Editor's Comment

Tractor plant game changer

THAT AFTRADE-DMCC, the official representative of several Belarusian manufacturers, will set up a US$60 million tractor manufacturing plant in Zambia is good news to the ears of every progressive Zambian.
It is no doubt the investment has come at the right time when the country needs a huge boost to begin its recovery journey from the debilitating effects of coronavirus.
Needless to say, the investment is precisely what the country needs to push its Vision 2030 agenda. Through the Vision 2030, Zambia aspires to become a prosperous middle-income economy that offers decent employment opportunities for all Zambians of different skills and backgrounds.
To achieve the Vision 2030, Zambia has in place the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) – a blueprint for development which spells out a clear road map based on five pillars, namely economic diversification and job creation; poverty and vulnerability reduction; reducing developmental inequalities; enhancing human development; and creating a conducive governance environment for a diversified economy.
Having depended on mining for many decades as the country’s economic mainstay, it has become clear that the approach is no longer sustainable due to unpredictable prices on the international market, among various external factors.
Government’s strategy through the 7NDP is to diversify the economy to other sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.
The manufacturing of tractors locally will certainly meet the aspirations of the 7NDP to boost the manufacturing sector, which has been limping for a long time.
The manufacturing plant will also enhance the much-needed revenue for the country through sales, both locally and internationally, as the company intends to export vehicles to neighbouring Malawi and Mozambique, among countries in the region.
Through the manufacturing of tractors, we foresee the agriculture sector being greatly impacted and production going up.
It is an established fact that Zambia has a lot of potential for agriculture due to its good climatic conditions and rich soils. However, the sector has lagged in terms of mechanisation as many people still depend on manual means of cultivating their fields.
The manufacturing of tractors locally will ensure increased accessibility to farmers through cooperatives, loans and other sector-aided means.
It is, therefore, expected that the plant will accelerate the mechanisation of the agriculture sector, thereby boosting production.
Improved production will translate into food security, thereby alleviating hunger now and in the future.
This is because the country will be able to produce more food for both consumption and export. This will expedite the country’s agenda of not only being food-secure but becoming a food basket for the region.
The investment, if well harnessed, provides an opportunity for the country to transition its citizens to an upper middle-income class through increased revenue, which will translate into more economic activities and subsequently job creation.
It is anticipated that the manufacturing plant will create more than 100 direct jobs. The impact of the 100 direct jobs is greater than meets the eye. This is because behind these 100 jobs is a network of families and communities as beneficiaries.
It is good that AFTRADE-DMCC has not gone in it all alone but has decided to partner with Zamcapitol, an engineering firm under the Ministry of Defence, to undertake the project. This will allow for skills transfer from foreign experts to Zambians.
According to head of AFTRADE-DMCC, Alexander Zingman, the project will help Zambia achieve industrialisation as well as provide good service support, spare parts and transfer of know-how and technology from Belarus.
This is certainly an investment Zambians should embrace wholeheartedly. Zambians have an obligation to work with the investor to ensure that the investment bears intended fruits for the good of the country as a whole.
The investment – if well harnessed – is indisputably a game changer.

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