ECONOMIC diversification is critical for the advancement of the Zambian economy and has been on cards since the turn of the new millennium.
Efforts have been made by various interest groups, including Zambia’s cooperating partners such as, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure that Zambia embarks on a successful diversification path to strengthen the economy which has relied on copper mining for decades.
Overdependency on copper mining could adversely affect performance of the Zambian economy especially when metal prices take a plunge on the global metal market.
The Zambian economy which has been growing at the rate of seven per cent per annum, with inflation levels still in single digits, can further be enhanced while maintaining sound macro-economic stability through diversification.
Therefore, economic diversification is the catch word for the purpose of advancing the Zambian economy and there is need for an aggressive approach from all sectors.
This is a challenge which the Zambian private sector should take if this country’s economic diversification programme is to be a complete success.
Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda alluded to that fact when he implored financial institutions in the country to be part of the economic diversification drive.
Mr Chikwanda, who graced the opening of the Indo-Zambia Bank Copperhill Mall branch in Kitwe, emphasised the need for various organisations to support Government efforts in diversifying the economy.
The private sector can take full advantage of abundant opportunities in tourism, agriculture, and aquaculture and infrastructure development especially on the Copperbelt, which was picked as a pilot example when plans for Zambia’s economic diversification were first mooted.
More investments in sectors that point towards economic diversification should be enhanced because that is the only way the programme can be achieved.
There is also need to attract massive Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to help in enhancing the programme which will help this country reduce over dependence on copper mining as its economic mainstay.
Government plans to come up with industrial clusters in all the provincial centres, is among the numerous ways of helping to diversify this country’s economy and should be given the support it deserves.
An economic diversification forum which was held in Kitwe more than a decade ago did highlight a number of issues which could make the process a reality.
Among the issues brought out from the forum was the need for the Government to assist in making the diversification process smooth by working on stumbling blocks such as poor infrastructure.
Government should among other things, invest heavily in infrastructure development like roads and communication which has made potential areas unattractive to local and foreign investments.
This country’s economic diversification is attainable only if issues that are slowing down the process are quickly worked on because the success of this programme will be a major employment generation venture that will not only contribute to the development of the economy, but also reduce high poverty levels in Zambia.
A number of lessons can be drawn from the Malaysian experience which has brought that country immense economic benefits through economic diversification.