The Committee of Commerce of the Patriotic Front (PF), responsible for providing policy direction regarding the commercial and industrial sectors of the Zambian economy, has issued a statement expressing its deep concerns about the state of the mining sector in the country and its potential ramifications for commerce and trade.
The mining sector plays a pivotal role in Zambia’s economic landscape, and its performance has a significant impact on the industrialization process and the development of value chain Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) associated with mining.
These SMEs are not only essential for economic growth but also serve as major job creators, particularly on the Copperbelt, where they account for over 70% of GDP, 88% of employment, and 97% of all businesses in the economy.
The Committee emphasized that the vibrancy of the SME sector is closely tied to the mining sector’s health, as many value chain-related SMEs are dependent on the viability of their core venture, which is mining.
A key issue that the Committee highlighted is the lack of clarity surrounding the status of Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) on the Copperbelt, a matter of deep concern to many Zambians. It is emphasized that Zambia’s development goals, as outlined in Vision 2030 and other strategic development plans, rely heavily on a thriving mining sector.
The Committee’s primary objective is to establish PF’s policies aimed at diversifying the economy through the mining sector and agriculture. Consequently, any adverse developments in the mining sector could have significant negative consequences for the well-being of the Zambian people.
The statement underlines several crucial aspects of the PF’s mining strategy during its time in government, including increasing the state’s stake in the mining sector to ensure benefits for the Zambian people, maintaining a balanced tax regime, supporting the growth of mine-related value chain SMEs, and safeguarding the development of SMEs and job opportunities.
It is emphasized that influencing policy direction in the mining sector necessitates having a stake in it. The dilution of the state’s stake and dependence on foreign investors’ goodwill is viewed as a concerning trend.
Zambia, as the seventh-largest copper producer globally and boasting one of the largest copper reserves, is a critical player in the global copper market.
The Committee asserts that the benefits from copper should be harnessed to improve the well-being of the Zambian people, particularly through investment in social goods and support for the growth of SMEs.
The Committee is highly critical of the revelation in Parliament that the agreement between the New Dawn Government and Vedanta was verbal, which has raised significant distress and anxiety among the people on the Copperbelt.
Furthermore, reports of the government’s alleged sale of slag Dump OB19 to Liang Yun Company Limited to fund the UPND Party and individual senior members of the party have further exacerbated concerns.