The President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, called for the 8th Cabinet Meeting in the Year 2024, on Monday, 6th May, 2024, at State House, to deliberate on policy and legislative matters with the view to enhancing national development in the country for the good of the people.

Cabinet made the following decisions:

1. Suspension of Import duty on the importation of maize.

In order to respond to the adverse effects of the devastating drought the country has experienced, Cabinet approved the drought response plan at its 7th Meeting which was held on 8th April, 2024. This was after His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, declared the country’s drought as a national disaster and emergency on Thursday, 29th February, 2024. Following the declaration, on 16th April, 2024, the President made an appeal to the international community, partners within the country, the private sector, the church and civil society organisations to support the drought response plan financially and materially in mitigating the devastating effects of the drought.

To ensure that the Zambian people have adequate food, Cabinet at its 8th Meeting held on Monday, 6th May, 2024, approved the suspension of applicable import duty of 15 percent and surtax of 5 percent on the importation of maize to zero.

This measure taken by Cabinet, is also meant to incentivise the private sector to participate in the importation of the staple food, maize, so as to ensure that there is adequate food in the country.

2. Establishment of Formal Diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, the Republic of Panama and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Cabinet approved that Zambia should establish formal diplomatic relations (using normal administrative resources) and not to open embassies nor send officers to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Republic of Panama and the Saint Vincent and Grenadines.

Cabinet has indicated that there is need to formalise relations with these countries in order to boost Zambia’s international interests, especially that Zambia has been exchanging goodwill messages with these countries without having formally established diplomatic relations. The decision by Cabinet is also premised on the fact that State to State relations among nations provide an essential framework for the conduct of foreign relations, as well as for Zambia to achieve greater Foreign Policy and national interest goals.

3. Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Strategy 2024 – 2027.

Cabinet approved the Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Strategy 2024 – 2027 for implementation.
Government is committed to openness in public sector governance, transparency in fiscal operations and reforms for better service delivery to the citizens and communities. An Integrated Public Financial Management Reform Strategy has, therefore, been prepared which contains proposed strategies to achieve overall fiscal discipline, efficient collections of the revenues, allocation of resources to priority needs, and prudent utilisation of public funds for efficient and effective delivery of public services.

The implementation of the Strategy is expected to result in having a well-functioning integrated Public Financial Management that ensures efficient, effective, and sustainable service delivery which meets developmental aspirations of the citizenry and is poised to transform the country into a middle-income country by 2030.

4. Membership to the Africa50 Fund Infrastructure Development.

Cabinet also approved Zambia’s membership to the Africa50 Fund. The Africa50 Fund is an African Organisation established institution through the African Governments and the African Development Bank.

The Africa50 Fund was ratified by African Finance Ministers in May, 2013 and the headquarter is based in Morocco. The general objective of the Africa50 Fund is to help bridge Africa’s infrastructure funding gap by facilitating projects development, mobilising public and private sector finance, as well as investing in bankable infrastructure projects that have significant development impact and have a risk adjusted return to investors. The Africa50 Fund also helps develop existing pipeline projects for investment with strategic partners, as well as mobilising public and private sector funding from within and outside Africa.

5. Statutory Instruments:

(a) The Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Construction Materials) (Public Private Partnership) (Amendment) Regulations, 2024.

Cabinet approved the Statutory Instrument intended to amend the Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Construction Materials) (Public Private Partnership) Regulations, 2023.

The 2023 National Budget introduced tax incentives aimed at encouraging investment in Public Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure projects. The tax incentives include reduced income tax rate from 30 percent to 15 percent, value added tax and customs duty exemption on plant, machinery and equipment. Therefore, the draft Statutory Instrument, 2024, approved by Cabinet, aims to extend the list of critical materials to be imported for PPP Projects, in order to address the current infrastructure deficit in the country.

The implementation of the 2024 Statutory Instrument will result in a significant reduction in the cost of procurement of materials, reduce overall project costs, enhance project competitiveness and relieve pressure on the Treasury to meet the infrastructure deficit going forward.

(b) The Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Export Duty) (Treated Wooden Poles) Regulations, 2024.

Another Statutory Instrument approved by Cabinet during the Meeting, is the Customs and Excise (Suspension) (Export Duty) (Treated Wooden Poles) Regulations, 2024, which is intended to suspend export duty on treated wooden poles.

The 2016 National Budget introduced a 40 percent export duty on unprocessed wood to encourage local value addition and enable the country to benefit from local natural resource endowments. The local forestry companies responded to the measure by investing into expansion of pole treatment plants to enhance local value addition, with intention to meet local demand.

However, the local forestry industry has over the years, produced poles in excess of local demand and the surplus of the commodity going to waste due to lack of orders in the domestic market. As such, local pole processing companies have sought opportunity in the export market. However, the 40 percent export duty renders local poles uncompetitive as the final price is hiked when exported. This hinders the country’s access to a significant and available export market, which presents potential earnings of the much-needed foreign exchange, that would not only support efforts to stabilise our currency, but also contribute to the overall growth of the economy.

The issuance of the Statutory Instrument will, therefore, suspend export duty on treated wooden poles when exported by a forestry company issued with an export permit by the Ministry responsible for lands and natural resources.

6. Signing and Ratification of the Beira Development Corridor Agreement.

Cabinet approved that Zambia should sign and ratify the Beira Development Corridor Agreement (BDCA) amongst the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Malawi, the Republic of Mozambique, the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Republic of Zambia.

It is in the interest of Cabinet for Zambia to sign and ratify the BDCA in order for the Agreement to enter into force and facilitate the creation of coordination mechanisms and address the challenges that require to be resolved by the five Contracting States. This will promote and facilitate infrastructure development, transit-transport cooperation and cross border trade among the five Contracting States and ensure that they benefit from the various initiatives and development projects to be undertaken by the various stakeholders and Cooperating Partners within the Corridor.

The Beira Development Corridor is critical to enhancing regional and international trade competitiveness particularly for the landlocked countries of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Democratic Republic of Congo.

7. The Teaching Profession (Repeal), Bill, 2024.

Cabinet approved in principle, to repeal the Teaching Profession Act No. 5 of 2013 in order to among others, introduce licensure examinations for teachers; change the composition and number of the Council members; and regulate the professional conduct of teachers.

The Teaching Profession Act No. 5 of 2013 was enacted in order to regulate the teaching profession. The law provides for registration of teachers in a teacher’s register and issuance of practicing certificates which gives the teachers authority to teach in any given school whether private or public.

Cabinet has agreed to introduce licensure examinations for teachers in order to enhance quality assurance and professionalism of teachers. Further, the Act has two parallel structures for disciplining erring teachers. Teachers in the Private sector are disciplined by the Disciplinary Committee of the Teaching Council of Zambia, while those in Public Service are disciplined by the Teaching Service Commission. This has made it difficult to enforce teacher professionalism comprehensively.

The proposed Bill, once enacted, will enforce discipline in both the private and public sectors; align the law to Government policy direction on the number of Council members; and mandate the Council to register qualified teachers, monitor, enforce and promote professionalism in the education system through licensure examinations.

8. Zambia’s Hosting of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Digital Trade Forum.

In winding up debate for the day, Cabinet approved Zambia’s hosting of the AfCFTA Digital Trade Forum which is scheduled to take place from 20th to 22nd June, 2024, under the theme “Creating Opportunities in the AfCFTA Digital Trade Market: Accelerating Intra-Africa Trade.”

Hosting of the AfCFTA Digital Forum is premised on the need to bring together key stakeholders from the 54 Member States of the AfCFTA, to dialogue on key opportunities that exist within the AfCFTA market, following the adoption of the AfCFTA Protocol on Digital Trade.

The decision by Cabinet to host the AfCFTA Digital Trade Forum aligns with some existing policies such as the AU Agenda 2063 and the Digital Transformation Strategy for Africa (2020-2023), and the Protocol to the Agreement establishing the AfCFTA on Digital Trade.

Given the conclusion of the protocol on digital trade, it is an opportune time to convene the AfCFTA Digital Trade Forum. This forum will bring together industry players, policymakers, and opinion leaders to engage in dialogue regarding the opportunities under the AfCFTA.

Hon. Cornelius Mweetwa , MP

8th May, 2024

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