Saturday, April 13, 2024

Infrastructure Development – What Next Under the UPND Government?


By Eng. Michael Kopulande (BEng, MSc. Eng., REng. MEIZ)

1. Background

In the last 10 years, Zambians have witnessed the biggest infrastructure investment drive in the recent history. It is actually said that such levels of infrastructure spend was last witnessed in the 1970’s during the Kaunda era. The face of the whole country in terms of physical infrastructure has been transformed to unprecedent levels never seen before. In its 2008 Infrastructure growth and investment in Zambia report, the World bank reported that despite the GDP growth averaging 5.5% in the years prior to 2011, the investment in infrastructure had been reducing. To put it into context, in the period between 2004 and 2006, the government spend on infrastructure development according to budgetary allocations decreased from 3.7% to 1.8% of GDP. According to the World Bank, this was worrisome as it is a known fact that in order to achieve meaningful economic growth, infrastructure development is a precursor to that growth.

It is as if the World Bank and the new Patriotic Front Government that took over the reigns of power in 2011 were reading from the same book. The new government hit the ground running and embarked on an ambitious infrastructure spend (not necessarily infrastructure development) that focused on almost all sectors – from transportation to telecommunication, from agriculture to education and indeed from administrative infrastructure to health. In actual fact, housing infrastructure was equally given attention – (though dismally through the men in uniform housing units).
Some of the notable pieces of infrastructure that was undertaken by the Patriotic Front government include the following;

i) Mansa – Luwingu Road
ii) Mbala – Nakonde Road
iii) Mongu- Kalabo Road
iv) Kafue road – turnpike rehabilitation.
v) Kabwe – Kapiri road (along T2) rehabilitation.
vi) Luangwa Bridge – Mwami boarder (along T4) rehabilitation
vii) Ndola – Kitwe Dual carriageway rehabilitation
viii) Kitwe – Chingola Dual carriageway (upgrading)
ix) Chingola – Solwezi road (rehabilitation)
x) Sabina – Mufurila road (rehabilitation)
xi) CB400 township roads (rehabilitation)
xii) L400 township roads (rehabilitation and upgrading)
xiii) Leopards Hill road
xiv) Kazungula Bridge and OSB
xv) Chikankata – Mazabuka road (rehabilitation)
xvi) Feira Bridge
xvii) Tokyo way road (Inner-ring road)
xviii) Luangwa-Feira Road (rehabilitation)
xix) Great East Road rehabilitation (within Lusaka to airport round about)
xx) Lusaka Decongestion project (roads rehabilitation and upgrading)
xxi) Nakonde OSB
xxii) Mwami OSB
xxiii) Gravel roads rehabilitation (WB funding)
xxiv) Various Gravel roads around the country (NRFA funding)
xxv) Kalindawalo General Hospital
xxvi) Bangweulu General Hospital
xxvii) Chinsali General Hospital
xxviii) Levy Mwanawasa General Hospital (an upgrade from the existing facility)
xxix) Various Level one hospitals, mini hospitals and health posts around the country
xxx) New infrastructure at all the universities around the country
xxxi) Livingstone intercity bus terminus and market
xxxii) Choma intercity bus terminus
xxxiii) Mwomboshi Dam
xxxiv) Millennium challenge water and sanitation improvement project for Lusaka
xxxv) Various water and sanitation projects in all the water utility companies across the country.
xxxvi) Kafulafuta Dam
xxxvii) Kafue gorge lower
xxxviii) Itezhi Tezhi Dam upgrade
xxxix) Kariba North bank Upgrade
xl) Kariba Dam rehabilitation project
xli) Various transmission rehabilitation, expansion and reinforcement projects under ZESCO
xlii) Communication Towers under Zamtel
xliii) Kenneth Kaunda International Airport
xliv) Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe international airport
xlv) Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International airport
xlvi) Various township roads across the country – luwingu,Chama, Petauke, kalulushi, chongwe, kabwe, kapiri, Serenje, Mkushi, Mansa, Monze, Choma, Kasama, Chinsali, Samfya, Mpika, Isoka, Kawambwa, Mongu, etc. (basically everywhere)

Despite the above list not being exhaustive, the point is that so much infrastructure projects have been undertaken in the last 10yrs. The motive for such massive investment has been to spur economic growth through job creation, rural investment, connectivity, skills and technology transfer, capacity building, etc, which will, in turn, lead to poverty reduction.

In order to achieve the above infrastructure development, the country has had to spend quite a huge sum of resources (financial), of which the consolidated amount is not known to this author, but suffice to mention here that the World Bank (2008) recommended an annual bill of USD 1,000, 000,000.00 (1 billion US dollars) or 10% of GDP over the medium term in order to spur economic growth rates that would lift the masses out of poverty.

I would do justice to mention here that the private sector followed suit with various investments in infrastructure ranging from world class shopping malls (East Park Shopping Mall) to industrial yards (MFEZ), housing units (Roma Park) and indeed hotels (Sarovar Premiere) and Lodges. In all fairness, during this period, Zambia saw the greatest appetite for infrastructure spend ever witnessed in recent history, both from the public and private sectors. All of a sudden, professions related to infrastructure development were popular among the young folks. This is evidenced by the high enrolment numbers related to infrastructure development at various institutions of learning such as Civil, Electrical & Environmental Engineering, Architecture, Quantity Surveying, etc.

2. Current Scenario

The World Bank (2008) stated that upgrading of Infrastructure can help maintain, and to an extent accelerate Zambia’s growth rates. It further stated that improving the provision of infrastructure services (electricity, telecoms, internet access, connectivity, agriculture production), could significantly increase Zambia’s economic growth prospects. It was actually propounded that the country’s GDP growth could have been 3.6 percentage points higher per annum if Zambia had a developed Infrastructure setup as that of Mauritius. This author further explained in the publication on this website that a developed, well managed infrastructure setup increases the country’s robustness in the face of natural disasters and climate change events such as floods, droughts, excessive famine and indeed disease outbreaks such as Cholera and the novel Covid 19.

Management of our Nation’s Public Infrastructure Assets – A call for Action

Alas, what has been witnessed is rather different from the narrative expounded above. Despite such as spending, economic growth has been dismal. In fact, the African Development Bank in its 2021 economic outlook on Zambia explained that Zambia’s GDP growth has over the last 3 years been on the decline. In 2018 it grew by 4.9%, slowing down to 1.9% in 2019 and finally went into the recession of -4.9% in 2020. .

The effect of these dismal growth rates has resulted in having very few jobs being created in the country and indeed low production rates in the manufacturing sectors. The 2020 4.9% GDP recession resulted in job losses and the manufacturing sector shrinking (well apart from hand sanitizer production). As if that’s not enough, we saw currency depreciation levels never seen before (The Kwacha was declared the world’s worst performing currency in the world). This led to skyrocketing cost of living and the Zambian citizens were thrown into utter destitution.

On the infrastructure side of things, only projects funded by the multilateral institutions and bilateral cooperating partners remain active as the rest were either suspended, rescoped downwards or indeed abandoned due to non-payment of moneys owed to the contractors. In mind I have the pedicle road, bottom road, Chama Matumbo road, Lundazi – Chama- Isoka road, Mbesuma Bridge, Kazungula to Sesheke road, Kalabo Sikongo road, Chinsali Safwa road to Mulilansolo, Solwezi Jimbe, Solwezi, Kasempa, Kabompo and Mufumbwe township roads, Muchinga province administration buildings -etc.

Economic commentators have attributed this to the overborrowing that the country undertook in order to finance the infrastructure development. On the other hand, political commentators have mentioned that this is due to the overpricing of contracts, giving contracts to cadres with no expertise – for lack of a better term, blatant corruption in the way this infrastructure development program has been managed. (This Author does not subscribe to the political commentators as no tangible evidence has been adduced thus far). To make matters worse, the large private infrastructure developers have sort of taken leave and are watching from the terraces (Queen Victoria hotel project by Sunshare has been put on hold). Individual developers (bama plot developers), have equally struggled due to the high cost of material inputs. Simply put, the once vibrant infrastructure development sector is in utter disarray and for lack of a better term, it is in shambles. And if its to go by the various narratives that put infrastructure growth as a precursor to economic growth, we might as well say economic growth prospects for Zambia have been put “ku wire”. As such, poverty reduction interventions are all in futility for as long as the infrastructure sector is not sorted out and put back on track.

3. Way Forward

According to the World Bank bulleting on Infrastructure growth (2008), increase to accessing quality infrastructure services such as the internet, water supply and improved connectivity between areas of production and the markets could actually increase the prospects of economic growth in Zambia. The ZDA in its 2013 infrastructure sector bulleting underscored this point by stating that the availability of reliable and affordable public infrastructure services is cardinal for sustained economic development. In fact, in the 5th National Development Plan, Zambia set out to improve its infrastructure outlook in all areas – thus providing quality and affordable infrastructure services for purposes of upscaling the country’s production capacity.

Notwithstanding the above, real challenges do exist as the economy is currently on “life support”. This is echoed by the African Development Bank in its 2021 Zambia economic outlook bulletin, stating that poverty is expected to increase in the medium term due to significant job losses in the service sector of about 30%, manufacturing by 39% and much more in tourism, personal services and construction sub-sectors. Further, the country is grappling with unsustainable debt of 104% of GDP as of 30th September 2020 (AfDB 2021).

This therefore calls for new funding techniques if at all the investment in infrastructure must continue and economic growth realised. Owing to the prevailing goodwill and renewed optimism following the election of business magnate H.E Hakainde Hichilema, it is time the government took advantage of the situation and indeed begin to look at other ways of funding infrastructure. The fifth national development plan in one of its objectives stated the need to develop and implement an appropriate policy to facilitate effective private sector participation in the construction of public infrastructure. As well, the ZDA (2013) mentioned the need to mobilise private sector financing to support public infrastructure development through PPPs as an alternative for infrastructure development.

The need to attract private sector financing therefore remains as one of the most viable ways to continue the infrastructure investment drive. This is underscored by the World Bank (2008). The African Development Bank (2021) actually goes further to suggest other ways of financing infrastructure such as increasing domestic revenue mobilisation, curb runaway public spending (accruing interests on unpaid IPC’s need to be stemmed) and finally creation of stronger institutional public financial management. The author would like to add, the need to improve capacity within the implementing agencies of infrastructure projects, an overhaul of the institutional and legal framework of the PPP unit to make it more responsive to the current infrastructure challenges. An investment into research and development with the sole purpose of developing cost-effective construction materials and methods (I believe molasses can be considered for feeder roads construction) as well as the decentralisation of the various infrastructure implementation units to provincial levels.

Indeed, over a round table, more solutions and interventions could be proposed in order for the country to continue its infrastructure investment drive despite the many challenges.

The point is, if we need to improve the agriculture value chain, we would need to invest in among other things dams, irrigation infrastructure, agri-processing plants. Equally, if we need to improve the manufacturing capacity, electricity infrastructure, internet accessibility and indeed transportation services and dry ports are a pre-requisite. Further, if we need to reduce rural poverty, massive agri-infrastructure investment is a must – such as storage facilities, canals, weirs, feeder roads and bridges.

As such, we must therefore put our minds together on ways in which we can continue investment in public infrastructure for us to talk about economic growth and ultimately reduction in the poverty levels. If economic growth must be achieved there is need for a sustained and deliberate drive to invest in quality and necessary physical infrastructure.

I submit therefore that prior investment in Infrastructure is a pre-requisite to economic growth.

The author is a Chevening Scholar-UK, Civil/Structural Engineer and Infrastructure Planning Expert.


  1. Rubb!sh article. The list of projects includes MANY projects either not completed or started. And some of those projects are of lousy quality (flyovers in LUSAKA spring to mind) and have left the country in unrecoverable debt. And certain resources were handed over to the Chinese like ZNBC. You call that improvement? I call it mismanagement.

  2. And what about rid!culous expensive projects like the airport terminals in Ndola (where no airlines fly to) and KKIA (with seven flights per week totally unnecessary) or Kazangula bridge, where the fees are so high that 90% of the traffic still goes over by pontoon. You call that a success? I call it throwing away of money!

  3. This article is full of crap. In the first place its badly written and on the other hand there is no substance in it. There is a lot that came with this socalled mammoth infrastructure eg corruption like we have never seen it before. The worst ever. In addition more and more people have become poorer and poorer due to corruption because corruption makes the kwacha lose its value rapidly. I also call this total disaster of resources and the recovery will be painful or us all.

  4. Half or more of the purported cost of these projects has been stolen. Most roads done beginning with RB’s Formula 1 through to PF have already collapsed and require to be rebuilt before we even pay them. This is the greatest crime committed against Zambia by those in charge. There has been very slow response by communities to these projects because they have been haphazardly implemented. That’s the reason we aren’t seeing accompanying economic activities

  5. “….Zambia’s GDP growth has over the last 3 years been on the decline. In 2018 it grew by 4.9%, slowing down to 1.9% in 2019 and finally went into the recession of -4.9% in 2020…”
    Errr, is Zambia a super country that wasn’t to be affected by the impact of Covid-19??? Europe, yes, Europe went into recession in 2020 and we are suppose to post robust growth??? Useless article that lacks factual analysis.

  6. The people of Western, NW, Southern and Eastern provinces want to see acceleration in development to catch up with the rest of the country. UPND should prioritise improving hospitals, schools, roads, railway and airports in these areas. Rather than re-inventing the wheel with Universities, I would recommend we expand UNZA faculties to each province and expand on the subject offering. There are gaps in the building and construction sector which can solve the youth unemployment issue. Manufacturing and value addition is another. Our 10 provinces are unique in their own ways therefore spreading specialisations to all corners of the country would strengthen our moto of One Zambia One Nation.

  7. I agree, compared to Botswana and South Africa Zambian infrastructure was pitiful. It was referred to by an outside observer looking very tired. Those who are old enough will recall how we used to dodge potholes everywhere and some areas In Lusaka were no go if you valued your vehicle. It’s Good ECL commissioned most of the PF projects before exiting. Let’s see what the UPND do so we can compare. MMD boasted the most educated and qualified cabinet and best performing economic indicators but had nothing to show for it in terms of infrastructure development. Time to work, we are watching.

  8. What a useless article…the author even writes …”Chevning Scholar….what a joke of a scholarly article. Ati the author dkesnt subscribe to the political commentaries because no evidence of corruption was adduced. Forget it….u are just a PF cadre and the useless projects where used to fund your criminal party. UPND will not be engaging in thse useless projects….to bad for u and your useless party of thieves

  9. #5  Zambian Citizen 
    August 22, 2021 At 9:10 am

    ““….Zambia’s GDP growth has over the last 3 years been on the decline. In 2018 it grew by 4.9%, slowing down to 1.9% in 2019 and finally went into the recession of -4.9% in 2020…”
    Errr, is Zambia a super country that wasn’t to be affected by the impact of Covid-19??? Europe, yes, Europe went into recession in 2020 and we are suppose..”

    Stop omitting facts and truths ……..

    We had 7 % GDP growth with RB……ever since PF took over its been a downward spiral , well before covid ……

  10. ‘unprecedent levels never seen before’
    ‘the world’s worst performing currency in the world.’
    Tautological (needless repetition of the same sense in different words, redundancy).
    The fact is that Zambia is not the only country in Africa to have embarked on the Chinese financed infrastructure development- Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Rwanda, even Congo, you name it, have all been doing this. In all these countries the big difference is how much money has gone into people’s pockets. Ours has been, not laced, but INFUSED to supersaturation by corruption.

    This project was long planned during UNIP era but due to collapsing economy it was not commenced . The MMD government together with Botswan’s Democratic government commenced to look for financing institutions to finance the project, The project also deleted because Zimbabwe did not want to be part and parcel of the project.
    The project was commenced during the pf era but on several occasions they missed the payments and this led to delay of completion of the project.
    The fees at the border are expensive because Zambia still owes the Botswana government millions of dollars.
    The funds pf used in infrastructure development was not from their pockets so they must not boast like they country…

  12. The infrastructure left by PF is for Zambians. Development is not personal, but collective.
    It’s time Zambians started cherishing their effort in airports; roads; bridges, flyovers and especially Kazungula; Hotels hydro power, railway line and so on. You will soon be seeing a stream of investors who have noticed your pleasant amenities in place.
    Zimbabwe is even wishing they were part of the Kazungula project!

  13. Yes!,where to now UPND interms of infrastructure,like it or not infrastructure does spa economic growth,his right to point out that,we had The Chiluba,The Bandaz as presidents,all those Guyz landed on a KK Airport of 1964,broken roofs but statesmen land on it,till President Lungu came in,we have to learn that infrastructure irrespective on how it came about its of paramount importance to the growth of any economy in the world,So yea am yet to see what UPND is to Offer

  14. All the projects the UPND spoke ill about will now be brought closer to government. No one ever refused to use what MMD, UNIP or PF goodwill fruitage. Sometimes, it is jealousy from opponents. Other times, it is government corruption fraught in these projects championing a veneering guise of hard work that make entire programmes vilified.

  15. “in order to achieve meaningful economic growth, infrastructure development is a precursor to that growth”…and yet the opposite happened which means these are white elephants.

  16. I have to agree with Ayatollah and NoCorruption etc above
    You don’t have to be a qualified Engineer to see (and feel) the poor quality of most of the infrastructure as you bump-over movement joints in roads Such defects happen when you lay fresh concrete in 32c in the midday sun, unprotected, at the new airport terminal for example. The alignment on concrete works on some of the flyovers and carriageways you cite are substandard also with all the usual quality errors of poor alignment, inferior run-off etc . I will be very surprised if much of these works stands the test of time.
    There is patently inadequate supervision and control of quality on these works.
    To pay lip-service to the contribution of the private-sector citing East Park Mall as an example is laughable – whoever…

  17. What sort of engineer would fail to note that most of the infrastructure is substandard and not worth the amounts that has been wasted!! Secondly given the fact that most it is borrowed one wonders where governance will find money to repay loans as well are repair or reconstruct some of theses substandard infrastructure??

    In the list, the uninformed author forgot to mention that most the projects we’re actually initiated by the MMD, all PF did was to vary the contracts (inflate costs) for personal benefits!!

    As an engineer, one would expect him to know that projects like de congestion was a waste of money given that government never looked at why some areas were congested, they could have looked at cost effective ways of decingrsting the city instead of useless hump over bridges and…

  18. You may say rubbish but the people of Zambia want to see what you will do as you are now in power, we shall take inventory of what you will do concerning development.
    Time for for playing politics is past it is time to work, there is nothing rubbish about asking the in coming government to articulate their works for the five coming years as for us citizens we shall compare you to PF to how you fare, and we shall judge your flare of work.

  19. Gosh, Michael Kopulande, man you are such an incoherent writer! Your article is so badly written even a seasoned reader like me can’t make any sense of it.

    It’s like a chef mixing sugar, flour, sand, tobacco, milk & spices in one dish… just imagine that taste! I know you may have meant good but you ended up creating more confusion about whatever message you were trying to sell.

  20. @Kaizar Zulu, @LusakaTimes is rightly blocking you because you are doing exactly what kicked your party out of power— dwelling on tribal hatred & tribal derision.

    We all know losing hurts but while most of your losing party members have moved on, you are still stuck in bitterness & in dununa reverse.

    You are such a sore loser man.. next time don’t jump into politics, that’s a game for real men who understand it’s ok to lose without losing your soul.

  21. If you look at the quality of road works as an example, it makes you want to cry when you think about how much we paid for such poorly constructed and poorly designed roads. The worst I’ve seen anywhere in Africa. The cycling lanes, footpaths that were supposed to be part of the new riads were not built in most roads or made so narrow they’re not fit or suitable for the pedestrian public. If anything, RDA made the everything including roads so narrow including for cars. Cars have fir thes last 49-49 years become wider but our roads have become narrower. There so many unnecessary speed bumps which again are not only dangerously made, they contribute to the wear and tear of relatively new roads. The best made roads in Zambia were the ones made in Chingola – continuous safe kerbs, wide road…

  22. So much money is going to be spent to correct these poor road works. But first, UPND needs to reorganize and restructure RDA with qualified and experienced road engineers and surveyors who know how to use basic tools like a theodolite and civil emgineers who can test the strength of the road below and above the road surface. This is important eg ring road colapse. The pavement and drainage are so dangerously constructed that it will cost a lot to correct and bring them to international standard. Most roads in zambia begin to fail at corners will start to fail become they really too sharp and aren’t suitable for vehicle turning angles compare new road turning angles to older roads. RDA has failed Zambia and i hope incoming UPND can do something drastic to correct this pitiful state of…

  23. The challenge most bloggers who supported UPND have is deep hatred for their fellow citizen who happened to be their president(ECL). The author is not discounting any possible corruption that would have taken place in the process but he is stating the facts that under PF the country’s infrastructure has improved tremendously and now which direction will UPND focus on in terms of economic development? If the cost of living got high, let UPND score by reducing it. If corruption got high let UPND deal with it without fear or favour. Mind you corruption includes your friends and relatives who are civil servants supplying government or stealing through travel and sitting allowances for meetings they don’t even go to. Let’s avoid politics where it’s not necessary.

  24. Already the statements made before elections by the UPND about employing all unemployed youths have started changing. They are now saying we shall look at qualifications. Are all youths who voted for the UPND qualified? It should be appreciated here that if incoming government is going to employ teachers, nurses, policemen etc these are going to be working in the new schools, hospitals etc. Tuesday our president elect is going to be inaugurated and we are going to receive people from outside Zambia these people will be travelling on new roads and will land at new Kenneth Kaunda international airport. These people will appreciate the new look Zambia so let’s not just criticize any how. We shall give our new president five years in which to see new changes and if he does as he has promised…

  25. Very good article. I totally agree with author. He has a good knowledge of what happened and I wish many people would read this article especially the new GOVT.

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