The number of Swedish companies showing intent to pump billions of dollars in the depressed Zambian energy sector has overwhelmed Finance Minister Felix Mutati.
At the last count, about five power companies that attended a road show hosted by the influential Business Sweden at its World Trade Centre offices in Stockholm told Mr Mutati that they were waiting for a ‘green light’ to ‘light up’ Zambia.
Mr Mutati won Swedish power hearts when he made an impassioned appeal on behalf of President Edgar Lungu to Sweden to come and invest in two major areas of the Zambian economy namely, energy and infrastructure.
“President Edgar Lungu and the rest of the government had a tough past 18 months grappling with low energy levels that forced macroeconomic indicators to be all over the map. This was worsened by a slump in copper prices in London but it is now time to progress,” Mr Mutati said.
“I want to ensure that we attract sustainable investment in the energy sector that must plug the black hole created in the energy sector as a result of low water levels that forced industry to operate at half capacity,” Mr Mutati said.
Among the first to express interest to injecting cash in the energy sector, buoyed by the fact that adjustments may soon be made in power tariffs in Zambia in the long run was Eltel, a blue chip Swedish company that has already invested about $150million in the energy sector in Zambia’s north western province, including Swedfund.
Hans Olov Rauman, Eltel’s Head of International Transmission told Mr Mutati that, “we already have over $6million in equipment waiting to be used in Zambia. We don’t want to move it to another country, we want to help increase power in Zambia given the right opportunity.”
A plethora of energy investors ranging from thermal, solar and biofuel echoed the same sentiment stating that they found Zambia a great investment destination with a stable political spectrum to work under.
Olov Hemtröm, the head of international relations at Business Sweden told Mr Mutati Sweden believed that Zambia is one of the fastest growing economies that must be encouraged in its growth path.
Mr Mutati was accompanied at the top level meeting by charge de affaires Anthony Mukwita, Permanent Secretary Mukuli Chikuba and top Directors from the Ministry of Finance.
Embassy of officials included Patrick Bulundo, First Secretary Administration.
The list of companies at the road show included EKn that has guaranteed more than $250million in investment in Zambia, ABB, Eltel , Carnegie Fonder and Metrum to mention but a few.
The Swedish companies also expressed full interest in participating in the debut Zambian energy forum slated for next month in Zambia, which seeks to raise money to grow energy at Batoka totalling about 2400 megawatts in order to make load shedding totally history.
Zambia currently has a power capacity of about 2200 megawatts which is barely enough to light up both the budding mining sector and house hold but is President Lungu’s resolve to see this end according to Mr Mutati.
“President Lungu has just been re-elected so he has a lot of time at hand to make tough investment decisions right now,” Mr Mutati said.
Henerik Cederine, the Ambassador of Sweden to Zambia also attended the first highest level business road show where he revealed that Sweden would help Zambia with money to finance off grid to a tune of over K200million this year.
Zambia’s charge de affaires Anthony Mukwita restated that economic relations between Zambia and Sweden had increased since President’s Lungu first election twice in 20 months.
Mr Mutati is expected to leave Stockholm for Zambia on 27th January after a hectic schedule.
He also attended fruitful closed door meetings with at least three cabinet ministers including the Energy and Policy Minister Mr Ibrahim Baylan (in picture) who operates from the Prime Ministers office.
CAPTION: Minister of Finance Felix Mutati, Minister of Energy Ibrahim Baylan and Charge de Affaires Anthony Mukwita in Gamlastan yesterday. Picture by Chileshe Kandeta, Ministry of Finance Public relations.