Cape Town, South Africa -The winds of change are blowing through Zambia’s mining sector. President Hakainde Hichilema, elected in 2021 on a platform of economic revival, is setting his sights on a bigger prize: securing larger equity stakes for the state in new mining projects. This move, announced at the recent Mining Indaba in Cape Town, marks a significant shift from previous arrangements and has sent ripples through the industry.
“We want to make sure there is win-win,” declared Mines Minister Paul Kabuswe, emphasizing the government’s desire for mutually beneficial partnerships. “We are not looking to scare away investors, but to ensure Zambia gets a fair share of the wealth generated from its resources.”
This “fair share” translates to a significant increase in state ownership. Currently, Zambia’s state mining company, ZCCM-IH, holds minority stakes ranging from 10% to 20% in established mines. Under the new approach, future projects will see ZCCM-IH negotiating for larger equity positions, potentially exceeding 50% in some cases.
The rationale behind this strategy is multifaceted. Firstly, it aims to boost government revenue, a crucial factor in Zambia’s development plans. Increased equity translates to a larger slice of the profit pie, potentially generating much-needed funds for infrastructure, healthcare, and education.
Secondly, the government hopes to leverage its ownership to secure greater social impact from mining projects. This includes demanding investments in local communities, job creation for Zambians, and stricter environmental regulations. “We want to see the benefits of mining trickle down to ordinary people,” Kabuswe stated.
However, the path towards securing these bigger stakes is not without its challenges. Investors may be wary of increased state involvement, fearing bureaucratic hurdles and potential interference. Striking a balance between profitability and social responsibility will be crucial in attracting and retaining investors.
“Transparency and clear communication will be key,” says industry analyst Nomathemba Moyo. “The government needs to be upfront about its expectations and ensure a stable regulatory environment that fosters trust with investors.”
Despite the challenges, there are signs of optimism. Some mining companies have already expressed interest in exploring partnerships with the government under the new framework. Additionally, Zambia’s recent economic reforms and improved governance ratings are creating a more attractive investment climate.
Whether Zambia’s bold move will pay off remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: the country is no longer content with being a passive player in its own mining industry. It is actively seeking a larger role, one that promises both economic growth and social upliftment. The success of this strategy will depend on careful negotiation, transparent communication, and a commitment to creating a win-win situation for all stakeholders.