Sunbird project to empower 200,000 farmers

Investment Forum with MARGARET CHIMANSE
THE government in 2014 sent a delegation to Thailand on a due diligence mission to the bioenergy project that Sunbird Bioenergy had implemented in that country.
Following their findings and recommendations, the government through the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) embarked on negotiations with Sunbird Bioenergy to agree on the best sustainable model through which the investment could be actualised.
A year later in December, President Edgar Lungu officiated at the ground breaking ceremony at the site in the Luena Farm Block in Kawambwa, signifying the commitment by Government to implement a similar project in Zambia.
The facilitation and implementation of the Sunbird project will ensure that meaningful investment is deployed to all parts of the country, especially rural areas where there are primary resources.
It is Government’s priority to deliver rural development through the industrialisation strategy that is anchored in the Ministry of Commerce,Trade and Industry. Government’s focus is to re-energise that commitment through significant investments to create wealth and jobs.
The US$190 million investments in the production of bio-ethanol by Sunbird will require 700,000 metric tonnes of cassava to produce 120 million litres of fuel grade bio-ethanol for the government blending programme and a further 36 megawatts of electricity.
To produce the cassava, the company will require more than 200,000 local farmers to be linked to the company. About 600 direct jobs will be created for Zambians.
This will change the economic lives of the people and bring industrialisation to rural areas.
The investment will also ensure that rural communities are empowered with sustainable jobs that bring about wealth and emancipation of rural Zambians.
With the enhanced ease of doing business, Zambia is repositioning the private sector to stimulate economic growth and development. The focus is to build a diversified and export- oriented economy, which is dynamic and competitive with effective enterprises that add value to our natural resources as a way of sustaining the economy.
Positive figures of investment pledges have been recorded in the first half of 2016, indicating continued investor confidence in the Zambian economy and a conducive business environment.
During this period ZDA recorded US$1.8 billion investment pledges in various sectors of the economy with the highest pledges registered in the energy sector followed by agriculture and manufacturing. This growth represents an increase of 20 percent compared to the same period in 2015 when US$1.5 billion was recorded.
Government through the ZDA remains committed to creating an enabling environment so as to attract significant investments such as the Sunbird investment in Kawambwa that allows both foreign and local businesses to grow through sustainable and mutually beneficial linkages.
One way of ensuring that the environment is conducive is through guaranteeing the safety of investments through the signing of investment promotion and protection agreements (IPPAs) such as the one that was signed between the ZDA and Sunbird Bioenergy last week in Kawambwa.
The IPPA relates to the setting up of a bioenergy project in the Luena Farm Block which will convert cassava into bioethanol to produce 120 million litres of fuel-grade ethanol per annum.
The investment by Sunbird will enhance Government’s diversification agenda as well as develop a strong industrial sector with an efficient productive sector.
The investment will bring on board new technology and cohesive industrial linkages in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
The project will include the setting up of a biomass power plant that will generate 36 megawatts of electricity, of which an estimated 3 megawatts will power the refinery and the excess 33 megawatts will be fed into the national grid to support rural electrification.
The project will directly support rural industrialisation and enhance the social and economic well-being of the people of Kawambwa, Luapula Province, and the country in general.
The Sunbird project will also contribute to a reduction in petroleum product imports, resulting in savings of the scarce foreign exchange, whilst contributing to the overall goal of wealth and job creation as set out in the Sixth National Development Plan.
The primary objective of entering into an IPPA with an investor is to assure the investor that their investment is protected whilst ZDA commits its full support to facilitate the resolution of issues that might negatively affect the implementation of the project.
Through the signing of IPPAs, Government through ZDA desires to see that the pledged investment and employment pledges are actualised.
The other objective is to see that any project investment made in the economy triggers a trickle-down effect, through the creation of direct jobs and opportunities to supply goods and services that may be required by the investment project for the benefit of the company and the Zambians.

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