“The mining industry has played a central role in the socio-economic development of the Copperbelt, spanning over 80 years.”

RAJ KARAMCHANDExclusive interview with Mr Raj Karamchand, President of the Kitwe & District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a supporting association of the upcoming CBM-TEC conference and expo in Kitwe, Zambia in April.

Let’s start with some background on the Chamber, can you give us some history and also explain the growth of the organisation?
Kitwe & District Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been in existence for over 50 years and is the most active Chamber and has the largest membership in Zambia. We received the award for most outstanding Chamber of the year.

Can you give us some idea of what your important position entails?
The Chamber’s primary role is that of lobbying and is the voice of the business community. The Chamber defends the cases of the business community through lobbying and representing them on matters that concern them from time to time. The Chamber continually monitors the environment and is the mouth piece for the Kitwe Business community championing their cause for a business environment. The government determines the environment in which businesses operate through policies, taxes and regulatory framework etc. These may not always be in the interest of the business community and this is where the chamber comes in to represent their interests. A business is continually affected by the environment within which it operates and to keep abreast with changing environment, the chamber monitors it on behalf of the business community while business persons concentrate on running their business. It represents & intervenes on matters concerning trade, civic and industrial matters.

Membership to the chamber gives companies an opportunity to interact & network with the business community sharing ideas, keeping abreast on what is happening while they market themselves to other members. The Chamber promotes the development of trade, commerce and industry in Kitwe and throughout Zambia.

How important an industry is mining in Zambia?
The Copperbelt is mainly a mining based economy. The mining industry has played a central role in the socio-economic development of the Copperbelt, spanning over 80 years.

Small Scale Mining activities are limited to sand and gravel quarrying owned mainly by illegal miners. Artisanal miners usually are the smallest operation, an informal enterprise characterized by lack of finances and, the use of simple tools and labour intensive. As a result, mining is done haphazardly with little or no technical input and environmental concern. Although of less significance, these provide employment to the informal sector.

Other industries are manufacturing, engineering and service provision, which includes automotive and mine equipment repair.

Private industries in the district include foundry, rubber, heavy equipment repair and manufacturing, opaque beer production, bakeries, industrial gases, marketing and sale of petroleum products, fabrication, scrap metal, automotive repairs, construction and confectionaries and Industrial Gases. Small and medium scale industries are engaged in fabrication, scrap metal, automotive repairs, construction and confectionaries. The Copperbelt also has an active informal sector engaged in manufacturing, production and provision of services such as tin masonry, furniture manufacturing and cleaning services.

Industry provides a base for employment generation and an off-shoot to other service providers delivering raw materials. This would tend to expand the economic base of the district from being dependent on mining, which is the main economic activity in the district.

The Copperbelt is a mining based economy; most activities are centered around mining or the supply of goods and services to the mining companies. Mining is one of the most important income generating activities in Zambia. It is the growth of the country and over 70% of FOREX comes from the mining industry.

How important is the Kitwe district?
The economic history of Kitwe district is traced back to the beginning of mining on the Copperbelt.

Historically Kitwe’s main economic activity is mining. The mining industry has played a central role in the socio-economic development of Kitwe which has centered on copper and cobalt with a mining history spanning over Eighty years. In general, the mining industry in Zambia contributed an average of 11% between 2006 to 2009 to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There are two large mines, Mopani Copper Mines Plc and Konkola Copper Mines Plc, Nkana Integrated Business Unit. There are other small scale mining processing plants within the district.

Mining and metallurgical activities taking place at MCM and KCM at Nkana Mine sites             include operation for four underground copper/cobalt Sulphide, four open pits mines, metallurgical plants comprising of a smelter, copper refinery, cobalt refinery, two acid plants, concentrator and leach plant  located along the ore body which runs south-north on the western side of Kitwe District.

The increased demand for metals particularly copper prices on the world market due to the increased demand for copper consumption in Asia is driving and putting pressure on investors to produce for more metals. In Kitwe, due to this demand, the mines have undertaken underground exploration to increase their mineral reserves. Consequently, the high copper and cobalt prices has triggered an increase in mining activities in Zambia

Small Scale Mining activities are limited to sand and gravel quarrying owned mainly by illegal miners. These artisanal miners usually are the smallest operation, an informal enterprise characterized by lack of finances and, the use of simple tools and labour intensive. As a result, mining is done haphazardly with little or no technical input and environmental concern. Although of less significance, these provide employment to the informal sector.

Other Industries
Kitwe district is surrounded by major districts within a radius of about 65 km. This puts the district in a central position that makes it easily accessible and economically viable. The district is relatively industrialized compared to other districts of the Copperbelt Province. Major industries are manufacturing, engineering and service provision, which includes automotive and mine equipment repair. Industry in the district is divided into two main categories, heavy and light industrial areas.

Private industries in the district include foundry, rubber, heavy equipment repair and manufacturing, opaque beer production, bakeries, industrial gases, marketing and sale of petroleum products, fabrication, scrap metal, automotive repairs, construction and confectionaries and Industrial Gases. Small and medium scale industries are engaged in fabrication, scrap metal, automotive repairs, construction and confectionaries. The district also has an active informal sector engaged in manufacturing, production and provision of services such as tin masonry, furniture manufacturing and cleaning services.

Industry provides a base for employment generation and an off-shoot to other service providers delivering raw materials. This would tend to expand the economic base of the district from being dependent on mining, which is the main economic activity in the district.

Commerce and Trade
There are two commercial centres with shopping facilities including large privately owned stores and many medium but well stocked shops dealing in various goods. Insurance companies, banks, accounting firms, markets and other professional services like surveying and architectural consultancy are available in the district.

There are four main markets in Kitwe namely, Nakadoli, Buchi /Kamitondo, Ndeke and Chisokone. Every market area has a form of light manufacturing industrial, where micro and small traders engage in the manufacturing of pots, hoes, axes, knives, braziers, door frames, window frames and welding services.

All four markets currently has an average of  about 20,000 people of which some of them come from different towns and some sleep at the market. The market space is inadequate for the activities that take place at the market. The market is divided into seven sections namely Chisokone A, B, C, D, Green Market, Furniture and Curio.

What do you think are the main challenges?
The biggest challenge is access to affordable finance, other challenges include poor road infrastructure, though it has improved, energy, in terms of electric power which is cut off from time to time (load shedding), transport costs for mines via road or rail and labor costs.

What are the reasons that you would give a prospective foreign investor who is interested in investing in Zambia’s mining sector?
Zambia is a peaceful nation that has a safe and friendly environment as well as a stable economy and sound policies. The Zambia Development Agency gives foreign investors very attractive incentives.

How do you assist prospective investors?
We as a Chamber help prospective investors by giving them information on registration, whom to see, match make them as well as provide them with linkages.

Why did you decide to partner with CBM-TEC?
We feel that it has benefits to our members as they have been given a platform to market themselves as well as network with other companies at the Expo.

What will be your message at the event?
As a Chamber we are glad that people are able to support the various investments and that a large number of people are being exposed to what we as a Chamber do.

What are you most looking forward to at CBM-TEC in April?
We are looking forward to increased partnerships.

Anything you would like to add?
At the end of the day, we as a Chamber are hoping to get sufficient information to share with our members so as to ensure their participation.