By Chiwoyu Sinyangwe
Fri 08 June 2012, 13:23 CAT
THE World Bank says only a strong private sector will help Zambia absorb the over four million unemployed youths the country is currently grappling with.
And International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector investment wing of the World Bank, has loaned Zambeef Products US$30 million (about K150 billion) for its expansion project.
World Bank country director for Zambia Kundhavi Kadiresan said the institution desired to see a strong private sector anchor employment creation unlike seeing the government continue to be top employer in the country.
[And why is that? - MrK]
She said initiatives like Zambeef which had continued to expand needed to be nurtured and supported.
"So, having companies like Zambeef which is now diversified into other areas is a good testimony of how agribusiness can make a difference in a country like Zambia," Kadiresan said.
"We are happy to see that Zambeef is not only feeding Zambia but also looking to opportunities for export that will improve the foreign exchange for Zambia."
The World Bank last February concluded another project for the government of Zambia for livestock when it offered a US$50 million loan to improve productivity in the livestock sector.
Finance minister Alexander Chikwanda said recently that Zambia planned to create one million formal jobs by 2016 to absorb part of the estimated 4.5 million unemployed youths, the bulk of who form the bedrock of the Patriotic Front.
And Zambeef board chairman Dr Jacob Mwanza said the loan would help the company expand its operations to meet growing demand for agriculture products.
Dr Mwanza said Zambeef was the largest agribusiness in the country which is diversified into also being leader in soyabean and wheat production.
"Our belief is to develop an integrated agribusiness; Our desire is not just to produce, process but we also retail," Dr Mwanza said.
He said Zambeef which currently employs 5, 000 people fitted into the government's decision to prioritise job creation.
Dr Mwanza regretted that Zambia lacked medium and long-term financing facilities as Development Bank of Zambia which was supposed to be key source of development finance was undercapitalised.
"We want to continue to grow and to continue to expand so that Zambeef can set an example for other large investors to come into the agro-sector of this country," said Dr Mwanza.
"This capital worth about US$30 million will enable us to carry out further expansion in our various sectors of activities. It is very important that Zambeef should grow and expand because Zambia is a fastest growing country, excluding oil-exporting countries. We need to provide this upcoming middle-income country which wants to eat prime beef."
In 2010, IFC loaned Zambeef US$10 million for growth and expansion programmes.