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Artifical Intelligence to alter tax administration, says ZRA Commissioner General Dingani Banda

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ZAMBIA Revenue Authority (ZRA) Commissioner General Dingani Banda has said the digital age has significantly transformed the way revenue authorities operates, resulting reskilling of employees in order to meet the rising demand for better services from taxpayers and other stakeholders.

Speaking at the 7th General Assembly of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) yesterday in Lagos, Nigeria, Mr. Banda said new technological advancements in areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning will potentially have a more significant overall impact and alter tax administration.

He said as a result, tax Administrations are now formulating strategies and aligning them to the transforming technological environment in which taxpayers operate, in most cases driven by other players in the ecosystem.

Mr. Banda said the common approach has been to build digital tax systems that evolve with the taxpayer; focusing on technologies that taxpayers have already adopted from other spheres in the environment.

Therefore, under its Corporate Strategic Plan (CSP 2022-2022), the Zambia Revenue Authority has focused on building technologies that have a common positive effect to the taxpayer and the Authority.

The 7th ATAF General Assembly is being held under the overall theme of “Rethinking Revenue Strategies: The Human Face of Taxation.”

Mr. Banda highlighted the transformation journey that the Zambia Revenue Authority has taken over the last ten years which include Adoption of electronic business processes by taxpayers and the Authority. Additionally, ZRA has transitioned from the manual forms that required data to be captured by officers.

With automation of business processes, taxpayers in Zambia are now able to do self-registration for Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TPINs), tax type and online trade facilitation.

Mr. Banda was making the presentation during one of the Sessions anchored on “Tax and Technology-Human centred and Socially Responsible Automation.”

The objective of the session was to discuss how digitalization of tax administration could be done so that it is in a manner that is considerate of accessibility, privacy and security, and human resource implications.

While digitalization has been propped to improve tax compliance and tax administration efficiency, it should not be at the detriment of taxpayers or employees of revenue administrations. It requires a balancing act of enhancing efficiency in the tax system and safeguarding the interest of the stakeholders in the tax system.

“On the African continent, the last decade has seen many ATAF member countries including Zambia heighten implementation of ICT-based initiatives to optimize revenue mobilization, the development which has resulted in enhanced efficiencies and data-driven decision-making. This is the smart way to administer taxes in this highly digitalised world. Through this, many have started reaping an ICT dividend,” Mr. Banda said.

He disclosed that technology has resulted into the diminishing role of data entry officers, re-skilling of staff into other roles, limited handling of cash, training in data analytics, demand in new fields such as data scientists, faster processes, reduced need for physical presence at borders and reduced levels of corruption among others.

The General Assembly which started on Monday is expected to run up to Friday this week.

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Zambia aims for enhanced healthcare accessibility, as Japan donates 100 hospital beds to Zambia

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ZAMBIA’S Ambassador to Japan, Tobias Mulimbika, says the Government is committed to ensuring equal access to quality healthcare for all citizens.

The Ambassador highlighted efforts to improve healthcare accessibility, noting nationwide upgrades and construction of health facilities.

He noted the conversion of several clinics to district hospitals, supported by JICA. Specifically, clinics in Lusaka Province such as Matero, Chilenje, Chawama, Kalingalinga, and Kanyama were upgraded, along with Chamboli clinic in Kitwe District and Mushili clinic in Ndola District of Copperbelt Province.

Dr Mulimbika made these remarks during the official handover of 100 hospital beds donated to Zambia from Yao Tokushukai General Hospital.

The event took place at the Zambian Embassy in Tokyo on Wednesday.

“We is hope to further strengthen the cordial relations between the two countries, especially considering that this year marks 60 years of bilateral relation between Zambia and Japan,” he said.

Speaking earlier, Dr Toshiko Abe, a member of the House of Representatives in the Japanese Parliament, explained that the Ministry of Health in Zambia had requested her office to lobby for beds to supplement the Government’s effort in the provision of health care services.

Dr Abe emphasised that the 100 beds were intended for use in both existing and newly constructed hospitals across the country.

She reiterated her commitment to further enhancing cooperation between Zambia and Japan in many priority sectors.

The Yao Tokushukai General Hospital is affiliated with the Tokushukai Medical Corporation, established in 1973 with a focus on providing high-quality medical care, research and education. The corporation has assisted Zambia establishing the first renal unit at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka.

This is according to a statement issued by First Secretary Press and Public Relations Faith Chilube.

(Mwebantu, Saturday, 24th February, 2024)

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Government initiatives target reducing high cost of living

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GOVERNMENT says that it is working towards reducing the high cost of living through various interventions such as revamping of the economy.

Minister of Finance and National planning Situmbeko Musokotwane said other avenues of improving the economy are creating employment and increased investment in sectors such as mining.

Dr Musokotwane said soon Mopani and Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) on the Copperbelt will be operational, which will help drive further development.

He was speaking in parliament when he delivered a ministerial statement pertaining to the economy.

“We are cognizant of the prevailing high cost of living emanating from the recent economic developments such as the depreciation of the Kwacha, increase in fuel pump prices, increase in the electricity tariffs, among others. Madam Speaker, Government has been working towards addressing the high cost of living through various interventions. We are also revamping the economy to create employment opportunities for our people through increased investments especially in the mining sector. Soon Mopani and KCM mines will be operational and this will be a positive development,” he said.

Dr Musokotwane also said the International Monetary Fund Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Programme was successfully concluded last year in November.

He noted that the IMF Board subsequently approved and disbursed the third tranche of USD$187 million in December 2023.

“So far, we have received a total of USD$561 million of the USD$1.3 billion we are supposed to receive under the ECF programme. Madam Speaker, following the successful second programme review, we received free money from the World Bank amounting to USD$125 million for budget support. The IMF ECF programme has also enabled the unlocking of resources from other cooperating partners apart from the World Bank. Madam Speaker, we remain resolute to ensure that we the country remains on course with the commitments that have been made to our people,” he said.

Dr Musokotwane further  said there is significantly more work to be done and appreciate the continued engagement and trust of the Zambian people.

He also noted that inflation was outside the target band of six to eight percent throughout the year.

“To arrest the persistent inflationary pressures, the Bank of Zambia tightened monetary policy by raising the Policy rate to 11.0 percent in November 2023 from 9.0 percent in December 2022. Madam Speaker, turning to the exchange rate, the Kwacha traded at K25.71 per US Dollar at the close of 2023 from K18.62 at the close of 2022, representing an annual deprecation of 42.3 percent,” he said.

Dr Musokotwane said durine to the persistent pressure in the foreign exchange market, the Bank of Zambia increased statutory reserve ratio to 17.0 percent in November 2023 from 9.0 percent in December 2022.

“The Ministry in conjunction with the Bank of Zambia is working on stabilizing the Kwacha. In the medium-term, we are promoting investment in key sectors such as Agriculture, Manufacturing and Mining, among others. The whole idea is to enhance value addition in these key sectors and increase the exports, then ultimately earn more and the much-needed foreign exchange,”he said.

Meanwhile, the Finance Minister said with regards to external Sector developments, preliminary data indicate that as at end of November 2023, the merchandise trade surplus narrowed to USD$ 0.3 billion from USD$ 2.6 billion as at end-2022.

(Mwebantu, Friday, 23rd February, 2024)

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Southern Africa’s next generation of film & TV creators: MultiChoice Talent Factory welcomes Class of 2024

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A FRESH cohort of 20 passionate young filmmakers has begun an exciting year of film and television training at the MultiChoice Talent Factory Southern Africa Academy in Lusaka.

The MTF Southern Africa Academy is one of three on the continent, where students spend 12 months gaining skills in screenwriting, editing, producing and directing – through study, and practical experience on TV and film productions. The fully funded curriculum includes workshops, lectures, masterclasses and assignments.

MTF students learn alongside industry greats and seasoned professionals from across the globe. The final stage of the course sees students developing feature films for broadcast on MultiChoice local channels and Showmax. The most recent MTF Academy cohort also enjoyed an intensive online training course with the New York Film Academy (NYFA).

In Southern Africa, the MTF Academy curriculum is created with MultiChoice Africa partner institution the University of Zambia, which confers the course qualifications upon completion of the academy programme.

This year’s students were chosen after a rigorous six-week selection process of interviews and adjudication by film and television experts, as well as regional academy directors.

At the MTF Southern Africa Academy, 55% of students in this year’s intake are male and 45% are female – coming from Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana, Angola and Zimbabwe.

Since its establishment in 2018, the Africa-wide MTF Academy programme has produced more than 300 graduates, qualified young filmmakers who are now taking African stories to the world.

“In the African film and television space, there is a risk that local productions could be crowded out by high quality, foreign-produced films and series,” says MTF Southern Africa Director Christopher Puta. “Fortunately, MultiChoice has ensured this does not happen, by investing in developing local skills through our well-equipped MTF Academies. Even before they graduate, these students will be involved in creating relevant content that reflects the lives and the tastes of African people.”

The training that the MTF Academy provides is geared to broadening the skillsets of aspirant filmmakers, and to empowering them to work in various creative disciplines – not only the film industry. An MTF survey has found that around 92% of MTF Academy graduates go on to work in the creative sector.

“Once they leave our Academy, many MTF graduates go on to work on MultiChoice productions, or with other broadcasters in the region,” says Puta. “Other graduates start businesses and become our partners and suppliers in the industry. MTF is about developing the skills to support a vibrant, collaborative industry environment.”

Last year, the MTF Academy Southern Africa graduated a talented cohort of passionate and skilled young creatives, many of whom joined local productions with the Zambia National Film Commission (ZNFC), as well as pan-African film and televisions productions including Mpali, Zuba, Ten Tamanga Street, Makofi and My Horror Love Story Zambia. And have also worked on feature films produced in Namibia that premiered on Showmax and other local channels in Portuguese-speaking markets such as Kwenda Magic and Maningue Magic.

“The MTF Southern Africa class will support the MultiChoice vision of producing hyperlocal content for local markets,” says Puta. “We’ve seen how audiences react to content made by other Africans, and we look forward to seeing the work produced by this year’s group of MTF students.”

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