THE DOOR’S OPEN

Zambia 2015 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sebastian C. Kopulande, CEO of Zambian International Trade & Investment Centre (ZITIC), on economic zones, PPPs, and how to maximize the benefits for Zambia.

Sebastian C. Kopulande
BIOGRAPHY
Sebastian C. Kopulande is the CEO of the Zambian International Trade & Investment Centre (ZITIC), which he established in 2009. He is a Rhodes Scholar and has an M.Phil in Management Studies from the University of Oxford. In 1993, he was elected as PEW Economic Freedom Fellow at Georgetown University, where he studied Transitional Economics. He has worked as a Management Consultant for Deloitte & Touche, and has held senior management positions in various companies in Zambia. He has broad experience in government positions, having served as Comptroller/Permanent Secretary at State House under late President Frederick Chiluba, and later as Special Assistant to the President (Special Duties) under the late Dr. Levy P. Mwanawasa. In 2012, he was appointed by the World Energy Forum of New York as Director for the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He is a Founding Member of the American Chamber of Commerce in Zambia.

What are the comparative advantages of Zambia as an investment destination compared to its neighboring countries?

Strictly speaking, we have nine neighboring countries, as we share a water border with Burundi on Lake Tanganyika. This means that Zambia is blessed with multiple markets with which it can trade. Investors are not investing in a single-country market. The demand for goods has a wider market, beyond Zambia's domestic population of 13.5 million people.

What role are the Multi-Facility Economic Zones (MFEZs) playing in the country??

As the author of the MFEZ policy and the person who presented it to the full cabinet, I can only say that these special economic zones are key to permitting the processing of Zambia's local products, including minerals. What we need is to take a deliberate marketing initiative for the Zones internationally, explaining the incentives that go with investing in the MFEZs. We need to get investment into these zones so as to boost local value addition. This will increase the country's foreign earnings and create employment, ultimately reducing poverty levels.

What role can public-private partnerships (PPPs) play in developing Zambia's economy?

That is one investment strategy that must be employed at a more serious level than we are doing at present. This country has a tremendous need for infrastructure development in the areas of roads, rail, and air travel. Our country needs an airline, and this is definitely an area in which we can set up a PPP with private investors to establish a national airline, bringing our national colors to the air and creating a valuable source of foreign currency and reducing capital flight which is at a high level through foreign airlines. Our road infrastructure has been suffering a lot of damage because of too much trucking, and the mining industry makes it difficult to maintain these roads in good condition. This is affecting the efficiency of moving goods, including the copper from the mining industry, which accounts for more than 80% of our export earnings. This country needs serious investment in railroads, which is another great potential area for PPPs. Power generation is another sector where PPPs can work and should be encouraged. I believe mining companies should invest in these two sectors as they affect the sector's performance at both productivity and transportation levels. An improved power generation sector will guarantee uninterrupted production in the mining sector while an efficient railway network will guarantee efficient movement of copper to the markets with reduced risk of accidents.

How can you ensure that foreign investments translate into maximum benefit for Zambians?

First and foremost, any investment permit in the natural resource or extractive industry should be first given to local Zambians, and let the local people attract partners who will then work with local people. This has major benefits, not only in terms of the attraction of capital, but also in the transfer of management and technical skills. We must emphasize partnerships between foreign investors and Zambians. Only short-term investors, “fly-by-nights,” would not be willing to do partnerships. I do not believe in job creation alone as a benefit. Job creation is a benefit, but we must go beyond to actual ownership of the businesses by local people as this will create the much-needed entrepreneurial culture and help build a middle class. Once created, the middle class will demand numerous goods of a certain standard, hence boosting national productivity to meet the demand. We cannot afford to continue as a consumer nation, consuming goods and services produced in other countries; and we sit and wonder what happened to our exchange rate? The international market will only reward those who produce and have something to offer on the market otherwise we shall remain a dependent nation and our independence will remain a mockery.