ZAMBIA is in dire need of locally-manufactured goods as a way of growing its economy by meeting a myriad of challenges.
Over the years, the country has become almost a dumping ground for various imported goods, including substandard ones.
For as long as there are no import-substitutes, the importers of these goods cannot be faulted and they will continue.
The effects of continued dependence are obvious and include the creation of employment opportunities in the countries where these imported products are coming from.
Another effect is the loss of foreign exchange mainly in form of the United States dollar, every time an item is being imported, since that is the main medium of international trade.
That has its own telling effects on the national economy as it greatly contribute to trade deficit and over time erodes the value of the Kwacha against convertible major currencies including the dollar.
Another challenge posed by over reliance on the imported goods is the depletion of the nation’s foreign exchange reserves which are supposed to be built up into so many months of import cover and are, therefore, important.
Wary of these and other challenges of over dependence on imported goods the government came up with the programme to promote industrial yards and clusters as a way of ensuring industrialisation take root in the country.
Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe says industrial yards will increase value addition, to enable people to make more money from the natural resources and agricultural produce thereby accelerating industrialisation.
At another level these industrial yards, which will be dotted around the country will help to diversify the economy by making it possible for people to add value to a broad range of commodities and natural resources.
We agree with her that the coming of industrial yards will assist the districts to move faster away from selling primary commodities and benefit more by processing them into finished products to yield maximum benefits.
With industrial yards, Zambia will move to a new level of light manufacturing, focusing on metal fabrication, gemstone processing, wood processing, auto-mechanics and spare parts as well agro-processing.
That will spur economic activities and lead to the setting up of fully fledged manufacturing entities which we hope will produce products, which are suitable and qualitative enough to replace the imported materials.
This message resonates with the Government’s programme on wealth creation and empowerment of citizens at the household level as well as with its strategy to deliver industrialisation “that leaves no one behind.”
We note that the Government’s broader programme under the Citizen Economic Empowerment Commission (CEEC) targets the construction of industrial yards in Chipata, Solwezi, Mansa, Kasama, Kitwe, Ndola, Mongu and Lusaka districts.
This is under the skills development and entrepreneurship project with support from the Africa Development Bank (AfDB).
The setting up of the industrial yards, which will gobble up US$20million in eight areas is set to make a positive contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and create sustainable jobs in the country.
The programme will help to reverse the trend of over-dependency on imports of goods and some of the positive effects will be the creation of job opportunities for the local people.
Further, apart from being a value-chain project, the move will also curb the indiscriminate loss of foreign exchange through importation of products which can easily be made locally.
That will also ensure the growth of the international reserves of the country as these projects will ultimately start attracting both internal and external customers.
This will lead to the increase in the foreign exchange earnings under the non-traditional export category.
Truly, the industrial clusters and yards are the way to go to diversify the economy, revive the manufacturing base and maximise benefits for all entrepreneurs while abating dependence on imported goods.