NDOLA, once known as the industrial and commercial hub of Zambia, looks set to regain its lost glory and contribute to the economic transformation of the Copperbelt Province and the country as a whole.
The city which before privatisation of companies in the early 1990s, thrived and boasted of companies like Dunlop, Colgate-Palmolive and Lyons Brooke Bond Tea, has the potential to become vibrant again and contribute to job and wealth creation.
One such company promising to help revive the city to its glory days is Unity Garments Limited which has commissioned an additional US$10-million plant in Ndola to manufacture corrugated carton boxes.
The state-of-art equipment has the capacity to produce about 3, 000 tonnes of carton boxes per month, making it one of the largest plants in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region.
The new plant is an additional investment under the Unity Group of companies which is also the largest clothing factory in Zambia with a total investment of about US$30 million.
Located in the industrial area of Ndola, Unity Garments has been in existence in Zambia since 1966.
With a workforce of 100 staff and 300 state-of-art machines, the company produces work wear for some of the largest mining and industrial companies in Zambia and the region.
“We specialise in a wide range of industrial and protective clothing and cater to the school, hospitality, security and medical industry-making it a one-stop shop for all buyers.
“We are best known for our wide range of quality products and have the experience of exporting garments to countries within the region such as South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the United States of America,” says company managing director Kamaleshi Shah.
He says Unity Group has grown from the initial US$400,000 to US$30 million adding that the company has continued investing in the country.
“The company is committed to continue investing in Zambia, Ndola in particular,” he says.
President Hakainde Hichilema who officially commissioned the US$10-million expansion of the Zambian-owned Unity Garments factory recently, says the investment will transform the economic environment of the country.
“This company has been operating in Zambia since 1966 and falls right within our vision of economic transformation, job creation and private sector support for value addition.
“We call on business houses to take advantage of the enabling economic environment and set up factories where government entities, such as security wings, hospitals, clinics, schools and many other organisations, can procure uniforms and other requirements, a situation that will result in more jobs for our citizens,” says Mr Hichilema
He adds that the government will continue addressing domestic rigidities to facilitate such investments.
Mr Hichilema reassures the private sector that his administration is in the process of amending laws and regulations that subject them to paying huge sums of money towards acquiring licences.
The president, who toured the factory, explains that, as his administration works on reviving the economy, there is need to dismantle bottlenecks that hinder the growth of the private sector.
He says the Government has set up a public private dialogue forum that will help dismantle issues that negatively affect the growth of the economy.
“Companies such as the Unity Group pay our salaries. I am sure you are wondering, these colleagues pay salaries for the private sector workers and sometimes we forget that and we delay issuing those licences without realising the formation,” he says.
Mr Hichilema further assures that he will soon have a meeting with security wings to find out why they are not procuring uniforms from the local company.
“We need to support local procurement because it will add growth to the economy and create jobs. We have to support local companies by buying from them, that will help grow the economy much faster,” he says.
Then acting Commerce, Trade and Industry minister Frank Tayali commended the company for the investment.
The investment will contribute to Government industrialisation and social economic transformation agenda through the promotion of value added activities and strengthening of local value chains.
“We are happy for the US$10 million which is an addition to many other investments pioneered by the group of companies and has promoted the growth of the manufacturing industry in the country,” he states.
Copperbelt Province minister Elisha Matambo says the region will see more of such investments.
Mr Matambo further notes that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed a few months ago to set up an Electric Vehicle (EV) battery industry, will be located in Ndola.
Ndola District Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NDCCI) president Paul Chisunka says the private sector has the capacity to support industrialisation and human development in the country.
Mr Chisunka adds that the investment will revive the local garment sector which had for a long failed to grow due to flooding of imported products on market.
He says the garment sector despite its capacity to manufacture the products for the local market, has in the past been denied business by government institutions who are the major consumers.
“We are happy that President Hichilema has given a directive to government institutions such as the ministries of Defense and Home Affairs as well as others to start buying locally manufactured uniforms for soldiers, police offices and other public services workers ,” he adds.
This will enable the government serve money through import substitutions as well as create more jobs for youths and women who are the major employees of this industry.
He says existing garment manufacturing companies like Unity Garments, Amalgamated Clothing and Georgia Knitting will expand their productions and employ more people as market for the products is now assured.
Mr Chisunka adds that the chamber will like to see more garment companies forming in Zambia to enable the country export and earn foreign exchange.
With an additional of carton box manufacturing plant to its production of assorted uniforms and safety clothing, it is hoped that Unity Garments will fit into government’s vision of economic transformation, job creation and private sector driven markets.
Such investments are helping to retain Ndola as the industrial hub of the Copperbelt and move back the city to its economic glory days.