ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT is looking at the possibility of creating agricultural-based multi-facility economic zones (MFEZs) to encourage investments in rural areas and promote diversification, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Margaret Mwanakatwe has said.
For a long time, Zambia has been dependent on copper, which is a diminishing resource and mostly exported in raw form.
This is the reason Government is considering partnering with Agriculture Investment Group Company of China and Rufunsa to establish the area into an agricultural MFEZ.
Recently, a Chinese delegation was in the country to explore investment opportunities in the agriculture sector and facilitate the establishment of the Zambia China Agriculture Cooperation Zone.
“The ministry is considering initiating MFEZs that are purely agricultural-based,” Mrs Mwanakatwe said in a statement yesterday.
In prioritising the sector, Government has allocated 100,000 hectares of land in each province for commercial farming to ensure that more arable land is utilised for agriculture.
Mrs Mwanakatwe said Zambia has been copper-dependent for many years and China has been the largest buyer of the commodity, hence the call for the diversification of the economy.
“Copper is still a major factor in the economy and the country is expected to increase its production copper from 800,000 metric tonnes last year to 1.2 million next year,” she said.
“The bilateral tie that has been created between Zambia and China will continue to be strengthened through increased trade and investment between the two countries. Zambia has witnessed increased investment from China in many growing sectors,” she said
Commenting on the development, Chinese Minister of Agriculture special advisor Bi Meijila said the trade relation between the two countries has been good with over 600 Chinese businesses in Zambia.
Mr Bi said the Chinese government is interested in boosting crop and animal production as well as putting up a mango processing plant to support the primary, secondary and tertiary industries.
“The area of investment from China covers various sectors such as mining, agriculture and construction, with investments amounting to US$3.6 billion,” he said.
He assured Government that investors from that country will be meeting frequently to discuss issues relating to Zambia’s laws and regulations to maintain a good reputation.