“Low trade rates between Zambia and Egypt are not acceptable,” said the Rupiah Bwezani Banda, president of the Republic of Zambia, at the Zambia-Egypt Business Forum held in Cairo Wednesday.
The Zambian presidential delegation grouped eight ministers and a number of businessmen. Banda met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday.
Profitable investing potentials in Zambia are already being exploited by Egyptian businesses, like Elsewedy Cables, the largest cable company in Africa and the Middle East. “We established our factory in Zambia three years ago, generating LE18.4 billion in revenue,“ said Ahmed Elsewedy, company CEO.
“Zambia is the investment hub in the southern African region,“ said Muhabi Lungu director of investment promotion and privatisation, in his speech to the forum. The Zambian economy has been growing steadily at five per cent in recent years, and is “projected to reach about even per cent [growth] in 2011,“ Lungu added.
The investor friendly climate of Zambia was underlined. “Corporate tax and the tax on capital goods of the first five years equal zero, plus return on equity is estimated at 66.8 per cent for construction, and 20 per cent for agriculture,“ said the president of the Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Lungu also advocated for Zambia's location, "at the center of two regional markets, SADC and COMESA (the Southern African Development Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa), providing investors with various markets to sell their products.”
The only obstacle facing any entrepreneur doing business in Zambia is transportation. “But that is changing as the government begins upgrading its railway connecting it to Congo and Tanzania,“ said Goodwin Yoram Mumba, counselor at the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia.
Zambia is dependent on the mining and energy sector, though the government is aiming to diversify towards investing in sectors like construction as the housing deficit is estimated $1.6 million. “Some 6000 bidders are eyeing energy sector projects,“ said the Zambian minister of energy, referring to the potential Egypt has in financing this sector.
Many projects still in the pipeline could use additional funding by the Egyptian private sector, especially in the high tech and residential sector, Lungu added. “The best sector for Egypt at the present time is agriculture and tourism,“ said Mumba. He added that the large water resources in Zambia provide a base for grain cultivation for Egypt.
“Zambia could use some exchange in the education sector, and in return the Egyptian side could invest in the advanced medical sector of Zambia“ Mumba said.
Egyptian attendees presented investment opportunities in the Egyptian economy, which has been growing at “around seven per cent,“ according to Neveen El-Shafei, vice chairman of the General Authority for Investment.
The Small to medium enterprises are the new destination as the Nilex, the small cap. Stock exchange proves.
Meanwhile, taxes have been lowered to 20 per cent and accompanied by liquidity in the credit system and interest rates lowered by two per cent — all factors encouraging Zambian investment in Egypt.
“Booming real estate, shipping and retail sectors are the sectors that promise high returns for the Zambian side,“ El-Shafei added.
“There is a general movement towards investing in Africa and we hope in four years Egyptian exports to African markets will reach LE20 billion,“ Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid said.