Secondary Teachers Union of Zambia chairman Stanley Mwelwa agrees.
“When the town is dead, not many people would want to live in such a town,” Mr Mwelwa, who was among hundreds of people who witnessed the opening of Kabwe Mall on August 23, says. “As a resident of Kabwe, I am glad that we now have a shopping mall, this is what we have missed for a long time.”
Even more, he says employment has been created.
“Our brothers and sisters are now going to find jobs,” he says. “But we want jobs that are sustainable and help people to have better lives.”
Mr Mwelwa now wants Kabwe Municipal Council to build a bus station near Kabwe Mall so that people can easily access the facility.
The provincial administration, which was instrumental in facilitating the Heriot Property Development Ltd investment, is equally happy with the opening of the mall.
“This is good news for us. This is the first shopping mall that we’re having here,” Central Province permanent secretary Chanda Kabwe says. “This shopping mall has definitely boosted the economic outlook of our province. The money will be spent within the province and people will not be travelling to Lusaka.”
When President Lungu officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony of Kabwe Mall in July last year, he noted that Kabwe was on an economic recovery path.
“Kabwe has for over 26 years now been sleeping or in a comatose… This is the start of a new life for Kabwe. Heriot Property Development chose to anchor itself in Kabwe,” Mr Lungu said.
Bells and Bells Suppliers Limited was engaged to build Kabwe Mall, strategically located opposite Mulungushi Textiles and Lukanga township, facing the Great North Road.
Heriot Property Development Ltd also owns Cosmopolitan Mall in Lusaka, Kafubu Mall in Ndola, Mukuba Mall in Kitwe and Solwezi City Mall in Solwezi in the North-Western Province.
“Kabwe Mall is the first of its kind, and as developers, we are very happy to have set our foot in Kabwe through this shopping mall,” Heriot Property Development Ltd project coordinator Victor Chimuka says.
Shoprite is the anchor investor. Cashbuild, which is investing in Zambia for the first time and deals in building materials, is another major investor.
“We have never had Cashbuild investing in Zambia, Kabwe has been chosen as the launch pad,” Mr Chimuka says.
Pep Stores (which already has two outlets in Kabwe), Ackermans, Ok Furniture, Carnival Furnishers, Bata, Jet, Styles, Hungry Lion and Vision Care Opticians and Kwasu Restaurant and Pub have all opened branches.
Others are Western Union, Gold Coin Bureau de Change and Samfuel, which has opened a filling station.
FNB and Barclays Bank have opened ATMs.
Eight hundred jobs were created during the construction phase and close to 500 will be created by different business houses operating at the mall.
“When Heriot Property Development Limited decided to construct this shopping mall here in Kabwe, they did their homework,” says Noah Kabweta, an investment analyst.
Mr Kabweta also says it is encouraging that Coronation Mall is under construction near the central business district.
He believes that people have the buying power to sustain operations of malls.
South African comedian and host of “
‘The Daily Show’ on American television network Comedy Central Trevor Noah talked about Zambians going to the malls only because of the escalators, but the residents of Kabwe would not mind that joke being on them.