Lusaka: As newly appointed Chairman of the Zambia Development Agency, I am honoured and humbled to accept this position; I look forward to continuing to uphold and further enhance the capacity of ZDA in delivering on its mandate of advancing Zambia’s economic development through the promotion of investments and exports - together with Andrew Chipwende (Director General) and his capable management team. The ZDA, established in 2006, became operational in 2007, and it has played an important part in the development of Zambia and has facilitated a diversity of projects in various sectors; this largely has been a reflection of Zambia’s drive for progressive reforms, readiness for investment, development and change.
I feel it appropriate here to mention that the ZDA has recently been awarded an UNCTAD Prestigious International Investment Promotional Award for its contribution to attracting investment in infrastructure through PPP and particularly its work in driving investment in renewable energy projects.
In looking at the current state of the economy, it certainly seems that Zambia is heading in the right direction. To quote the United Nations Under-Secretary Rebecca Grynspan, "the UN is very impressed with the performance of Zambia's economy. The country has achieved so much in the past few years to make the lives of the Zambians better. If this performance is maintained, poverty would greatly be reduced."
Additionally, Zambia’s 7.6 per cent economic growth in 2010 was better than all Sub-Saharan Africa countries. Along with our second subsequent year of single digit inflation rate and the launch of the Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) which looks at reducing poverty and improving infrastructure, there are solid signs that all the necessary steps are being implemented to reduce poverty levels and to create a healthy and prosperous macro-economic climate.
With these facts in mind it is evident that we need to continue to uphold the ZDA’s mandate, and vision, and, continuously strive to improve further. It is clear that investment and development will lead to economic growth and hence, job and wealth creation. Together, this is what will secure Zambia’s future and particularly the future of our youth. The ZDA should remain committed to the continued improvement of our investment and business climate as this will accelerate the creation of economic opportunities for our people.
As Chairman of ZDA, I see my initial focus in augmenting ZDA operations. The ZDA will work to increase interaction with local businesses as they remain catalysts for new re-investment, diversification and deepening of forward and backward linkages. We will therefore deepen collaboration with private sector business chambers, associations and individual enterprises in not only identifying and resolving challenges facing local business, but also increasing collaborating in trade and investment missions.
I believe the private sector should take an increasing role in leading Zambia’s participation in international fairs, exhibitions and other events that ultimately benefit the business community.
My Board will also strive to increase collaboration with all Government agencies who are partners in delivering increased investment, trade and business activities in Zambia. In particular we see ourselves increasing collaboration with key agencies and departments under the Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry, the Ministries of Land, Home Affairs, Tourism, Agriculture, Finance, Energy, Mines, Science & Technology, Education and Local Government. We will also enhance collaboration with the district councils as we see them as key agents in delivering ZDA and other governmental business programme at the lowest level. In this regard, we will also collaborate with other leadership structures such as traditional rulers in delivering development.
We see ourselves re-focussing our efforts on attracting investing in areas that will further unlock Zambia’s potential as such as infrastructure and PPP projects. Renewed focus will be made on programmes that will further develop the skills of the Zambian workforce. This will in most cases require closer collaboration with the Ministries of Science and Technology, National Technology Business Center, National Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, 0ther Gemstone Processing and Lapidary Centre and other skills based institutes.
We will also collaborate closely with investor front facing departments such as the Immigration department in ensuring that only jobs, for which skills are not available locally, are opened to foreigners.
Quality investment brings important long term benefits to local communities with the creation of jobs and skills development opportunities across all work levels, particularly at managerial and artisan level. We will develop strategies that result in increased utilisation of local talent to achieve community enhancement, with resultant benefits of economic development, capacity building and local participation.
From an internal ZDA perspective, we will look to simplify and streamline the investor approval process and incentive administration process. This will entail interlinking ZDA systems with partner agencies such as PACRA and ZRA. We will also enhance adherence to the ZDA’s client service charter and upgrade of ZDA website to reflect an online gateway where investors can view the complete provision of services, with associated time limits, and costs. More importantly, provision of vital business information will be increased. In this regard visibility of the e-business registration portal will also be uplifted as well as developing web based portals, in collaboration with industry chambers.
Given the important achievements that Government has made in reducing bureaucracy and red tape, it is important that we do not have re-creeping of new regulations and red tape and hence we will strengthen inter-agency consultations to ensure that no onerous new business regulations are introduced.
In line with the ZDA vision, we will further enhance benchmarking our performance against the best agencies around the world and in Africa to ensure that we maintain and continue to be ahead of our competition.
As I conclude, we have a huge, but not insurmountable, task of re-aligning the Agency in view of the important role that it will be playing towards the attainment of the objectives under the SNDP through increased Investment, Trade and MSE development.
It is also important that we extend our support to investors through the provision of services and where necessary improve the infrastructure facilities. Once investment licences have been granted and operations are functioning we will continue to extend assistance if needed in planning expansion or diversification. We will also undertake periodic reviews of problems incurred or faced by industries and formulate new measures to remedy them. We will expedite project implementation and ensure smooth operation of existing companies.
I am confident that as Chairman of the ZDA, with the high powered Board, we can make a positive improvement to the Zambian economy and to the lives of the Zambian people. We have already made major strides as an agency but we will look forward to working on ways to contribute further, to persistently improve our performance for the benefit of Zambia Limited!
Let me be unambiguous when I state that the primary goal of ZDA inviting investment is; The creation of JOBS for the Youth of Zambia and the Zambian people.
It is also to ensure that we work towards and accomplish:
a) The establishment of business linkages for Zambian enterprises with Investors
b) To encourage and implement joint ventures (JV` s) between the Investor and Zambian enterprises
c) To ensure there is local contact through Zambian suppliers to all outlets to the extent of a predetermined minimum local content
d) To ensure that the larger investor gives serious recognition to vocational and skills training through an agreed annual amount to research and development studies at Science and Technology
I wish to thank the Government of the Republic of Zambia for the confidence bestowed in me and my board, in working to deliver on the demanding task that lies ahead. I can assure the Government and the people that we are up to the task.
* By Robert A. Penney, Chairman - Zambia Development Agency, 14 July 2011