BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
THE Zambia Air Force (ZAF) property development project will not only add to the aesthetic beauty of Lusaka, but has also exposed the need to pursue innovative ways of financing development rather than through debt.
Kingsland City Development is one of the country’s model public-private partnerships (PPPs).
The US$1.4 billion Kingsland City, which sits on 583 hectares of land, will have mixed-use facilities such as hotels, a world-class university, conference centre, housing, sports complex, amusement park, vehicle service stations, shopping malls, a golf course, ZAF Academy and messes.
Kingsland City is being developed via a PPP between ZAF on behalf of Government and three developers, namely Datong Construction, Drimtown Investments, and Shangria Investments –for facility concessions ranging from 20 to 28 years.
During the construction phase, over 2,000 jobs will be created.
The project was born from the challenge by President Edgar Lungu for the military to join the country’s economic diversification to bring out the best from the men and women in uniform.
On Saturday January 27, 2018, minister of Finance Felix Mutati had first-hand experience of the diversification effort when he toured the Kingsland City Development site, a location adjacent to ZAF Twin Palm Base.
Mr Mutati led a delegation of members of the PPP Council of Ministers to the area, about five kilometres from Leopards Hill Memorial Park along Twin Palm Road.
Mr Mutati, whose delegation included Local Government Minister Vincent Mwale and his Commerce counterpart Margaret Mwanakatwe, was led on a conducted tour by ZAF commander Eric Chimese.
Gen Chimese, who was flanked by ZAF deputy commander David Muma and other senior air force personnel, explained that the developers were selected through a competitive process.
Process facilitators on the Zambian side included representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing, PPP Unit, Zambia Development Agency [ZDA], and Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA).
Gen Chimese said there are currently over 400 workers from surrounding townships who have been employed on the site by the developers.
He expects the number to increase to around 2,000 as the project progresses.
ZAF’s equity in the project is the land that it has availed the developers.
Gen Chimese said ZAF will only start benefitting financially once the project is completed in three years.
However, the biggest benefit for ZAF is the complete ownership of the facilities at the end of the concession period.
“No money, no loan or no funding will be required from the Government or from the Air Force for the development and construction of Kingsland City,” he said.
Gen Chimese said this viable project will be replicated in other areas of the country where ZAF owns land, adding that ZAF does not want to completely rely on Government for some of its needs.
He said maintaining an air force is costly.
“We are demonstrating that we cannot just be cry-babies but supplement Government’s efforts. Instead of crying with a list of problems, we want to provide solutions and we have begun doing so by going into PPP using land as equity,” Gen Chimese said.
“Security is necessary for commerce. But you cannot get jets or spares for planes on Cha-cha-cha Road. You need money,” he said.
He explained that the Kingsland project will have houses, some of which ZAF officers and soldiers will buy through mortgages so that they do not become destitute when they retire, and assured that the natural environment will not be disturbed.
Gen Chimese said ZAF does not want projects that take decades to complete, thus the contractors have been working day and night in shifts.
“We will complete the project within a period of three years to ensure that the facilities are ready for possible use by delegates to the 2022 African Union (AU) to be held in Lusaka,” he said.
Mr Mutati who was visibly overwhelmed by the project, said ZAF has demonstrated that there can be economic growth without incurring debt.
“Indeed today is a demonstration that the answer to development and job creation is not always debt. We need to look at innovative ways of financing development. Economic development now has to be financed using other innovations and not debt,” he said.
Mr Mutati commended Gen Chimese for breaking unchartered frontiers of engaging on a first-of-its-kind PPP project that has so far created 400 jobs.
“Government is slowing down on appetite for debt. We think this innovative financing model is the answer to many of the challenges we face. We are now going to have a modern city,” he said.
Mr Mutati said the PPP Council of Ministers agreed to look at ways to strengthen PPP and make it more transparent so that it can be a useful instrument of development.
He said Government was keen to promote PPP in order to reduce liquidity pressures and decelerate debt accumulation.
“What we have seen today at Kingsland City will add to the aesthetic beauty of Lusaka,” Mr Mutati said, adding that “from this year onwards, we need to pursue innovative ways of financing development rather than through debt”.
Mr Mutati said the PPP Council of Ministers approved measures to strengthen the implementation of PPPs in Zambia.
But environmental activist Robert Chimambo has berated the Kingsland project for allegedly being in breach of the environmental impact assessment (EIA).
“People are sick and dying on Chalimbana River due to drinking sewage water from ZAF Twin Palm,” Mr Chimambo said.
He alleged that the Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA) has issued a stop order which is being ignored by the Chinese developers.
But Gen Chimese parried Mr Chimambo’s criticism of the project, saying ZEMA did their part.