EMMANUEL Mbambiko, a professional accountant based in Kitwe, says Zambia should not be preoccupied with the production of nshima, while the USA and China develop more appetite for consumption of minerals like copper.
Mbambiko is the Kitwe Chamber of Commerce vice-president in charge of commerce.
He has advised the government of Zambia to incentivise mines to increase mineral production, by embracing progressive mining taxation.
In an interview, Mbambiko explained what Zambia could do in the short to medium term, as a way of reviving her spent economy.
He said at the moment, US President Joe Biden was proposing an injection of US$2.2 trillion in that country’s economy, to do capital projects.
“Capital projects means they cannot do that in the absence of copper and all these other minerals. As the Americans are doing that, they still want to maintain their position as number one, in terms of the economy,” Mbambiko said.
“On the other hand, I’m not sure if China will just sit by and watch. So China may want to equally invest to fight for the same slot of number one global economy. As these big boys are fighting for the first slot, they will have to use minerals to support their economic activities and this is where Zambia comes in.”
He said the government should see what is playing at the global economic stage as an opportunity to greatly stabilise the country’s economy.
“But I get a feeling that in our country, our preoccupation is nshima. Whether you look at business people or people who are playing in the political arena, their preoccupation is just to supply nshima,” he said.
“Now, when we are preoccupied with nshima, we will not tap into this space of providing minerals to support these two big boys.”
Mbambiko’s hope, in the next few months, is that there will be political leadership that will focus on ensuring that Zambia gets a fair share of the support of the mineral wealth, which the western countries want.
He said if Zambia manages to do that, it will be possible to lift up her economy even in the next quarter of this year.
“It’s possible that we can create positive impact on our country’s economy. To do that, you need our political colleagues to be more interested in the country, and not just themselves,” Mbambiko said.
“Look, when we take up leadership, whether leadership at that [high political] level or leadership in associations, your preoccupation should not be personal. Once you get into public office, it’s the public that we are interested in. So my view is that those that are in the political leadership must think about the country, in the next quarter. If they think about the country, they must exploit the mineral wealth.”
He emphasised about the need for Zambia to logically exploit minerals.
Mbambiko advised those in the government today to galvanise their effort to ensure that what the western world needs is supplied.
“Much as we are supplying to the western world, we are obviously the ultimate beneficiaries. To do that, it means that there is some deliberate policy that we need to put in place for the mining houses, so that we can motivate the mining houses to increase production,” Mbambiko said.
“Right now the copper price is very attractive. And with this appetite in America, it’s possible that prices could go to $15, 000 per tonne. I’m also anticipating China to compete for economic space and the price of copper per tonne will certainly go up to US$15, 000. The question is ‘are we ready for that?’”
He said the government must have a deliberate policy to encourage the production of copper among mines.
“And what are some of the deliberate policies that government must do? One of the biggest cry that the mining houses have had is the mineral royalty tax. First of all, it’s too high and secondly it’s non-deductable tax and that doesn’t sit well with many mining houses,” he explained.
“The mineral royalty tax must be friendly, or if it remains where it is, it must be tax allowable. All you are doing is that you are trying to motivate the mining houses to produce more.”
Mbambiko restated that the single act by the Americans to do more capital projects, followed by the challenge by the Chinese, meant that Zambia could not afford to sit idle.
“We must move away from just thinking about nshima, and think about tapping into that economic space for the benefit of the country. In the next and the other quarters, we can ensure that these activities happen. If we invest our energies into these economic areas….” he said.
“I know that we are running into elections and people want to win elections. But if I were in government and I want to win the elections, I would not go for nshima. I would go for these other economic activities if I love my country.”
Mbambiko reasoned that investing in nshima was not long-lasting because “someone will eat nshima and go to the toilet.”
“Even Maslow’s hierarch of needs theory puts nshima at the lowest ebb. So we can’t remain at that level. We have been independent for almost 57 years now and the only thing we do is to promote nshima in each other’s mind. No! We must move away,” explained Mbambiko.