Some 400 blue-chip stakeholders from all strata of Zambia’s infrastructure sector gathered in Lusaka this week to seek practical solutions to the sector’s nagging challenges as well as to share past successes.
The 2017 Housing and Infrastructure Symposium, organised by the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development and financed by Stanbic Bank, was being held at the Mulungushi International Conference centre. Running under the theme “Towards Smart and Resilient Infrastructure”, the symposium is taking place from April 20-21, 2017.
President Edgar Chagwa Lungu graced the occasion, stressing the need to expand and modernise the infrastructure base of the country with effective participation of the private sector.
President Lungu also said infrastructure development in today’s world could not be pursued without taking into account issues of sustainable environment management and the impact of climate change.
“The adverse impact of climate change is enormous. It is therefore imperative to construct infrastructure that will not only meet the prescribed standards but will also withstand the effects of climate change,” President Lungu said.
President Lungu said the Housing and Infrastructure Symposium was timely, as the government had prioritised housing and infrastructure development, investing significantly in the modernisation of various infrastructure around the country.
“This investment is intended to accelerate our country’s socio-economic development for the benefit of the people, in line with the goal of prioritising housing and infrastructure development as a catalyst for sustainable development,” he said.
President Lungu said going forward, the notion of smart and resilient infrastructure would be embedded in all infrastructure programmes in Zambia.
Stanbic Bank, the sponsor of the symposium, outlined its various banking solutions, including Enterprise Banking and Construction Banking, which are key to supporting infrastructure investment by both small and large industry players.
The bank has a long history of supporting the infrastructure sector. Over the last 60 years, Stanbic Bank has supported investments in massive infrastructure development spanning a wide range of sectors that include energy, agriculture, housing, mining, ICT and retail.
Stanbic Chief Executive Charles Mudiwa said the financial sector’s support to infrastructure development was key to spurring economic activities
“Our purpose and resolve for existence is that Zambia is our home, we have to be part and parcel of driving her growth,” he said. “To drive this growth that we are talking about, as a bank we need to look within. Not only have we invested in the construction of more than 30 branches countrywide but we recently implemented a US$25 million ICT infrastructure platform called Finacle that has linked all our branches, allowing us to provide our clients with a superior customer experience through continuous digital innovation.”
Mr Mudiwa said although achieving smart and resilient infrastructure would come with its own climate change-related challenges, tackling these challenges would call for innovation and ingenuity from the financial sector.
“We must be prepared to deliver customised and relevant products and services. It will perhaps even push us away from the usual way of doing business and to the next level of financial services provision for this particular market,” he said.
Minister Housing and Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela said the ggovernment had prioritised infrastructure development as a key strategy for realising sustainable socio-economic development.
“The modernisation and expansion of the infrastructure base that we have witnessed throughout the country bears testimony to this fact. Major areas of focus have been in the construction, rehabilitation and expansion of roads, construction of new schools and Universities, construction of modern health centres and hospitals including improvement and construction of infrastructure in the energy, water and sanitation sectors,” he said.
Mr Chitotela, however, noted that the country was faced with a huge housing deficit of about 1.3 million housing units and hoped that the symposium would provide the government with a platform to find solutions to facilitate public and social housing development in order to secure housing ownership for Zambians.
The symposium will discuss the subject of infrastructure across various thematic areas including transport, water and sanitation, private and public infrastructure, mining, industry, energy, agriculture, ICT as well as housing. It will also include an exhibition to give participants an opportunity to showcase their companies and organisations, equipment, materials, services, innovations related to industries and services, new knowledge and other practices.