Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu has assured the country’s local steel industry that his country will no longer be importing steel, instead rely on the locally produced material to support ongoing infrastructure developments across the country.
The president, who is seeking re-election in the country’s general elections scheduled for August 11, made this announcement when he officially launched the U$250 million Direct Reduced Iron Plant (DRI) at the Universal Mining and Chemical Industries Limited Steel Plant (UMCIL) located in Kafue district, about 50kms south of the capital Lusaka.
The Direct Reduced Iron Plant will be processing high grade iron ore mined at Nambala-Sonkwe in Mumbwa into finished steel products by the end of this year. The directed the Minister of Mines and Minerals Development and the managing director of Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) to allocate the plant a sizeable coal reserve to enable the upgrading of iron and steel production.
“In the spirit of produce Zambian, buy and trade Zambian, and use Zambian, I am directing the director general of the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) to ensure that all infrastructural projects including the airport expansion and electricity power stations projects are supplied by locally produced products,” Lungu said during a campaign rally attended by thousands of supporters for the country’s ruling party, Patriot Front (PF).
President Lungu said he was aware that the current production at Kafue Steel plant stood at 120,000 metric tonnes per annum, adding that once the plant started using iron ore later this year, production was expected to increase to 240,000 metric tonnes per annum. “…for all the items we require for infrastructural development, we must endeavour to buy local. Importation should only become necessary when the quality and quantities we need are not available locally.” Lungu said
The president is seeking support from a once neglected town not far from the capital. Kafue is host to Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia limited (NCZ), the country’s only national fertilizer factory. During its golden days, the town was thriving with manufacturing industries including the now defunct Kafue Textiles Limited. Post-privatising era of the early 1990s consigned hundreds of families to abject poverty.
The coming in of the Universal Mining and Chemical Industries Limited Steel Company (or Kafue Steel) in 2006 was seen as an opportunity to provide the much needed job opportunities. Currently, the company has a workforce of 1000 employees a figure expected to quadruple once the plant begin operating a full capacity. Kafue Steel is a wholly Zambian owned company and is a member of the Trade Kings Group.