Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba is happy with progress a Finnish company Nacart has made in building a $200 million energy plant that shall create thousands of jobs and narrow the energy deficit in Zambia.
Mr Kalaba conversely says once the project is complete, Zambia will not only light the ‘darkest part’ of rural Zambia in Shangombo where the project is located but will also provide potential for exporting power to neighbouring countries such as Angola and Namibia in western and North western Zambia.
This is according to Zambia’s Charge d’ Affaires to Sweden Mr Anthony Mukwita who accompanied the Foreign Affairs Minister on an enhanced economic diplomacy engagement of western Europe.
“Mr Vesa Korhonen the Managing Director of Nacat gave hon. Kalaba and his delegation a great report during a high level lunch held in the honour of Minister Kalaba by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland in Helsinki Mr Kai Mykkänen at the historic House of Estates. The discussions were economically progressive and enlightening,” said Mr Mukwita.
Mr Kalaba said Finland’s unwavering trade interest in Zambia was a ‘clear testimony’ of the trust the West has in Zambia as a ‘stable and safe country to invest’ in given the presence of pockets of instability in parts of the region.
“To me the investment that has been directed to Shangombo, one of the least developed parts of Zambia means our trading partners have full confidence in our stability as far as far as doing business is concerned. $200 million is a lot of money, you don’t invest $200million into a project in a country whose stability you doubt this is a plus for Zambia.”
Mr Kalaba is championing an enhanced trade corporation path, rather than aid corporation that dominated diplomatic relations in Zambia before President Edgar Lungu’s election and subsequent popular election in 2016. Optimisation of Zambia’s economic diplomatic relations is being done through the countries representation abroad in countries such as Sweden.
What the energy project is all about
- Under the project, the Finnish based power firm will produce over 800,000 metric tonnes of sugar annually
- Over 30,000 hectares of land will be cultivated
- Over 3000 Zambians in Shangombo shall benefit from direct employment leading to poverty reduction while hundreds others will be indirectly employed
- Zambia has a current power deficit of about 2400 megawatts which will be narrowed and reduce power rationing once the project is completed
- Through exports of power to Angola and Namibia, Zambia will earn the much needed foreign currency through this massive FDI according to experts
Mr Korhonen, who expressed confidence of the project in Zambia told Mr Kalaba, “the first phase of the project must produce up to 30-40 megawatts” of solar and bio power.
Mr Kalaba head that once the project is completed up to 100 megawatts will be potentially produced by the sugar driven plant that is also immensely environmentally friendly, a song to the Minister’s ears whose maxim is: “global warming is not a hoax.”
On completion over a period of at least four years from 2017, the power plant will have a total production capacity of 100MW.
This is probably one of the most expensive coming out of Finland since Zambia and Finland started diplomatic relations just over 50 years ago and Mr Kalaba says its importance cannot be under played.
“We are stepping up efforts in all trade facets to ensure that the message of President Lungu regarding economic diplomacy bears fruit and this here is one such example,” Mr Kalaba said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister re-iterated the President Lungu administration to continue embracing the good governance record Zambia has that has attracted foreign investment to the southern African country.
“We will also continue telling the international community that doing business with Zambia means doing business with a SADC and COMESA family of more than 700 million people so come to Zambia and capture a wider regional market.”
Mr Mukwita said the Foreign Affairs Minister was scheduled to hold similar high level economic meetings with business in Sweden before concluding his busy agenda.
“His visit to Sweden is very significant at such a level because it will be the first time it will be happening in over years,” said Mr Mukwita adding that, “relations as you have seen have peaked between Zambia, Sweden and other Nordic countries.”
Zambia is represented in the Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Latvia, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Estonia through a full mission in Stockholm Sweden, hence the reason hon Kalaba had a heavy business schedule here that included a call a rare call at the Swedish Foreign Affairs Ministry.
President Edgar Lungu since election and re-election in 2015 and 2016 has twice met Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven while Finance Minister Felix Mutati in January met his Finance counter-part, the deputy prime minister, including the President of Bombardier that seek to partner in the greater revival of Zambia Railways.
Zambia Railways currently operates at a tragically low optimum level of moving less than 5000 metric tonnes of cargo annually but once revived, hopefully with the Bombardier partnership, thousands of jobs could be created and goods of up to 1 million metric tonnes could move on rail instead of roads according to studies.
Mr Mukwita said, “the increased traffic between top level Zambian officials and Swedish and even Finnish officials effectively means we have a great future in real economic diplomacy…the kind of diplomacy creates jobs and reduces poverty.”