The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) says it is important for Zambia to use Internet connectivity to engage in world investments and trade.
UNCTAD Director for Investment Khalil Hamdani, noting that Zambia is landlocked, said it needed to take advantage of technology and Information Communication Technology (ICT) to link the country to the rest of the world.
Hamadani told ZANIS here Thursday that it was important for the country to put in place the appropriate incentives for the private sector to come into the country and establish beneficial services for the Zambian people.
He said the cost of Internet connectivity must be reduced and the country should also improve on the quality of the Internet connectivity, while observing that the present Internet gateway fee in Zambia is very high and prevents many in the private sector to see Zambia as a competitive environment for investment.
Currently, Zambiaâ€™s licence fee for operating an International gateway stands at 12 million USD compared with only 50,000 in Uganda and Malawi.
The government is, however, expected to repeal the statutory instrument on the gateway by May so that the fee charges on the operating of the facility is in line with charges in the region, according to the â€œBlue Bookâ€ on best practice in investment promotion and facilitation launched here Wednesday.
The book, prepared by UNCTAD in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, with the support of the Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC), states that international calls in Zambia are among the highest in the region and that incoming and outgoing calls are often of poor quality.
The book said this trend had been frequently cited by investors as contributing to the high cost of doing business in the country. It said high quality and low cost international calls contribute to a competitive business environment.
It also said many countries in the region had liberalized their international telecommunications gateways, granting licenses to incumbent mobile operators. The Zambian government in 2002 issued a statutory instrument, which allows private operator to acquire an international gateway licence for 12 million USD.
The book has since recommended that the licence fee in Zambia should at least be aligned to regional best practices. It also said the government should repeal the statutory instrument and replace it with a new statutory instrument, which sets a fee in line with the consultantsâ€™ report for incumbent operators.
Meanwhile, UNCTAD has also urged government to take advantage of the increasing inflows of investment to Africa to expand its industrial base. It stated that investment into Africa was increasing at a faster pace because of demand for the rich natural resources on the continent.
It said China and other fast growing Asians countries are looking at Zambia and other countries to put in place cooperation agreement and Zambia, being rich in natural resources, should explore resources which promotes development through private sector growth.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government says Zambia needs huge amounts of financial resources to be channeled into infrastructure development so as to foster further economic development.
Japanese Ambassador to Zambia Masaaki Miyashita says since Zambiaâ€™s debt sustainability has improved according to analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), the country needs to secure loans for infrastructure development.
He told ZANIS here Thursday that his country, through the Japan Bank for International Corporation (JBIC) would provide new Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) loans to Zambia.
Miyashita, who did not disclose how much his country has set aside, said the loans, would be targeted for projects under the Rural Electrification Programme and the agriculture sector for the promotion of irrigation.
On Wednesday, a JBIC official, Izumi Arai, disclosed that the bank was examining possibilities of providing new ODA loans for infrastructure development in Zambia.
He said the loans, to be provided in co-operation with the Africa Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank, would go towards development projects in the fieldâ€™s electric power and agriculture.
Miyashita also disclosed that the Japanese government was working with the Zambian government in drawing up the master plan for Lusaka city. As Zambia moves to middle income country status by 2030, it is important to come up with a long-term plan for the development of infrastructure in the city.
The ambassador said plan is the first one of its kind in Africa although his country has helped Vietnam and Mongolia with similar plans.
Japan, through its technical support programme, would help the government from the initial stage of planning to the implementation of the programme. The master plan for the city will take into consideration infrastructure development, road networks and water supply for the population.