Zambia - Country Commercial Guide
Market Opportunities
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Zambia’s extensive resource endowments offer tremendous commercial opportunities in Zambia’s emerging economy, most notably in agriculture, energy, mining, infrastructure, information and communication technology, and tourism:

Lobito Development Corridor:  

In October 2023, the U.S. government, European Union, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), African Development Bank, and the governments of Zambia, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed a seven-party memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize their shared commitment to develop a modern rail line connecting the mineral rich regions of the DRC and Zambia to Angola’s Port Lobito, on the Atlantic Ocean.  The project aims to build 550 kilometers of greenfield rail from Solwezi, in Zambia’s North-Western Province to the Angolan border; and renovate 1,300 kilometers of rail from this border point to Port Lobito.  The project feasibility study is projected to be completed by Q1 2025.  The estimated $5 billion Lobito-Zambia rail line will, provide a critical trade corridor for Zambian and DRC imports and exports.  Construction of the rail line will create ample opportunities for construction and related service contracts.  The MOU also calls for the project to promote sustainable investment along the corridor in the agriculture, energy, ICT, public health, and other sectors.


Zambia is endowed with 42 million hectares of arable land, with only 14 percent currently under production. Agricultural yields in Zambia are generally low due to a lack of mechanization, limited access to quality inputs, poor agronomic practices, and government interference in the sector which has undermined private sector investment and the development of a commercially sustainable network of agro-inputs dealers.  However, given Zambia’s fertile soil and consistent rains (November – March), it has the potential to significantly increase its production of staple and cash crops.  There are also significant investment opportunities in value addition processing, cold chain storage, and food processing, targeting large regional markets including the DRC and South Africa.


In 2022, Zambia generated 19.4 million megawatt hours (MWh) of energy, of which state-owned Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation Ltd (ZESCO) contributed 11.6 million MWh (60 percent) – with the balance generated by independent power producers (IPPs).  However, as 83 percent of Zambia’s power is hydro-generated, power availability can fluctuate seasonally.  Given the combination of seasonal fluctuations, climate variability, and financial constraints, in some years, there can be seasonal load shedding.  In light of the energy intensive nature of mining operations, Zambia needs to significantly increase its power generation to support the government’s plan to drastically increase copper production.  Zambia is a member of the Southern Africa Power Pool, and has contracts to export power to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and the DRC worth a total of $430 million.  IPPs seeking to sell power through the grid, must sell it to ZESCO.  Due to financial mismanagement and corruption under the previous administration, ZESCO had been under significant financial distress, operated at a loss, and accumulated significant arrears.  However, from a December 2021 peak of $1.7 billion, as of December 2023, ZESCO had reduced its account payable to IPPs to $647 million.  Once this debt is paid off, ZESCO will be operating in the black and be able to invest in upgrading and expanding the grid. 


Zambia is the nineth largest copper producer in the world, producing 763,550 tons in 2022 (four percent of global copper production).  While Zambia is endowed with globally significant critical mineral deposits, developing these reserves has been challenging due to government interference in the sector, pervasive corruption, lack of a transparent and competitive process for awarding mining concessions, and a corrupt and dysfunctional cadaster system.  While the mining sector investment climate has slightly improved under President Hichilema’s administration, significant reforms are still needed.  President Hichilema has stated that Zambia aims to produce three million tons of copper per year by 2032.  However, industry insiders are skeptical Zambia can achieve this overly ambitious target without additional substantive changes to policy and practice.  Despite these challenges, there was new investment in Zambia’s mining sector in 2023 and opportunities remain in exploration, mining, processing, and ancillary services.  Zambia also possesses significant deposits of other valuable minerals, including cobalt, gold, nickel, manganese, graphite, beryllium, sulfur, zinc, graphite, coal, iron ore, steel, limestone, uranium and other platinum-group metals.  Zambia currently has no mineral processing capacity, however, developing this capacity is a government priority.  Zambia also has significant gemstone deposits, including:  emeralds, amethysts, aquamarines, garnets, tourmalines, rose quartz, agate, amazonite, colored quartz, and others. 


Zambia is unable to use debt financing for any new significant infrastructure projects because of the Zambian government’s debt status.  However, infrastructure development remains one of the government’s top priorities, and, in 2022, construction remained the country’s largest industrial sector – comprising 10.9 percent of GDP.  The government is seeking investors for public-private partnerships to finance new infrastructure projects and accepts unsolicited proposals, rather than initiating projects through a government solicitation.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT):  

By December 2022, there were 16.4 million active cellular mobile connections in Zambia, equivalent to more than 80 percent of the population.  (Note:  As many Zambians use more than one active connection, the actual percentage of Zambians with an active connection is likely to be significantly lower.  End Note.)  By early 2023, internet penetration in Zambia was 21.2 percent, with 4.3 million internet users.  The Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), a non-profit industry organization that promotes global connectivity selected Zambia as one of six nominees for its 2023 Government Leadership Award.  GSMA noted the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority’s (ZICTA) progress in improving nationwide connectivity, infrastructure, transparency, and its spectrum roadmap.  ZICTA reported, from 2021 to 2022, mobile money subscriptions in Zambia increased from 9.8 to 11.2 million, a growth rate of almost 14 percent.  Over the same period, the value of mobile money transactions increased by almost 75 percent, totaling almost $14.8 billion.  


Zambia’s tourism sector is based on its environmental diversity, which includes the world-famous Victoria Falls, vast wildlife resources (20 national parks), varied scenery, wilderness, cultural tourism, adventure activities, and hunting.  About 30 percent of Zambia’s 752,614 square kilometers is reserved for wildlife conservation.  In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, travel and tourism comprised 7.7 percent of Zambia’s GDP and provided almost 500,000 jobs.  In 2021, the sector comprised 4.3 percent of GDP and an estimated 340,000 jobs, with international tourist arrivals still 56 percent below pre-pandemic levels.  While there is significant potential to increase tourism in Zambia, sectoral growth is hampered by Zambia’s inadequate infrastructure, relatively high cost of international travel into Zambia, comparatively expensive domestic air travel, and onerous licensing requirements for lodges and hotels.  Zambia has tried to position itself as a high-end niche safari destination, with comparatively expensive lodging and tour packages.