PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema has urged the Trade and Development Bank (TDB) to involve local Zambian businesses in the supply chain of projects, as this will bring business opportunities and jobs to the people.

And TDB Chief Executive Officer Admassu Tadesse says Zambia will get significant dividends once the TDB General Assembly approves recommendations by its board of directors.

Speaking when he met a delegation which paid a courtesy call on him, Wednesday, President Hichilema said government was on an agenda to lower the cost of capital for Zambian businesses.

“We acknowledge the role the multilateral development bank has played in financing public and private sector projects in Zambia like the US$5 billion Batoka Gorge hydro power and other green energy projects. We encouraged them (delegation) to involve local Zambian businesses in the supply chain of these projects as this will bring business opportunities and jobs for our people. To which they responded that they are ready to work with government in realising climate smart and adaptation projects. They are also eager to work with the private sector to create jobs, which they acknowledge is a priority for the Government. We want to see further engagements and support. The Batoka power project is important to us,” President Hichilema said.

“The green energy issues and of course hydro, this country has a lot of potential. But we are tired of potential. We want to see the actualisation of that potential. We will be glad to have conversations around the Batoka power project and other green projects in our country. This will not just benefit our country but it will benefit the region in terms of green energy. One of the things we will talk about is the cost of projects. Africa has suffered a lot in terms of the cost of projects. There are other factors but to some extent driven by the cost of capital. So we are on an agenda to lower the cost of capital. I think this continent seems to be standing alone in that context and it does affect the cost of doing business which affects growth. On the side of government, we are committed to improving the operating environment to make sure that it is conducive for doing business and growth.”

President Hichilema said his government wanted a bigger economy which would be able to deal with various shocks.

“This will help us generate jobs for the profile of our population which put us in office, which is the young people. So it is important that we do that to bring business opportunities for many of our businesses that have been affected by not just domestic conditions but also variables such as COVID-19. We all know the war in Ukraine is bringing a different dimension to the cost of commodities and petroleum products,” he said.

“So we would like an economy which is bigger to deal with these shocks when they arise because they will always arise. I think you are better to have a growing economy. So we want you to view us as partners and deepen it in that sense. When we have challenges, we should be able to sit at a table and deal with those challenges. We keep our eyes on the ball and ensure the bank develops and delivers value to its shareholders. I think these are mutually desired benefits.”

Meanwhile, TDB Chief Executive Officer Admassu Tadesse said the bank was ready to support Zambia’s economic agenda.

“Your Excellency, we are here in Lusaka to pay a courtesy call and of course listen to your leadership on the new vision and priorities of the Republic of Zambia in terms of its development plan. We are also here to conduct the board of directors meeting which is taking place in the city. So we have had very good discussions over the past couple of days. Last night we had an excellent discussion with the Secretary to Treasury Felix Nkulukusa and Professor Saasa. We had a discussion on prospective coming out of your good administration and thinking about how you want to boost economic development. Of course, this growth deals with some sensitive issues you are grappling with,” said Tadesse.

“We had a case study at a dinner session on a mining project we have just concluded in the DR Congo. I know Zambia knows very well the importance of the mining sector and Zambians have been looking at the DRC, of how far they have moved in that sector. So we took the occasion to share with the ST what we have recently done to the mining project in the DR Congo as an indication of what we can do here in Zambia as we push the envelope to your priorities. We also discussed the power sector and we have been very active in the power sector. Not just in funding governments directly but also funding PPPs and IPPs. We discussed the potential and some of the opportunities around the Batoka power project.”

Tadesse said Zambia would get significant dividends once the TDB General Assembly approved recommendations by its board of directors.

“We have been appointed as lead advisor by the private sector consortium that is interested in taking Batoka to the finishing line. We had received an appointment a few years ago by the Power China consortium to advise them on how to advance this high-impact project that will benefit the two countries but potentially several others who would be off-takers. It has become a very strong focus area for us because we know in the context of climate change and the gaps, this is the kind of project that can be a game-changer. Not everybody is a shareholder like China and Denmark and of course Development bank but we receive funding from many different sources,” said Tadesse.

“Today we have almost 20 institutional shareholders. We are now essentially a PPP ourselves. As somebody who has a very deep understanding of private capital in the private sector, I thought I would mention this to you so that you can appreciate that we are very committed when we talk about partnerships. All this reduces the amount of reliance we have put on taxpayers’ money to drive our financial institutions. So one of the exciting items was to present the results of the bank to the board members and you recommend a dividend to shareholders. You will be pleased to hear that once the annual general assembly approves the recommendation of the board of directors, the Republic of Zambia will be getting a very significant dividend as part of its shareholding in the group. We give financial returns as a shareholder but we also give you development impact which is very important.”