13 March 2013

Zambia: Add Value to Local Products

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TODAY in my weekly column, I want to advance my discussion on value addition to local products in variety of situations and also look at the organisation which is promoting those innovative ideas.

Innovative ideas of adding value to locally obtained raw materials can be achieved in this country and this can add to the increase of Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

Productive ideas mainly will come from individuals who are versed in the process chains, through trainings and education.

I have always indicated that our learned colleagues from universities should be in the forefront to spearhead such ideas.

If Zambia is to move away from over-dependence on copper exports in its raw form as number one foreign exchange earner, concerted efforts will be required among the Zambians, especially those who have acquired the knowledge through a long period of learning and training.

University graduates should rise to the occasion and showcase their knowledge.

In China at one time, seven thousand university graduates in agriculture, were sent out for orientation in the field and we have learnt that among those are some of the richest entrepreneurs in China today.

Value addition to timber, agricultural products such as tomatoes, pineapples, mangoes, onions and animal products such as beef, goat meat and more can only be achieved with high concentration of brain storming ideas among the people with knowledge.

It pains me a lot to come across university graduates deeply rooted in trading businesses in line with colleagues with lesser education and I question myself as what was the need for them to attain such admirable education.

From time to time, we have made references to skills exhibited by those young men at Chifundo market in Mandevu compound who manufacture high quality furniture and also by those entrepreneurs at Lilanda market who manufacture wooden socket plugs. These are typical examples of value addition to our locally obtained materials.

Another example of value addition to local products is shown by Sylva Catering whose products have already broken into foreign market.

Look at Zambia Sugar Company, it grows its own sugar canes and process them into refined sugar, which is sold even beyond Zambian borders. These efforts came after deep thinking coupled with knowledge obtained from education or training.

The programme Zambia Sugar undertakes is robust that it supports a lot of its affiliates economically such as Kaleya small-scale cane growers.

Intellectuals should not rush to Government to parade for political jobs in order to acquire wealth, unless those trained in related fields such as political science.

They should instead help Government to create jobs by putting their knowledge to work in creating companies like Zambia Sugar, Trade Kings, Sylva Catering, the companies that have demonstrated value addition to materials obtained locally.

Who told intellectuals that they should rush for political jobs? What about the knowledge that they acquired from the universities and other higher institutions of learning?

Anyway, this is the issue which is subject to debate by high school pupils during debate time.

Today I want to commend a company called Agri Business Incubation Trust (AgBiT), the company which has brought together brains to help innovative business ideas that have potential to grow into successful business enterprises among entrepreneurs.

Frontier Development Associates is a private company investing in Zambia's agribusiness sector, focusing on food value chains (fruit, vegetable, fish, dairy and meat products).

The firm has extensive expertise in agribusiness development and pursues public-private partnerships to promote win-win equity ventures with small and medium scale enterprises.

It specialises in developing inclusive business models and its development activities are designed to benefit those at the base of the pyramid (Small and Medium Enterprises(SMEs)).

It provides a stimulating environment for entrepreneurs, business start-ups, growing companies and those with innovative ideas in the value addition industries especially agriculture oriented.

It offers professional and comprehensive range of in-house support services designed to assist during the early years of operation, in this regard it helps in business development and technology support, it is also involved in mentoring and networking and facilitates funding; what a brilliant programme for SMEs.

AgBiT is consortium of institutions that bring together expertise in business development, agriculture and education.

The consortium includes Frontier Development Associates, University of Zambia, Mulungushi University, Natural Resources Development Centre (NRDC) and Zambia Agriculture Research Institute.

The company is led by its co-founder Gulam Banda, who is the executive chairman.

SMEs, especially those in agriculture and food processing industries, should associate with this company whose objectives are to promote agro industries in this country and contribute immensely to the economic growth of this country.

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