NEW SPACES

Zambia 2015 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | FOCUS: CHEMBE

Rapid urbanization has led to inefficiencies in housing markets, heavy traffic, and pressure for states to provide safe and clean drinking water, waste treatment, and other utilities that must be addressed.

Urbanization marches on. According to data from the World Bank, more than 50% of the world's population now lives in urban areas, producing more than 80% of global GDP. Even though this urban concentration provides an opportunity for accelerated socio-economic development, it also presents several challenges. In Zambia, one of the most urbanized countries in Africa, this has led to inefficiencies in housing markets, heavy traffic, and pressure for states to provide safe and clean drinking water, waste treatment, and other utilities.

To improve the management of urban centers across the whole country, decentralization can play a determining role. Decentralization programs transfer power from the central administration to local governments and this can be beneficial for the country as a whole. In general, local governments have a better understanding of their specific needs and are able to direct their resources in the most suitable manner. In fact, the Zambia Vision 2030 includes “decentralized governance systems" among its many aspirations.

Zambia's Decentralization Policy was approved in 2002, adopted in 2004, and revised by late President Sata in 2013. The creation of new districts is one of the measures carried out to speed up the process of decentralization. At the time of writing, the ten provinces of Zambia have 103 districts.

One of the latest districts to be developed is Chembe in the Luapula Province, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This district had been halted for some time due to resettling disagreements between the government and the community but it was put back on track in the first quarter of 2015. The new township will include a district administration complex with 32 offices, a post office, a police station, a civic center, and 40 houses. Additionally, the government is building the new Chembe Boarding Secondary School, a $1.2 million project to be completed in 2017.

The establishment of new districts is a process that creates employment, first in construction and later as new urban areas develop, which drives demand for various goods and services. In spite of weak infrastructure, trade has room for growth through the 350-meter Mwanawasa Bridge across the Luapula River, which also marks the border between Zambia and DRC. Once fully developed, it is estimated that Chembe will provide between 500 and 800 local jobs. Chembe's population is currently largely dependent on farming, fishing, and agricultural trade but its development will support a diversification of the commercial activities in the area. In fact, according to the Zambia Economic Brief, published in June 2014 by the World Bank Group, the main drivers of the economic growth in Zambia in recent years were the secondary and the tertiary sectors with annual growth of 8.3% and 8.6%, respectively.

The Luapula province has, besides Chembe, seven additional districts: Chiengi, Chipili, Kawambwa, Mansabombwe, Mwense, Nchelenge, and Samfya. This province will be one of the regions with the most potential for secondary and tertiary sectors because historically, the basis of economic activity there has been fishing. Located in the north of the country, it extends along the banks of the Lake Bangweulu to the southeast, and towards Mweru Lake in the northwest. The boundaries to the south and west are defined by the Luapula River. According to data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 1984 more than 40% of fish from Zambia was caught in either Mweru or Bangweulu lakes, and almost half of the total population of the province was involved in fishing, with “7,700 fishermen operating and 6,600 boats living in stationary fishing villages spread out along the 210km shoreline." Nowadays, this province, 7th in size, offers numerous opportunities in different sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture, energy, and tourism.

Zambia has enormous demand for energy, and this could be met if investors take advantage of hydropower opportunities in the Luapula province. For agriculture, this province is also one of the few that will not struggle with water and is therefore best suited for products that need constant irrigation. Regarding tourism, this is the only province in the country with the white sandy beaches, in Samfya, a small town situated on Lake Bangweulu.