THE PLACE OF MONEY

Zambia 2014 | MINING, ENERGY & INDUSTRY | FOCUS: SOLWEZI

Solwezi has been branded, and with good reason, “Kyalo Kyamali," or the place of money. With two fruitful copper mines, Kansanshi and Lumwana, in the vicinity, Solwezi has enormous potential.

Copper exports are critical to the economy of Zambia, and so the mines themselves are pivotal in engineering growth. Economic diversification is, however, a long-term priority and an Integrated Development Plan (IDC) has been put in place in Solwezi in order to encourage sustainable development. Solwezi has become a center of opportunity for people all over Zambia, and this has brought with it a host of prospects as well as challenges to the once sparsely populated rural area.

With a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) focus from First Quantum Minerals (FQM) in Kansanshi and Barrick Lumwana Mining Company (LMC) at Lumwana, attempts are being made to put the community at the forefront of Solwezi's development. Education, healthcare, and entrepreneurship have been highlighted as key areas of focus for community development. If Solwezi is successful in creating sustainable development as well as continuing to service the economy with its considerable copper output, it will become a hub of growth and a symbol of Zambia's national progress.

THE NEW COPPERBELT

The New Copperbelt has been a widely used term in recent years, as Solwezi and the surrounding region has contributed significantly to Zambia's copper output. Kansanshi and Lumwana are critical to Zambia's economy as they, along with mines in Konkola and Mopani, make up over 70% of the country's copper output. Lumwana has one of the largest copper mines in Africa; in 2011, it was projected that once it was fully operational, Lumwana Mine would account for 20% of the copper output of Zambia on its own. There has been significant interest from foreign companies in both Kansanshi and Lumwana, as the presence of FQM and Barrick Gold in the respective mines demonstrates. The arrival of several national and international banks including Zambia National Commercial Bank and Barclays in Solwezi demonstrates that it is becoming a hotbed for finance and investment as well.

DIVERSIFICATION

The development in Solwezi relies on much more than natural resources alone. The IDC has been put in place as a diversified economy fosters sustainable socio-economic growth fundamental to stability. However, steps have been taken in developing entrepreneurship in order to realize sustainable growth.

At Lumwana, in 2014, LMC partnered with Southern African Incubation Support (SAIS) in order to promote entrepreneurship among the youth in Lumwana outside of the mining industry. Several groups from different chiefdoms were able to make successes of small enterprises, ranging from fish farming and vegetable growing, to chemical manufacturing and distribution.

In Kansanshi, a partnership with Buildcon Investments has created opportunities for investment in sport. A recent study suggested that mining jobs in Zambia will have fallen 12% from 2010 to 2022, and as a result, it is fundamental that not only in Solwezi, but also throughout Zambia, efforts are made to diversify the economy.

TARGETING THE COMMUNITY

Kansanshi Mining Plc. has introduced various healthcare programs in the realization that both workers and the local community need appropriate support. After the successful launch of the “One Man Can" and “One Woman Can" programs, which focused on individual healthcare, FQM set up “One Family Can" in order to give advice on issues such as family planning and sexual health, as well as HIV screening and treatment.

CHALLENGES

Although the potential is certainly abundant in Solwezi, there remain significant challenges to overcome. There have been regular complaints regarding the lack of attention to local infrastructure to the extent that former Solwezi Central Member of Parliament, Lucky Mulusa, walked from Chingola to Solwezi in 2013 to protest government subsidies and to highlight the failure to transform the road into a dual carriageway. That he was threatening to do so again in 2014 demonstrates that some regional problems were not being addressed. In June 2014, however, work commenced on the Chingola road, while contracts were also signed for the rehabilitation of the Solwezi-Mwinilunga road in September 2014.

Solwezi is undoubtedly gaining importance as a national location. The substantial copper output from the Kansanshi and Lumwana mines is crucial to economic growth, and the recent launch of the Sentinel mine, 150 kilometers west of Solwezi, is likely to put an even greater focus on Solwezi and the surrounding region.