Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
WHEN my two-day tour of Kalabo had ended recently, it was time to get into Mongu and visit friends.
It has become a ritual for me to pay a courtesy call on Stan Simwaka, who lives in Mulamba Harbour compound.
The harbour was his last work station in 2013 before he ventured into private practice.
He worked in Government for 30 years in the Ministry of Transport and Communications â€“ 12 of them at the harbour.
I sat with Mr Simwaka to catch up on a number of issues in the province since I had not been to that part of the region for a while.
With the magnificent and must-see Mongu-Kalabo road commissioned by President Lungu this year, Western Province is almost land-linked although there are some critical roads that need urgent attention to completely open up the region for socio-economic activities.
Mulobezi in the south-west should be linked to Kaoma, which meantime begs to be connected to Kasempa like yesterday to facilitate trade between Western and North-Western provinces, just like the Katunda-Watopa road, which will provide the shorter route for motorists between the two regions.
Apart from trade, tourism activities will be boosted in Western Province because visitors will have easy access to tourist sites.
â€œThe cornerstone of any tourist site is how to get there,â€ Mr Simwaka told me.
If there is a region pregnant with tourism sites, it is Western.
The Zambezi plains themselves â€“ whether flooded or not – are a spectacular scene. The best view of the Zambezi plains is in Mongu as the mighty Zambezi River snakes in from the North-Western Province.
It also has scenic views in Senanga and Mwandi.
Other sites are the graveyards where previous Litungas have been buried, then all those from the royal establishments.
There are also graves of the first missionaries that died during pre and post-independence periods.
Other tourist attractions include the Sioma falls, the Sioma-Ngwezi National Park, a caged park, the river gardens along the Zambezi River and the cultural heritage along that area.
Fishing at Sioma is different from elsewhere. Fishermen dive and catch fish within 30 minutes.
The fishing competition in Senanga is about the Zambezi River. If you live in Mongu and want the biggest tiger fish, it is 24 kilometres away.
Lukulu also offers the biggest tiger fish prevalent in the fast-running waters of the Zambezi River. It is not just tiger fish which is in bulk supply, even breams are in abundance.
Sioma also has a lot of quarrying sites which may interest visitors. All the stones used in the construction of the Mongu-Kalabo road were hauled from there.
There are a lot of lodges coming up along the Zambezi River from Lukulu to Mwandi. There is boat cruising, boat hire, game viewing and sun basking, especially for the Europeans who enjoy the sun.
European tourists like lodging in camp sites. They do not want to stay in lodges.
Guest housing along the Zambezi River is plenty but cannot meet the demand.
The construction of the Sioma bridge across the Zambezi River has contributed to a rise in tourist arrivals in Western Province as some motorists, especially truckers, are now avoiding the dilapidated Livingstone â€“Sesheke road and going to Lusaka via Mongu.
Mongu has seen an influx of decent accommodation of late. Apart from the Country Lodge in the central business district, some lodges have sprouted on the outskirts of the district.
These include Makapaele Lodge in Limulungu, Liseli, owned by the Catholic Church, and ACCAMâ€™s, off the Mongu-Limulunga road.
â€œACCAMâ€™s has brought sanity, it has created a tourism component of a different nature. It is a tourist attraction,â€ Mr Simwaka said.
While ACCAMâ€™s and Liseli are more accessible, Makapaele, about 30 kilometres away from the Mongu central business district, is hardly accessible because there is no good road.
Despite the potential tourism has in contributing to poverty reduction in Western Province, most tourism sites remain undeveloped.
However, there is hope for tourism promoters in Western Province. President Lungu said during his inauguration that his administration will not leave anyone behind.
â€œUnder my administration, every region of the country and all Zambians are entitled to receive the benefits of development. Where private sector participation will not be realised at the desired rate, Government will apply a mix of policy and legislative interventions aimed at enhancing development,â€ President Lungu said.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO