Editor's Comment

Yes, locals must be involved

IN ZAMBIA it is policy for a minimum of 20 percent of all Government-funded high-value infrastructure projects to be reserved for locals.
This is in line with the shareholding structure specified in the Citizens Economic Empowerment Act No 9 of 2006, whose overall goal is to contribute to sustainable economic development, by building capacity in Zambian-owned companies.
It is, however, saddening that despite the existence of this policy, some foreign contractors have continued to exclude locals from contracts.
This behaviour has disadvantaged not only contractors but the country as a whole.
When local contractors are involved in high-value contracts, the revenue earned is reinvested into the economy. This subsequently plays a role in revamping the economy and uplifting the living standards of citizens.
On the other hand, if such contracts are awarded to foreigners, the money realised is externalised for the benefit of their countries.
Government is cognisant of the fact that there is no country that has ever developed without the involvement of its citizens.
This is why Government, through the 20 percent subcontracting policy, aims at empowering Zambian citizen-owned construction firms as well as creating sustainable local contracting capacity.
But then, because the policy only gives guidance on what foreign contractors ought to do according to set standards without compelling them to abide, some greedy contractors have taken advantage by holding on to the 20 percent.
This is why Government now wants to make it law for 20 percent of all major road construction contracts to be subcontracted to Zambian firms.
It is, however, good to know that there are contractors like Avic International who are living upto the set standards.
Avic International has announced that for its US$22 million project on the rehabilitation of Lumumba Road, it will subcontract 20 percent of the scope of works to 12 local companies.
Avic International chief engineer Huang Juen told Road Development Agency board chairman Samuel Mukupa that local contractors will be engaged once the company has completed major works on the project.
The local contractors are expected to work on walkways and drainages of the 7.7-kilometre stretch, among other works.
We expect other foreign contractors to show appreciation for being awarded contracts by implementing the subcontracting policy. In fact, they are obliged to do so. It is not a favour.
There is need for continued interface between foreign and local contractors to build capacity.
We know that most local firms are unable to compete for huge and high value contracts due to lack of financial, equipment and skill capacity.
Local contractors, for instance, are impeded from accessing finance due to the high cost of borrowing on the financial market.
Local contractors also lack the skill and equipment to execute huge and complex projects.
Local contractors will do well to take advantage of their interactions with foreign firms to learn the necessary skills.
This is because as a country, we need to strive to have all projects in the country done by local firms.
This is when meaningful development will be matched by reinvestment in the local economy.
Actually, we should aim for a time when services of our local contractors will be sought by other countries.
This will be our real measure of success.
For now, local contractors need to exhibit discipline and grow their businesses.
Local contractors should desist from the bad habit of delivering shoddy works, abandoning uncomplete projects and wasting money on luxuries instead of reinvesting to grow their businesses.

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