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Saturday, 29 October 2011

Losing Out, 2nd Edition

We have previously touched on the timber exploitation in the country following an excellent article by Doreen Nawa. The Timber Producers Association of Zambia (TPAZ) is now calling for Government to revoke all timber licences because most investors are plundering the country. In the words of TPAZ's Charles Masange“the timber industry has been performing very badly because it is overcrowded by foreigners...I call them (foreign investors) harvesters instead of investors because they are abusing our timber which is natural resources from which we are suppose to benefit locally”.  Apparently, the "harvesters" are buying timber from local producers for $200 and reselling it $12,000 per tonne.

The suggested policy is for "Government to sort out the issuance of licences to bring sanity in the industry", but given the profit margins suggested by TPAZ that is unlikely to lead to a domestic led industry. In many ways the  problems facing the timber industry are not too different from those facing the precious stones industry. In both cases "licences" are not the problem. The larger problem is that these should be an industries that are properly regulated and possibly with a stronger element of state production.

This logical conclusion becomes obvious once we recognise that providing timber licences to Zambians only will not lead to long term empowerment because the incentives for ordinary Zambians to use the licences is fairly weak.  Simply put, its cheaper and more immediately rewarding for many Zambians to allow foreign production (by charging the "fee") rather than directly use the timber licence themselves. To successfully become a timber entrepreneur not only do you need credit, but also access to established supply chains. The foreign investor has all these things in abundance and crucially they are able to harness the economies of scale that are associated with pooling timber licences together. Bizarrely the more attractive timber becomes the more foreign investors push out the locals! Unfortunately for Government the foreign operators keep their cash abroad where they live! Perhaps to remedy that the invoicing and payments reforms being considered in the context of mining should be considered for timber production - as first step.


  1. I.P.A. Manning (Chosanganga)30 October 2011 at 08:06

    It is not simply a matter of sorting out licences, for that is continued government control from the centre, something the PF is determined to alter. We need a systemic change with power and ownership of natural resources shifted into the hands of the people; and they happen to be the people of the chiefdoms. We need statutory community trusts able to enter into co-management agreements with government over forests, wildlife, water and fisheries. An example of this is the Landsafe socio-ecological development model. Yet we have massive donor projects which seek a different end, wishing to alienate customary land to leasehold without any kind of debate or the involvement of the Land Alliance, the House of Chiefs and so on (carrying on a previous attempt by the World Bank to bring this about). One of these projects - a real tanda bube - is that forced on Zambia by the Millennium Challenge Corporation - a US foreign aid programme and by the rapacious Rupiah Banda, the latter ordering ZAWA in the final weeks of the election in August 2011 to cancel the multiple Joint Management Concessions (JMC) being negotiated with investors for the Kafue National Park and to engage fully with the extremely misguided recommendations put forward by the MCC's consultants, Chemonics, thereby unilaterally disregarding the existing brokerage contract as well as all the recommendations made in the Business Plan and associated GMP reports. This order was issued at a time when Parliament had been dissolved, when no Minister was in office and without the approval of the ZAWA Board. Allegedly, on 30 August the MCC signed a Letter of Commitment with ZAWA, though the latter, to their credit, were not in favour of the executive order. An additonal recommendatikon by Chemonics to the MCC was to place the proxies of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA)- the Community Resource Boards, in total charge of nine GMAs around the Kafue Park, which would allow ZAWA to take ownership of large areas of prime customary land where tourism revenue may be extracted.The consultants appear not to have read the PF Manifesto which promised to repeal the Wildife Act.

    Zambia requires an alternative way, but not the privatization of our national parks and customary areas.

  2. The ministry of Lands and I do not know what Sata has now named the ministry must act now. As long the Timber Industry and production remained unregulated then it is difficult to manage. ZAFFICO was one time a leading parastal in the Timber business. My dad was once an employee for ZAFFICO. We worked in Ndola, Kitwe and Lusaka and helped to plant so may of the pine trees and other blue glum type of trees which were soft wood. Public-private partnerships are a solution that govt and TPAZ and all stakeholders should seek to harmonize.Timber Industry is growing so rapidly due to increased construction and mining activities in Zambia.

  3. Where can one buy Timber and wooden pallets in Zambia?

  4. Hi I stock timber, wooden pallets can be made to your specifications. I own a timber processing plant. contact me Zondo,, 0955646871


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