"In recent years, the Zambian government has invested heavily in infrastructure projects. Ongoing projects such as the road rehabilitation projects in Lusaka will alleviate congestion in the city, and the Kazugungula bridge across the Zambeze river between Botswana and Zambia will foster more efficient cross-border trade."
What have been Bolloré’s most notable accomplishments in Zambia in the last three years?
The mining industry drives big volumes in Zambia and the DRC. Zambia is a land lockked country and the logistics to and from DRC can be very challenging. There was thus a need to create a logistics hub to assist mining companies in Katanga DRC to move goods in and out of DRC. Bolloré filled this gap a few years back by launching the Chingola logistics hub. Using two truck loops, a long one from the port to Chingola and a short one from Chingola to DRC, we reduced the overall transit time by 15 days. Trucks on the long loop offload the goods or materials that will be sent to the mine and load the minerals that arrived from the mine in DRC. The second loop, offloads minerals from the mine after crossing the Kasumbalesa border and loads the goods to the mines. This allows for the optimisation of lead times and transit times are significantly reduced.
One of our most recent accomplishment was a US$400,000 investment in our IT equipment to allow accurate tracking of our operations across the whole supply chain, this proved crucial during the lockdown due to the pandemic.
What are the upcoming infrastructural projects in Zambia?
In recent years, the Zambian government has invested heavily in infrastructure projects. Ongoing projects such as the road rehabilitation projects in Lusaka will alleviate congestion in the city, and the Kazugungula bridge across the Zambeze river between Botswana and Zambia will foster more efficient cross-border trade.
Meanwhile, the government is yet to address the need for power in the country. Roughly 3800 MW are needed with only 2800 MW of installed electricity generation capacity – hence there is a chronic deficit for power which hinders development in the short and long run. Renewable energy programs were launched but there are technical limits to their integration into the national grid. Zambia should allow private producers of energy to sell their power to consumers. Today they are constrained to only selling to ZESCO – the state-owned power company, at low prices. As the country opens the market it will facilitate the inflow of FDI into the country.
Where do you see the highest potential for growth in the Copperbelt region?
There is a plan to build a rail sliding at the Chingola logistics hub, which has been delayed due to the pandemic. The introduction of a rail siding to our operations will allow mining companies to shift more bulk cargo off the roads and onto the rail. The challenge lies in the existing rail network in Zambia, which is in need of sizeable investments both in infrastructure and in rolling stocks.
What has been your experience with the COVID-19 outbreak in Zambia?
We did see it coming but we were still somehow taken by surprise by the sudden closure of the SA borders. The Zambian Health Authorities imposed quarantine at the Southern borders but not the northern ones (Nakonde or Kasumbalesa). This incoherence created some confusion. There were no consultations with representatives of the trucking or the forwarding industry, which would have enabled us to spread the message to our members.
We had prepared ourselves early on and set up a work from home scenario and we self-contained already in March to protect our staff and our partners. We were ready to function without interruption throughout the pandemic.
Zambia ranks high on the ease of doing business scale, relative to other African countries. What can you tell us about the reality of conducting business in Zambia?
The macro economics in Zambia may have looked appealing to foreign investors in the past. They offered good economic growth, good market potential, political stability and a so called ease of doing business. But the country is now heavily indebted and its macros look less shiny. It is therefore very important that the country focuses on ease of doing business despite the macros. Immigration issues for one must be looked into seriously and should be addressed. The Zambian Government seem to have taken a toughening stance recently on issuance of work permits promoting a prima facie Zambianisation policy. This may have the adverse effect on foreign direct investors.