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It was so encouraging to hear President Edgar Lungu encourage citizens in the sub-region to establish and promote local manufacturing industries.

This was during the extraordinary Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit of heads of state and government in Harare, Zimbabwe, in April, 2015 at which the economic bloc’s industrialisation and roadmap were discussed.

This is something Zambia started under the leadership former President, Dr Kenneth Kaunda (KK), and UNIP.

I remember that under Dr Kaunda, for the good part of his leadership, we had the following industries; Zambia Cashew nut in Western Province, Mwinilunga Pineapple Cannery in North-Western Province, Zambia Metal Fabricators (ZAMEFA) in Luanshya, Kafironda Explosives in Mufulira, Serious International in Luanshya, Lyons Brooke Bond, Dunlop, Colgate Palmolive (to name but a few) on the Copperbelt.

Others were Kawambwa Tea Factory, Mununshi Banana Scheme and Mansa Batteries in Luapula Province, Luangwa Industries in Eastern Province, Kafue Textiles, Bata and Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia in Lusaka Province.

There were also Zambezi Saw Mills, Livingstone Motor Assembly together with ITT Supersonic in Southern Province.

We also had Zamhort, which was responsible for processing fruits and producing assorted drinks and jams.

However, towards the end of Dr Kaunda’s rule, the economy had all sorts of challenges prompting the electorate to seek alternative leadership.

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Key among the challenges was the shortage of essential commodities, which has greatly contributed to the shift by Zambians to prefer imported products to local ones, but we shall discuss this in the next article.

I remember a time when KK banned the manufacturing of fizzy drinks such as Fanta, Coke and Sprite and instead we developed our own local drinks such as Tarino, Kwench and Tip-top.

At the time, most of us felt that Dr Kaunda was being harsh and unkind to us.

Those with relatives in Zambia Airways could boast of receiving canned Fanta, Coke and Sprite and we even envied them.

What followed after the one-party era was the liberalisation of the market, which came with multi-partism and brought with it an industrial crunch as a number of companies that once thrived, came to their knees. They failed to withstand competition from new entrants into various markets.

This saw a lot of retrenchment with serious social and economic effects on families.

What was worse was that many people had been so dependent on formal jobs that the instinct of innovation and entrepreneurship to survive without a formal job was not just there.

Now with the formal labour market getting more and more constricted with fewer job opportunities, it is only proper that President Lungu’s advice is taken seriously.

With such endowment that God has blessed Zambia and the rest of the region with in form of natural resources and other variables of production at our disposal, there is no excuse whatsoever for this country to fail to add value to its raw materials so that more jobs are created.

This initiative will also allow for intra-regional trade and help boost economies without looking much to the western world.

Once local companies are revived and sustained, they will trigger multiple socio-economic benefits, including making the cost of products lower, thus enabling all and sundry to access things that are crucial to the improvement of their livelihoods.

Further, the tide of rural-urban migration which many African countries are grappling with, and which has led to multiple social challenges such as unemployment, poor housing and delinquent behaviour, can be reversed.

Once industries are spread out in the countryside, people in rural areas will have jobs at their door steps and will not be tempted to leave for already crowded cities.

Besides, the supply of raw materials to feed into industries will economically empower people in rural areas, who are very hard working but lack market opportunities.

It is important, therefore, that all stakeholders – Government, private sector, chambers of commerce and industry, all other business associations, communities and other key institutions combine efforts to chart the way forward.

They must come up with how Zambia can go into an industrial revolution using home-grown strategies to develop a robust manufacturing sector which will increase job opportunities and empower citizens in one way or another.

At regional level, SADC member countries should leverage their natural resource potential to turn the region into an economic power house through a strengthened manufacturing sector.

This article was co-authored with Mr Bwalya Lyapa Nondo, the Deputy Head of Mission at the Zambian Embassy in Turkey.

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