The ZBiDF team conducted a scoping and mapping exercise in Chingola and Chililabombwe of the Copperbelt Province of Zambia from the 15th to the 19th of February 2016.
The scoping mission was to see the opportunities that are available in the mining community as the people living around these towns largely if not entirely depend upon the mines for their source of income and livelihood.
The Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) which has operated in the two provinces for a long time contracted ZBiDF to source for partners who would help with building an ecosystem in the mining community through an initiative dubbed ‘Local Economic Development (LED)’. They (KCM) hope that when the locals of these communities have other means of income and focus on other areas of development such as agriculture, then the pressure of them being seen as the sole providers of employment and retrenching of employees (when need arises) will be taken off them.
They have also realized that the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program needs to be more sustainable rather than just donating things to the community an
d then doing business as usual. For this initiative, the mine is willing to give its land to the community which can be used for agriculture, they are also offering water which they pump from underground of about 30,000 liters on a daily basis, initially the water was just deposited into the Kafue River but it has been realized that it can be used for much more such as being repurposed for drinking or irrigation in agriculture.
The facility decided to travel to Chingola and Chililabombwe (after a similar scoping exercise in Lusaka) to scope and see who is doing what in the towns and what opportunities are available for the MSMEs who are the targeted group for the LED. In the scoping exercise, one on one meetings with various stakeholders such as financial institutions, academia, farmers, entrepreneurs and the relevant councils were held.
Through these meetings, it was discovered that the two towns not only depend on the mines but they lack information on what is happening in the corporate world and they are unable to source for funds to grow their businesses.
The biggest challenge that the MSMEs face is the access to finances or the lack of it because the bank requirements are too astringent for them and they lack the right documentation to access the required finances to grow.
The two towns have a huge and ready market for their farm produce and any other goods at the Kasumbalesa border of the Congo DR but the problem is that this vast market has not been formalized and hence they are taken advantage of when they go there to trade.
The ZBiDF team also took time to visit the Kasumbalesa border to see how the trade is conducted and get an appreciation of the opportunities there as well as to also talk to the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) on the various laws governing the trade that goes on there as well as what the Authority is doing to formalize the trade between Congo and Zambia.
It was evident that indeed there is a market for trade at the border and there is potential to grow the economy through that trade but there is a lot of disorganization and prices fluctuate at any time without the knowledge of the traders as the buyers determine the prices most of the time.
Overall, the potential for building an ecosystem in Chingola and Chililabombwe is there and the good rainfall experienced by the province can make agriculture a sustainable alternative for the two towns during and after the life of the mines. A full stakeholders meeting is poised to be held soon to ascertain the extent of intervention and see how the various stakeholders can work together to develop the two towns economically through diversification.