THE United States of America (USA) and other foreign diplomats accredited to Zambia have backed calls for a long-term strategic consensus in the mining sector anchored on diversification to steer economic growth to new heights.
This is in response to the call made by the Zambia Chamber of Mines (ZCM) president Nathan Chishimba last week, for a deliberate drive by the Government, the industry and other stakeholders, to find conditions which will lead to a high-growth mining industry and a diversified economy.
US Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz applauded the initiative by ZCM to better educate the public on the importance of the mining sector to the country’s economy while encouraging diversification.
“A crisis sometimes offers an opportunity to make a lasting change. The slump in copper prices, electricity shortage and issues with a depreciating Kwacha have hampered Zambia’s growth.
“Copper will eventually rebound and will remain an important part of the Zambian economy going forward but, as the mining companies are themselves saying, now is the time for the country to diversify away from an over-reliance on a single commodity and its cycles of boom and bust,” he said.
This is contained in a statement released by the ZCM office in Lusaka yesterday.
Canadian High Commissioner to Zambia Alex Andre Leveque said he also welcomed the diversification initiative, both in the mining industry and the wider economy, as this would benefit all Zambians.
Acting British High Commissioner to Zambia Lucy Joyce said mining was clearly an important industry in the country and its economic development.
“I understand that this initiative recognises the importance of increasing transparency between the mining industry, the Government, civil society and the public; we welcome this and hope stakeholders will engage constructively,” she said.
Zambia Association of Manufacturers (ZAM) chief executive officer Maybin Nsupila said the diversification of the mining sector and the wider economy was vital given the numerous challenges faced by the country in recent years.
Mr Nsupila said the fluctuations of the metal market had a great impact on the country’s foreign exchange earnings, while taking its toll on the growth of major sectors such as manufacturing.
“Total dependence on copper at the expense of other sectors has resulted in little growth in the economy, and there is an urgent need to diversify,” Mr Nsupila said.
Other stakeholders supporting the cause were Centre for Policy Trade and Development executive director Isabel Mukelabai, University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Mines Dean Osbert Sikazwe and prominent business executives Mark O’Donnell and John Kasanga.
Story By James Kunda (Times of Zambia).