ANALYSIS: BENEDICT TEMBO
THE announcement by Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa that the Lusaka City Council will stop issuing permits for the construction of shopping malls in residential areas is laughable.
It is clear that Mr Sampa was emotional and reactive at the time he said this because he didn’t think through such a decision.
Mr Sampa’s reaction followed a statement by Vice-President Inonge Wina, who observed that shopping malls are killing local businesses, aka tuntemba.
The move is not justified and is against the spirit of promoting competition and also taking development to residential areas.
Besides, the same outcry was there when Shoprite was opening its doors in Zambia, but the small retailers are still there even after the coming in of other big retailers such as Pick ‘n’ Pay, Cheers, Choppies, Spar and Jumbo, among others.
Construction of malls in residential areas is one strategy of de-congesting the central business district of human and vehicles traffic as well as getting services closer to the people.
Shopping malls come along with a package of an array of shops ranging from food and groceries to shops, chemists, electronic goods and banks.
Apart from the desire to be more accessible to consumers, shopping malls are contributing to the actualisation of the Patriotic Front’s aims of decentralisation, which in turn contributes to modernising of residential areas.
Shopping malls also promote competition and ensure that customers are not exploited but benefit from fair pricing.
For me, the mayor should be looking at the bigger picture.
Rather than quickly jumping to the conclusion that the council will no longer issue permits, the mayor should sit with his technocrats and look at the matter beyond political lenses.
The resolution by the council must be refined not to only issue a blanket ban but to promote local participation.
Currently, the business space – both at macro and micro levels – is heavily dominated by foreign nations.
Multinationals such as Shoprite, Pick ‘n’Pay, Choppies, Spar and Jumbo must only be licensed on the premise of adding something extra beyond local entrepreneurship capacity – special skills, capital beyond a certain capacity, backward and forward integration of local enterprise.
Foreign entities must not just walk into the country to engage in the norm of what tuntemba are doing.
Multinationals must also be compelled into capacity building, skills transfer and corporate social responsibility.
Establishment of businesses, be it malls or chain supermarkets, must compel foreign entities to bring something more to the table but encourage local participation through meaningful equity and participation.
So the bottom line is that there must be a deliberate and systematic engagement of protecting and encouraging local ownership of businesses.
All the big shopping malls are foreign-owned and lots of money leaves the country.
At the same time, we must encourage local entrepreneurs to dream big, not just thinking about kantemba business.
Let Zambians start to open malls so that we reduce capital flight. Malls can be built and operated by Zambians.
And let residential areas or compounds be reserved for locals so that they are assured of doing something to earn a living.
Otherwise we are finished as a country because almost all economic entities are in the hands of foreigners.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.