CAROLINE KALOMBE, Lusaka
THE Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) says the country will increase exports to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to 40 percent from the current 30 percent in a bid to diversify the economy and move away from copper mining.
Zambia plans to boost exports of a whole range of products to DRC as part of its efforts to diversify its economy away from copper and problems caused by its price volatility.
ZDA director-general Patrick Chisanga said currently, the country provides about a third of DRCâ€™s total imports and wants to increase its share to 40 percent.
â€œExports into the Congo DR in 2016 are expected to increase from the current 30 percent to around 40 percent of our export market share,â€ Mr Chisanga said.
Zambia is targeting DRC, with a population of 77 million, because the country needs to find markets for exports other than copper.
â€œThe low cost of doing business in terms of transportation costs makes Zambian goods landing at favourably competitive prices to compete with other countries,â€ Mr Chisanga said.
The price of copper, which currently makes up about 70 percent of Zambiaâ€™s export earnings, fell to a six-year low below US$5,000 a tonne in August, hit by a slowdown in China, a big consumer of copper and other metals.
Mr Chisanga said Zambiaâ€™s exports to DRC were expected to fall by 12 percent this year, largely because of a declining desire for mining-related inputs.
Congo is Africaâ€™s biggest copper producer and Zambia is the second.
Copper production in both countries has been affected by sluggish Chinese economic growth.
Glencore of Switzerland, the worldâ€™s largest copper merchant, plans to shut down some copper mines in Zambia and DRC to support flagging prices. Glencore is the parent company of Mopani Copper Mines.
â€œWe expect a slight decline in exports to the Congo DR in 2015 to just around US$700 million. Total exports into the Congo DR in 2014 were US$799.8 million. Chinaâ€™s economic downturn has resulted in a slowdown of Congo DRâ€™s consumption of mine-related inputs such as lime and sulphuric acid from Zambia,â€ Mr Chisanga said.
But Zambiaâ€™s exports to that country also include inorganic chemicals, precious metal compounds, salt, sulphur, lime, cement, sugar, soaps, lubricants and waxes, vegetable and animal fats, milling products and malt.
A trade mission to DRC last month revealed a huge market for fish, peanut butter, dairy products, fertiliser, poultry, footwear and agricultural seed products which are available in Zambia.
CAROLINE KALOMBE, Lusaka