UPND economics and finance committee chairman Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane is distraught that after eight years of the PF government, the dream of turning Kasaba Bay into a regional recreational and conference tourist centre has died.
Kasaba Bay lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika within the Nsumbu National Park in Mpulungu district of Northern Province.
The picturesque Kasaba Bay can easily be accessible from Mpulungu town by boat.
Dr Musokotwane, who served as finance minister from November 2008 to July 2011, observed that while lack of decent employment opportunities remained one of the serious socio-economic problems facing Zambia today, the tourism sector was one of the answers to offset joblessness.
He said more than 400,000 young people graduate from schools, colleges and universities per year to enter the job market but that tragically, only a tiny fraction of them was able to secure employment, “leaving behind a large army of angry and disappointed youths.”
Dr Musokotwane remembered that at the time he was graduating from secondary school in 1974, prospective employers arrived at the school gate, on the closing day, to pick up young recruits to employ them after undergoing necessary training.
He said even junior secondary school graduates (form two) easily obtained employment as teachers, policemen, clerks, craftsmen, technicians, among other positions.
“Indeed, that was a wonderful time to be a youth. If you made it in education, you had every reason to have hope for a prosperous future. Of course, the setback then was the limited educational spaces which left many people behind,” Dr Musokotwane recalled in a press statement yesterday.
He indicated that it was possible to return to the “glorious days” on the labour market as it was early after independence.
He noted that many countries had achieved that feat within a generation.
“With all her natural resources and a low population, it should not be an impossible feat for Zambia to create jobs for the five million or so people who are seeking jobs,” Dr Musokotwane said, stressing that achieving full employment did not come about on its own or by accident.
“It must be planned for and the plans competently executed. It is not enough to possess natural resources and expect a country to be wealthy. Mere presence of natural resources is like having all the ingredients required to make a meal such as meat, vegetables, rice, etc. But the separate ingredients on their own do not deliver a meal on the table.”
He added that natural, together with human resources, must be prepared before they could produce wealth, together with the positive things that went with it like jobs.
“Our inability to create full decent employment since independence reflects our failure as a country to prepare and blend together the natural and human resources to create wealth and jobs,” Dr Musokotwane, an economist, observed.
To buttress his argument on job creation, Dr Musokotwane, who is Liuwa UPND member of parliament, gave an illustration of how Kasane town in Botswana, unlike its Zambian neighbour Kazungula, was thriving – courtesy of tourism-related activities.
“About three weeks ago, I visited the small border town of Kasane in Botswana. Although it is a small town, it is full of tourist activity. It has several large, medium and small tourist hotels which, as I was informed, get very busy each year from April until early into the following year,” Dr Musokotwane said.
“Tourist activities are evident everywhere! And, of course, there is plenty of wildlife, including the four of the big five that one can see with little effort using either water or land transport or both. There are some seemingly non-tourist business activities such as trading, banking and other services. But they all feed off from tourism. Take away tourism, the town will find it hard to survive.”
He explained that across the Zambezi River, opposite Kasane town, is Kazungula town in Zambia.
“The natural resource endowment on both sides of the river is very similar, if not the same. On the Zambian side, however, the roaring tourism observed in Kasane is totally absent. Why is this so?” he wondered.
“The answer is that Botswana has done a better job in planning for the utilisation of her natural and human resources to establish a thriving tourist industry that has created employment opportunities for her people. Zambia, with the same natural resource endowment like Botswana, in the same region, has failed to take advantage of her resource base that is similar to that found in Botswana!”
Dr Musokotwane highlighted the contrasting details that have led to tourism success and failure in Kasane and Kazungula, respectively.
He said Botswana had organised for the wellbeing of her wildlife in the area, including protection from poachers.
“Botswana undertook a superior and comprehensive land use plan of the Kasane area that provided for, among others, catering for wildlife livelihood, tourist lodges, tourist activities, commercial activities and public administration, etc. The place is well planned!” Dr Musokotwane noted.
“Botswana has invested in appropriate infrastructure in Kasane like internationally linked roads to South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. There is an international airport [in Kasane] and electric power is available for investors in lodges and indeed even residents to tap into. In short, Botswana has ensured that there is plentiful wildlife for tourists to see within close vicinity of Kasane itself; she has provided for the private sector to invest in lodges and hotels and has created the transport platforms for guests to be able to travel to Kasane in comfort.”
He pointed out that while the government of Botswana was pro-active and encouraging investors to go to Kasane to invest in lodges, hotels and other commercial activities, the Zambian system was harmfully different.
“It can take more than five years before a tourist operating license is issued [in Zambia,] Dr Musokotwane said.
“This, of course, results in delays in lodges being opened which also delays the creation of jobs. The end results are so evident; Kasane is thriving economically with tourism as the anchor industry and this has created employment opportunities [but] Kazungula has not achieved the same.”
He underscored that with so many tourist raw products found all over Zambia, there was no reason hundreds of tourist towns could not emerge in the country.
Dr Musokotwane gave another example of a “lost opportunity” to create many jobs in the tourism sector and emphasised that the sector in Zambia was in need of diversifying tourist products to complement the Victoria Falls, Kafue National Park, Luangwa National Park, Lower Zambezi and other traditional tourist areas.
“One of the contenting areas for this is the so-called Northern Circuit. The Northern Circuit includes the Kasaba Bay area. Kasaba Bay on Lake Tanganyika in northern Zambia was famous because it was one of president [Kenneth] Kaunda’s favourite official hideouts where he retreated and came back with serious national pronouncements like Cabinet reshuffles. But it is a beautiful place in its own right! It has all that it takes to be transformed into an active tourist resort with many international class hotels and lodges employing thousands of youths. Kasaba Bay can be busier than Kasane,” Dr Musokotwane explained.
“The area has wildlife, water and sandy beaches. Moreover, it sits right in the middle of Africa. As such, it has great potential to be transformed into a pan African conference centre where participants from the east, west, north and south of Africa can all congregate. The place can offer both serious official business as well as leisure simultaneously. At present, the tourist activity there is tiny and it needs to be enhanced so that more jobs are created.”
He recalled that potential to upgrade the Kasaba Bay area was recognised in the last few years of the MMD government.
Dr Musokotwane went further to underline some of the interventions which were identified as necessary to prepare the place to be attractive to investors.
“The Ministries of Land and Tourism [were] to undertake land use plan of the area including environmental assessments. Plots for hotels and lodges were to be identified as well as those for other activities and they were all to be marked on the ground. This task was undertaken, though I am not sure if it was concluded,” he noted.
“The airport at Kasaba Bay was to be extended and upgraded so that it could handle higher volumes of local and international traffic. The existing aerodrome from the Kaunda days is too small. This work commenced and I believe at the time the PF came into government, it was at the stage where the runway was about to be stabilised prior to tarring. The works were abandoned by the PF with 2,000 bags of cement going to waste!”
Dr Musokotwane further said electricity was to be taken to Kasaba Bay from Lunzua Power Station outside Mpulungu because “there was no electricity in the area, which would have been a problem for big hotels wishing to establish.”
“The work to construct high tension power towers from Lunzua to Kasaba Bay was completed before PF took over. The power station at Kasaba Bay was to be upgraded from its capacity of less than one megawatt to about 14 megawatts,” Dr Musokotwane said.
“This was because the existing power output was already inadequate for the existing domestic consumption at Mpulungu, Mbala and Sumbawanga (in Tanzania) even before the envisaged establishment of big hotels at Kasaba Bay. The works to upgrade the power station was commenced during the MMD rule and I believe it has now been completed under PF.”
He added that a road was to be constructed from Mpulungu to Kasaba Bay for the purpose of establishing market linkages between the towns of Mbala and Mpulungu.
“Farmers in those areas would be able to deliver produce like beef, chickens, eggs, vegetables etc. to the emerging tourist town of Kasaba Bay. I am not sure about the status of that road but works did commence during the MMD administration.”
Dr Musokotwane said the upshot was that the PF government had abandoned the Kasaba Bay tourist initiative.
“Meantime, they have been building airports in places where there is no tourist potential, leaving the Kasaba Bay area in limbo. Roads have been constructed everywhere else but the Mpulungu to Kasaba Bay road, which was meant to be an important linkage, has been ignored. This is a clear example of a situation where a national development plan says one thing but the funding of activities by the national treasury does something totally different,” he lamented.
“Eight years into the PF government, the dream of turning Kasaba Bay into a regional recreational and conference tourist centre has died. This is how a replica of Kasane in Botswana at Kasaba Bay has failed! This is how we have lost opportunities to create thousands of jobs for young people at Kasaba Bay.”
Dr Musokotwane pledged that when the UPND formed government, it was initiatives akin to what he highlighted which would be vigorously implemented throughout the country so that “the objective of creating full employment for the youth, as it was just after independence, can be realised.”