Every time the question of “what are you doing in the foreign service for Zambia and the President” is asked, I step back, take a breath so that I can offer an intelligent answer befitting of a diplomat from a country of stella diplomatic credentials like ours.
This is because most of what we do as diplomats cannot be seen immediately due to the protocols involved and time it takes to go through the maze of paperwork to ensure ´the deal is right´ both sides. It´s called symbiosis.
Sometimes things work out and other times, efforts put into an agreement go south for one reason or another, but then that’s a story for another day, another dollar in economic diplomacy.
Recently, however, I was elated to learn that President Edgar Lungu, the chief diplomat of Zambia had clicked a switch that would bring the total capacity of energy or electricity to just above 3,250 megawatts, up from just about 1000MW in 2011.
When this announcement was made many Zambians did not immediately see what it meant but as a diplomat I took back a few major points from President Lungu´s launch that are positive for economic diplomacy:
- Increased power generation means Zambia would create more jobs (especially for the youth) in
- Agriculture that could now go on throughout the year instead of depending on rain fed crops or measures
- More mining projects would come up while existing ones would expand because there would be no dearth in power generation and supply
- The mines would produce more copper, cobalt etc for longer hours without disruption or power outages common in the past because now we have excess energy to power any mine
- Because we are now producing more power than Zambians can consume, we will now export excess to neighbouring countries that have not invested as much as President Lungu and Zambia has invested in the energy sector.
To me the launch of the 750-megawatt Kafue Gorge project by President Lungu, ´mazel tov´, and the ZESCO team led by Victor Mundende was the best economic diplomacy story I would retell for years to come.
Of course we must not lose sight of the fact that those wanting to bring into Zambia, the much-needed FDI, want to know whether the roads work and electricity runs none stop 24-7.
Overtime, I have noticed that only ´fly by nights´ will come and invest, even then only short term, in a country that is not as well electrified and is infrastructure deficit.
Energy and infrastructure is a “wooing factor” for me for Zambia´s FDI call, apart from out stellar peace and stability record that has superseded many in the sub region over a period of more than 55 years.
President Lungu and team have yet again “positively gas-lighted”our work as diplomats in encouraging more FDI to come to Zambia, create jobs, reduce poverty and enhance wealth via this robust and resilient energy drive.
We now have enough power and roads with more yet to come for GDP growth.
Below are some highlights from President Lungu´s speech during the milestone 750MW launch I took back, his own words:
- In less than seven years my government has introduced an additional 1,350 megawatts of power generation to the national electricity.
- Today as I speak we have a total national installed capacity of 3,250 megawatts. this is an increase of more than seventy percent from the previous installed national capacity of approximately 1,900 megawatts.
- My government has undertaken the following developmental projects: 1) the new Lunzua power station was upgraded from 0.75 megawatts to 14.8 megawatts in 2015 this was meant to improve the quality of power supply to people in Mbala, Mpulungu, nkamba, kasaba bay and surrounding areas.
with the new lunzua power station and the proximity to the sumbawanga export line
- We have 7 increased export prospects to our neighbouring sister republic of Tanzania. 2) the 120 megawatts Itezhi-Tezhi hydro-electric power station was commissioned in March 2016. this plant came at a critical time when the country was faced with a devastating climate induced power deficit, which lasted from 2014 to mid-2017.
- I can give an example of the Musonda falls hydro power station located in Mansa district which was upgraded and uprated from 5 mw to 10 mw to support a growing base of diverse investments in fish farming, agriculture and mining amongst others.
- There is also the new 15mw Lusiwasi upper hydro power station constructed near Serenje in central province which is almost ready for commissioning. because of that Serenje and surrounding areas have seen increased activities in agriculture and mining in recent years.
- There is also soon to come the Lusiwasi lower power hydro station. this is a mini- hydro power station of 6mw capacity which was constructed in 1974 and will be increased to 86 megawatts. 8 5)in 2014, the pf government also commissioned the Kariba north bank extension power station, which brought in an extra 360 megawatts into the national grid.
- This represented the largest injection of power into the Zambian power grid since the construction of the last major power station after independence.
President Lungu added that, “it is no secret that my government continues to invest in roads, clinics and hospitals, airports and power infrastructure such as the one we are witnessing. We firmly believe that infrastructure development is critical to opening up development for the entire country.”
He said, “the economic gains to accrue from these investments will no doubt benefit Zambia and outlive not just the current hurdles but will benefit all of us.”
President Lungu said Zambia, “has, over the years, seen increased demand for electricity to power activities. demand has risen in sectors such as:
Agriculture, tourism, industries, education, healthcare services, and indeed our homes. the growth on demand for power has necessitated accelerated investments in power generation and transmission infrastructure.
Enter Germany support
In addition, the German sponsored Getfit project will produce 200 megawatts of solar power. my government is also supporting a 600 megawatts renewable solar project, a public private partnership (ppp) between ZESCO and power China.
Zambia has never seen any significant power increase from 1977 to 2011 even as the population exploded by several percentages.
The Author H.E Anthony Mukwita is the Ambassador of Zambia to Germany. He is also a published author.