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Making Zambia smarter

The government’s commitment to building a “Smart Zambia” is generating an abundance of new digital communications infrastructure and services that aim to make life easier for ordinary Zambians, investors and public administration alike

From mobile transfers to e-vouchers for farmers, an explosion of digital services is transforming Zambians’ lives.

Introduced in 2015, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s vision to create a “Smart Zambia” sees ICT as a key driver of socio-economic development. Nowhere is this support for technology stronger than in e-government, where emerging online services are aiming to improve efficiency, transparency and ease of doing business.

The Zambia Public Procurement Authority’s decision to allow firms to submit tenders online is creating a fairer system, says its director general Danies K Chisenda. “Foreign companies wishing to participate will see that the new system does not favour any particular company.”

“Through ICT, we will bridge the gap between the developed and developing world”

Samson Longwe

MD, Hai Telecommunications

Elsewhere, the Zambia Revenue Authority’s online tax filing service has aided revenue collection, while moving from paper to digital has increased transparency in mineral extraction and the distribution of subsidy vouchers for farmers.

In the private sector, growing take-up of mobile phones has given rise to a uniquely Zambian ecosystem of mobile payment services that are boosting financial inclusion. “You really don’t have to have a bank account to transact,” says Patrick Mutimushi, director general of telecoms regulator ZICTA.

But none of this would be possible without the government’s commitment to infrastructure. A $280 million project to add 1,009 communication towers to the hundreds already built and boost mobile penetration rates to 94 per cent is now getting underway – great news for major operators like Hai Telecommunications. “They will make it easier for us to roll out services in rural areas,” says MD Samson Longwe.

In 17 years, Hai has grown from small family firm to ambitious telecoms player, using its local expertise to extend its extensive fibre network – the first in Zambia – into businesses and homes. The aim, says Mr Longwe, is to provide all Zambians with the fast, reliable and secure connections they need to achieve as much as possible in e-commerce, e-learning and more. “We are contributing to the enrichment of Zambian people’s lifestyles,” he says.

“We’re in an interesting era, and our group will help Africa grow and perhaps catch up with the Western world. We’re helping globalisation become a reality.”

New ICT infrastructure commitments aim to increase digital services in rural areas of Zambia. Photo: ZPPA