THE Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) says the country will increase exports to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to 40 percent from the current 30 percent in a bid to diversify the economy and move away from copper mining.
Zambia plans to boost exports of a whole range of products to DRC as part of its efforts to diversify its economy away from copper and problems caused by its price volatility.
ZDA director-general Patrick Chisanga said currently, the country provides about a third of DRC’s total imports and wants to increase its share to 40 percent.
“Exports into the Congo DR in 2016 are expected to increase from the current 30 percent to around 40 percent of our export market share,” Mr Chisanga said.
Zambia is targeting DRC, with a population of 77 million, because the country needs to find markets for exports other than copper.
“The low cost of doing business in terms of transportation costs makes Zambian goods landing at favourably competitive prices to compete with other countries,” Mr Chisanga said.
The price of copper, which currently makes up about 70 percent of Zambia’s export earnings, fell to a six-year low below US$5,000 a tonne in August, hit by a slowdown in China, a big consumer of copper and other metals.
Mr Chisanga said Zambia’s exports to DRC were expected to fall by 12 percent this year, largely because of a declining desire for mining-related inputs.
Congo is Africa’s biggest copper producer and Zambia is the second.
Copper production in both countries has been affected by sluggish Chinese economic growth.
Glencore of Switzerland, the world’s largest copper merchant, plans to shut down some copper mines in Zambia and DRC to support flagging prices. Glencore is the parent company of Mopani Copper Mines.
“We expect a slight decline in exports to the Congo DR in 2015 to just around US$700 million. Total exports into the Congo DR in 2014 were US$799.8 million. China’s economic downturn has resulted in a slowdown of Congo DR’s consumption of mine-related inputs such as lime and sulphuric acid from Zambia,” Mr Chisanga said.
But Zambia’s exports to that country also include inorganic chemicals, precious metal compounds, salt, sulphur, lime, cement, sugar, soaps, lubricants and waxes, vegetable and animal fats, milling products and malt.
A trade mission to DRC last month revealed a huge market for fish, peanut butter, dairy products, fertiliser, poultry, footwear and agricultural seed products which are available in Zambia.