Northern Province Minister Brian Mundubile has disclosed that government has released a sum of K41 million for the rehabilitation of the Samora Machel Airport in Kasama district ahead of the upcoming investment Expo.

And Mundubile told a media briefing yesterday that 1,000 delegates are expected to attend the investment Expo, which will be held alongside the centenary commemoration of the end of the First World War from November 20-25 this year.

Mundubile added that government had also been negotiating with local residents of Kasama, Mbala and other towns in the province to rent out their houses to tourists in order to accommodate guests who would be coming from other parts of the country.

“Following Cabinet’s decision to have the centenary commemoration of the end of the First World War and Northern Province Expo as a State function, the provincial administration, in collaboration with other stakeholders, embarked on a vigorous campaign to prepare the hosting of the planned event. The milestones achieved so far regarding the preparations are: rehabilitating of key infrastructure that will contribute to the successful hosting of the event. Government has released an amount of K41 million towards the rehabilitation of the Kasama and Mbala Airport in readiness for the event. A total of 1,000 delegates are targeted to attend the centenary commemoration and investment Expo. These will include some Cabinet ministers and members of parliament; diplomats accredited to Zambia and the UN family; international and local war veterans; local and foreign investors; senior government officials; the private sector and civil society organisations,” Mundubile said.

He explained that a separate K15 million had been solicited from various line ministries to finance the hosting of the two events.

“In terms of budget, K15 million was budgeted for the two events, that is the Expo and the centenary celebration. Basically, in packaging part of those funds goes towards infrastructure rehabilitation then some of it goes to the promotion of the event and the actual hosting of the event. This particular event is being supported by five line ministries, that is: the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry; Ministry of [National Development] Planning; Ministry of Tourism and Arts; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Northern Province. So, where this money is coming from is from within the budgets of these ministries; they just had to vary and realign. For instance, for the works at Motomoto Museum, all we did was to agree with our colleagues at the Ministry of Tourism and Arts to vary some items within their budget and bring forth the works at Motomoto Museum, they would have done the works at a later date, but we asked them to bring the debt forward because we needed the museum ready for the Expo,” he narrated.

Mundubile also said a local airline had been hired to be flying guests to Northern Province who would not be sleeping there due to limited accommodation.

“Due to limited accommodation facilities in the province, arrangements are being made with one local airline to be flying VVIPs, VIPs and other dignitaries on a daily basis from either Lusaka, Copperbelt to Northern Province during the event. Sites have also been identified where contemporary tented accommodation with basic facilities such as water, electricity and Internet facilities will be available. One of the measures we have taken is that we’ve realised that the Expo will be spread over a period of five days. For instance, we will pick a day when we will talk about tourism, meaning that when we are at Kabwelume Falls, we will take advantage of the activities in Kawambwa [District] and Mporokoso for a specific day then, maybe on a particular day, we will be in Nsama taking of advantage of the Kasaba Bay then the main event of the Expo will be on the 24th [of November]. So, you will realise that some of our potential investors are coming for specific sites and once they have asked their questions and they are satisfied they may even get back to their respective areas… so issues of accommodation at such an event are a big challenge, but these challenges are actually exposing and confirming the potential that lies in those particular areas. But for our VVIP, they will be flying to Northern and back to Lusaka on each particular day, so this local airline that we are talking to will also have a number of flights in and out of the province every day for those number of days,” Mundubile added.

“We’ve also called upon private residents, there are people in the province who have very good mansions. This is an opportunity where they can lease out their houses to the tourists during that time. This is not unusual, I am sure those who have been to Cape Town, this happens every year. Roundabout October, people leave their homes and for three months their houses are let out to tourists and when these retirees come back in January, they’ve got enough money to live on. So, this [is] an opportunity even for our local business people who have big houses and they are able to let them out.”

And Mundubile added that the oil exploration works that were launched last year in Northern Province under a company called Tullow Oil were progressing well and that a full report about the works would be issued soon.

Meanwhile, Works and Supply Minister Felix Mutati urged the people of Northern Province to take advantage of the upcoming investment Expo to market the province’s agricultural potential.