Zambia’s Eastern Province still ‘an untapped resource’

Zambia’s Eastern Province has been identified for the establishment of agricultural processing industries and factories where value can be added to agricultural produce.

According to the latest ZNFU weekly brief, the potential of the Eastern Province was recently highlighted in a discussion forum on industrialisation and sustainability that was held in Chipata by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

At the meeting, UNDP economist, Ms. Elda Chirwa, said the province has the potential for processing and value adding to crops such as tobacco, groundnuts, soya beans and cotton to create jobs for the youth and women, the ZNFU stated.

The regional manager for the Eastern Province, Mr. Virgil Malambo, also called on to the government to support farmers in all spheres and for a functioning extension service and the rehabilitation of farmers’ training centers across the province.

Eastern Province left behind

According to the 2016 Zambia Human Development(ZHD) report by the UNDP, the Eastern Province was the country’s top producer and exporter of cotton and lint, but since the 1990’s the industry has shrunk “as most firms have either shut down or gone out of trading due to stiff global competition and policies that failed to protect domestic industries.”

With most of the countries’ industrialization taking place in Lusaka, the Copperbelt and the Southern Province, the rest of the provinces in the country are being left behind, with the Eastern Province having a manufacturing value added per capita of only 6,7 per cent of the national average of US$ 79.

Agro processing to eradicate poverty?

According to the 2016 UNDP ZHD report, the manufacturing sector can generate high levels of individual and household income, through productive employment in large numbers.

“This could create the basis for a virtuous cycle of growth, human development, and steady declines in multi-dimensional poverty.”

According to the report, the Zambian economy still relies heavily on copper for its GDP, but agriculture holds the key for the diversification in the economy.

“Boosting manufacturing within the agro processing sector is a practical and viable way to diversify away from copper production.”

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