A Zambian bank on Monday pledged to work with manufacturing firms in the country in order to spur value addition and industrialization.

Stanbic Bank Zambia, a member of Standard Bank Group, said it was prepared to work with the Zambia Association of Manufacturers and other stakeholders to accelerate the country’s diversification through value addition.

Mwindwa Siakalima, the bank’s chief financial officer said despite the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, the country could not afford to implement a full lockdown to flatten the curve due to its heavy dependence on imports.

“Zambia has always been an import-dependent economy. The COVID-19 outbreak has ruthlessly exposed this weakness in that we are unable to go into a full lockdown despite the rising cases due to a severe lack of adequate self-reliance in terms of value addition essentially denying the country one of the most useful tools in combating the deadly disease,” he said in a joint release with the manufacturers’ body.

He said Zambia will not be able to attain economic growth targets as long as the country fails to grow its manufacturing sector as it was an important sector to the economy.

According to him, a fully developing manufacturing sector would not only boost the country’s revenue stream and create sustainable employment but would also shore up national forex reserves through exports.

“As Zambia’s largest bank, we are prepared to take the initiative and partner local entrepreneurs and the Zambia Association of Manufacturers to accelerate growth in value addition,” he added.

Ezekiel Sekele, the president of the manufacturers’ association said financial institutions were well-positioned to take a leading role in driving Zambia’s industrialization agenda.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic has injected the necessary energy for the country to prioritize self-reliance in terms of value addition.

“The silver lining of this pandemic is that we have seen a marked growth in local sourcing as cross border trading is slowed by the virus. Local sourcing is cardinal in growing a sustainable manufacturing industry,” he said.

According to him, the manufacturing body was looking to spearheading a partnership with different sectors including banks and government agencies to spur industrialization.

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