Overview of best prospect sectors, major infrastructure projects, significant government procurements and business opportunities.
There are several promising commercial opportunities in Zambia’s emerging economy, most notably in energy, mining, and agriculture:
Zambia’s temperate climate and abundant water resources make it a potential breadbasket for all of Africa through small-, mid-, and large-scale farming operations. However, agricultural yields are typically below potential and labor productivity on the farm remains low due to the lack of improved agronomic practices, mechanization, and access to improved inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers. There are also significant potential opportunities for investment and value addition in cold chain storage and food processing targeting large regional markets such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa.
Demand for electricity has grown at an annual rate of about three percent, and generation development is starting to grow. Investment opportunities exist in electricity generation, especially in the off-grid market, upstream and downstream petroleum, and renewable energies. Demand for renewable energy options has also grown significantly. The financially distressed electricity parastatal ZESCO remains a key challenge for the industry – despite being the main off-taker, it has accumulated substantial arrears to existing independent power producers and stymied large-scale energy infrastructure development in the short term, prioritizing projects that have high economic returns for the country.
Zambia is the second largest copper producer in Africa and the seventh largest in the world. A constantly shifting tax and regulatory regime under the previous administration hindered foreign investment and led to a generalized decline in exploration. With global copper prices booming, opportunities exist in exploration, mining services, water management, engineering, construction, and environmental services. Zambia is also home to other precious metals such as gold, silver, gemstones (amethyst, aquamarine, emerald, and tourmaline), coal, and industrial minerals. Immense potential exists for both extraction and value-added industries.
While Zambia’s excessive debt burden will likely limit the government’s capacity to take on major new infrastructure projects in the short- to medium-term, building and construction remains the country’s largest industrial sector and private sector demand for housing and office space, as well as mining, energy, and ICT infrastructure will continue to support growth. The government has expressed a desire to begin using public-private partnership models of infrastructure development.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT):
The previous government undertook mixed efforts to liberalize and reform the ICT sector, including approval of a fourth mobile operator but also pursuing harmful data localization policies. 90 percent of Zambia has mobile phone coverage and digital financial services increased rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the government has taken positive steps by creating a Ministry of Technology and Science and by updating its outdated ICT policy. Zambian financial services companies and retailers have focused on developing the country’s burgeoning digital market, creating new opportunities in the provision of retail fiber optic, mobile, internet service providers, software development and sales, and ICT business parks.
Zambia boasts 20 national parks and 34 game management areas and is home to Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. While COVID-19 has significantly reduced international tourist arrivals, the country’s long-term prospects remain promising and there is expected to be a shortage of hotels in tourism and mining regions, in addition to hospitality services, infrastructure development, and tourism site operations.