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Scaling up collaboration to build diversified economic hub on C/belt

AROUND 60,000 people work in Zambia’s mining industry today. All of us know first-hand the contribution that our businesses make

to the national economy and to the communities in which we live and work. We know that Zambia’s development trajectory depends on our industry’s ability to do well and to continue to do what we do well – namely mine, process, refine and export minerals and metals, and pay taxes. But after more than 60 years of mining in Zambia, we know too that these activities alone won’t deliver the sort of inclusive growth and prosperity that Zambia needs to sustain middle income status.

In the wake of the launch of the 7th National Development Plan (7NDP), it seems appropriate to look at how we as an industry can contribute more to our nation’s prosperity and to the realisation of the 7NDP, whose stated goal is ‘to leave no one behind.’

At KCM, we have a 50-year vision for our business and opportunities in the Copperbelt. Our vision extends well beyond mining, to agriculture, tourism, logistics and trade.

We want to see the Copperbelt grow into a diversified and resilient economic hub, a hub that can sustain livelihoods even when copper prices are low. Our motives for wishing this are not selfless. A thriving community provides KCM with a competitive edge, enabling us to thrive also.

The creation of new enterprises and industries around our business will provide cheaper and better local sourcing options for KCM and greater stability for our communities. It is about much more than Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); it is about investing in our supply chain and investing in our ability to compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, where the competition we face does not come from a neighbouring community, but from another continent instead.

At KCM we are making small but deliberate progress. Allow me to give you a couple of examples. In April, I launched an initiative to produce biofuel with BetterWorld Energy and Zambia’s Minister of Works and Supply, Matthew Nkhuwa, who is also the member of Parliament for Chingola. The aim is to grow 400,000 Pongamia trees on 650 hectares of land over time.

We are still determining the viability of the project, but we think, if successful, the project could create more than 1,000 jobs in agro-forestry, farming, bio-energy processing and energy service delivery, while providing a cheap and environmentally-friendly source of bio-fuel energy for KCM.

In April, KCM also launched the Copperbelt Leather Industry Cluster (CLIC), another initiative to help diversify the economic base of the region so that people can have better prospects for the future. The CLIC is a KCM-sponsored project that aims to grow a high-quality leather industry in the region by supplying entrepreneurs with access to materials, training and market linkages.

A total of 23 entrepreneurs from various communities and markets in Chingola are being provided with formal training. Three-weeks of training provides entrepreneurs with the basic skills they need to make leather products, including industrial gloves, shoes, belts and aprons. We hope to benefit about 400 households and eventually as many as 2,400 people from 20 self-help groups in Chingola, Chililabombwe and Kitwe, in particular women, shoe makers, cobblers and youth, including school dropouts.

So, as you can see, we are firmly focused on the future. It is why I have tasked my team with looking at opportunities to scale these initiatives and others, in partnership with industry peers, civil society organisations, government and donors. Only in partnership can we realise the sort of scale required to build a vibrant and diversified economic hub in the Copperbelt.

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