By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
It’s in 2017.
The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC)of South Africa CEO came to our Pretoria Office.
Through his office, we had facilitated the provision of the $20million line of credit for small and medium-scale businesses in Zambia.
The Development Bank of Zambia(DBZ) was identified as the institution to manage the Fund.
“It’s been one year and DBZ has not taken up the fund!” disclosed the IDC representative.
This is one frustrating feature I have consistently witnessed and faced in Zambia, where the bureaucratic system hampers, stalls or literally kills development initiatives and projects.
How can a country with an army of young entrepreneurs, crying for capital funding, fail to accept, absorb and disperse such a $20 million fund availed on a silver platter?
Imagine how many entrepreneurs such a fund could help!
And this was with the background that in the last few months prior, infrastructure projects began to stall in Zambia, as more and more new ones, some commissioned by the Head of State were being shelved, and the debate about the rising foreign debt associated with the construction of infrastructure, took centre stage.
Recognizing this economic environment, I tried hard to leverage on the funding available from the South African Government, its agencies and its private sector financing infrastructure that exists for trade and infrastructure development.
For example, I met the CEO of Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa (ECIC), whose agency provides export credit funds.
I wanted the ECIC to be linked to Zambia’s local suppliers of equipment to the mines, to use the credit lines and overcome the lack of funds that beset them on big supply orders.
“Sir, let us pursue the Infrastructure Fund, it’s a novelty idea we are exploring and Zambia could be the first country to benefit from it,” advised the IDC representative.
South Africa commits up-to 30% of its own resources annually, to the development of regional initiatives such as continued development of transport corridors and its infrastructure, provision of trade and export credit lines.
Other initiatives support industry performance aimed at promoting their export trade.
We had just inaugurated the Bi- National Commission (BNC) between Zambia and South africa.
Besides the usual trade issues that the BNC is preoccupied with, we decided to use the state-to-state vehicle to achieve and institutionalize these funding mechanisms.
Then came an innovative Minister of Finance who was a wonder to watch as he pursued the agenda aggressively and overcame many hurdles.
THE INFRASTRUCTURE FUND IS BORN
Infrastructure is a crucial driver of economic growth.
As government resources face competing needs from social and other sectors,
Governments worldwide have turned to the private capital market for financing infrastructure and have collaborated with the Public-Private Partnerships.
There is a huge stock of private capital that is available out there, while public financing
continues to dwindle, or is limited or insufficient to meet the country’s infrastructure deficit.
Instead of acquiring traditional sovereign loans or direct financing, the mechanism is different and is based on the understanding that the private financing provided, will be recovered directly through user charges as they provide protection to the investor.
We were targeting the first funding to concentrate in commercially attractive sectors.
I shared the idea with the Minister of Finance, Felix Mutati. He was on his way to Washington.
Hon. Mutati was not your ordinary Minister of Finance. He was highly innovative and was always attracted to new ideas.
He was also keen to resolve and unlock bureaucratic bottlenecks that hinder or delay developmental initiatives.
Upon his return a few days later, he had good news.
“I have spoken to my counterpart from South Africa”.
“The Infrastructure Fund idea is brilliant. We are setting it up”, he said to my amazement at how quick an idea was being realised.
“Proceed to set up the meetings with South Africa Treasury, I will travel back here with my team”, he said in his usual way of simplifying technical matters.
We started the process in earnest and before long, our technocrats from Zambia and South Africa governments and associated agencies began to meet.
Hon. Mutati also visited South Africa twice to give impetus to the process.
THE INFRASTRUCTURE FUND MODEL
The model was based on creating a Basket Fund in Zambia, independent of the national budget, but dedicated to building and supporting infrastructure development.
The Fund would attract investment from Zambian, South African and other international institutional investors, such as pension funds, long term insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds and collective investment schemes.
The subsequent meetings were fruitful and various drafts of Memorandum of Understanding (MOUs) were prepared and ‘flew’
between our capitals for our government lawyers to resolve.
We had gathered development, financial and pension institutions as the core group to raise the initial funds for the basket.
We were also concerned with the outstanding or stalled projects in Zambia and the initiative raised pledges of $1.1billion to complete these projects.
The Development Bank of South Africa’s (DBSA’s) Project Preparation Unit (PPU) team, were given the mandate to explore ways of delivering on the projects quickly.
The MOU included the Ministry of Finance of South Africa, Ministry of Finance of Zambia, the Development Bank of South Africa(DBSA), the Public Investment Corporation(PIC), Land Bank, Airports Company South Africa, Industrial Development Corporation-South Africa, Industrial Development Corporation-Zambia, the Public Private Partnership Unit-South Africa, Zambia Railways Limited and Transnet.
We also created sector-specific sub-committees to drive the areas of their interests such as the agro-processing sector.
A second MOU was prepared to be signed between Zambia and South Africa to strengthen the Infrastructure Fund MOU among the various funding parties in Zambia and South Africa.
Despite the sourcing and provision of $1.1billion as seed money for the Infrastructure Fund, the bureaucratic process to legally establish it rolled extremely slow.
And as it sadly happened, both Ministers of Finance in Zambia and South Africa were replaced.
The establishment of the Infrastructure Fund lost momentum.
We tried hard to ensure that it obtained the same traction but new priorities appeared to have overtaken the drive.
Despite the approval of two final draft MOUs, the signing has not taken place.
In sharp contrast, in his 2020 address to Parliament, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the establishment of the Infrastructure Fund to quicken the drive to develop infrastructure in South Africa.
I kicked myself!
How can a good development idea we started in 2017 fail to take root but be established and celebrated elsewhere?
Have we missed the golden opportunity to deliver infrastructure development using other innovative mechanisms? It is yet to be seen.
As it is, there is a moratorium on new infrastructure projects, contraction of new loans and government is implementing austerity measures.
It is in this environment that the Infrastructure Fund would have thrived well to continue to deliver development to our country.
About the Author
He served as Permanent Secretary in Northern, Eastern and Western Provinces.
He was also Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services.
He also served as Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa.
He is currently the Zambia’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union (AU).
ACC arrests Former Senanga Subordinate Court Magistrate for corrupt practices involving K1,200
FORMER Senanga Subordinate Court Magistrate Chama Mutambalilo has been arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for corrupt practices involving K1, 200.
Mutambalilo aged 50, of Kamwala South in Lusaka was charged with one count of Obtaining Money by False Pretences and is scheduled to appear in court soon.
ACC Public Relations Manager Timothy Moono has told Mwebantu in a statement that the suspect on dates unknown but between 1st October 2016 and 31st December 2016 whilst working as a Magistrate at Senanga Subordinate Court in Senanga District of the Western Province obtained K1,200 from known persons purporting that the said money was required as logistical support for him to undertake a Court scene visit when in fact not.
And Moono said the suspect has since been released on Bond and will appear in court soon
Lingiwe Sibanda: Helping Farmers Integrate Agriculture and Nutrition
“WHAT’S gets me up in the morning is having that picture of a five-year-old child who has been malnourished at some point, but because of my teaching, or whatever it is that we have shared with them, is getting better and stronger day by day and that pushes me to keep going and doing my job,” says First Quantum Minerals’ Kansanshi Foundation community nutrition assistant, Lingiwe Sibanda, a woman on a mission to help local farmers integrate nutrition for sustained improvements in food consumption and improved nutrition at the household level.
“The highlight of my time here so far has been seeing the smiles on the faces of the women we meet in the communities when we go to tell them about the importance of good nutrition. And it is the fulfilment that I get when I know that someone’s life has changed in one way or the other after talking to them.”
She said that the mining firm believes that improving nutrition should be at the centre of all agricultural programmes and policies while promoting current and well-designed nutrition education in the agriculture sector.
“We are teaching farmers some of the health benefits of consuming the food they grow. And in 2019, the Foundation surveyed to establish community needs that showed stunting levels among children below the age of five were high.
“The survey gave us a direction to take considering what to address where these communities are concerned. Our major aim is dealing with stunting, which is as a result of improper feeding of children,” Sibanda continued.
She finds that one of the major challenges that come with the job is the attitude of some community members, who find it hard to believe that beans have as much protein as meat.
“But I think change is a process, and we have to be persistent; we have to continue doing it until someone, somewhere understands the importance of growing healthy foods. But I think we are getting there, one day at a time.”
“Whatever they are growing at the moment is healthy, and we are encouraging them to consume what they are growing. And we are encouraging them to grow vegetables as well. We want to see a situation where each house at least has a kitchen garden, and this kitchen garden should include green leafy vegetables, diverse types of crops especially the vitamin-A rich crops like the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, the orange. And we are encouraging them to consume more of the food they grow,” she narrated.
It was her passion for nutrition that and the desire to see healthy children, that led her to apply for the position of community nutrition assistant when the mining firm advertised the position.
“In 2018, in September I joined FQM’s Kansanshi Foundation under the Nutrition Programme as a community nutrition assistant. And it was my love for children that has led me here today. Seeing a child who is not well or malnourished breaks my heart. And when I was told that I can work in this department as somebody who goes round in the communities teaching mothers how they can feed their children better, I was excited, I looked forward and without hesitation, I took the job.”
At only 26 years of age, Ms Sibanda has become a household name in communities surrounding FQM’s Kansanshi Mine in Solwezi District of North-Western Province.
“I was born in 1994 in Sinazongwe in Southern Province, and my parents are both teachers. I did my primary education at Batoka Basic School in Southern Province, before later going to do my secondary education at Matauka High School in Senganga District of Western Province.”
After completing high school, she did a diploma in social work at NIPA from 2011 to 2013. She then joined Habitat for Humanity, which looks at poverty eradication and housing where she worked as a data entry clerk for three years.
”In her free time, she studies; she is a second-year student at Cavendish University studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
“If I were to describe myself in three words I would say I am enthusiastic, goal-oriented and hardworking. And in the next five to ten years, I see myself as a successful farmer, growing healthy food, feeding my fellow community members. As long as our communities are well-fed, as long as our communities are given healthy food, I am ok with that.” she concluded.
One reason she has created a good relationship with the community members is good work ethics, she added.
“Part of my ethics is going that extra mile to ensure my work in the communities is done and I have gotten through to the people in ensuring they live healthier lives. And working with multinationals has also helped me a lot. I get a lot of mentorship from my supervisor, which has opened my mind to a lot of ideas and how to do things.”
Source: LANGMEAD & BAKER