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Country analysis > Zambia Last update: 2020-11-27  

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An Easy Look at Zambia’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 2002-2004

6. PRSP and Infrastructure

Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure supports economic growth, as well as improved social services. Without good infrastructure, every development is frustrated with time consuming delays, unnecessary expenditures, ill health and environmental degradation. The PRSP has accorded a high priority to investing in infrastructure priorities in the sectors of transport and communications, energy and water & sanitation.

Infrastructure 1: Transport & Communications

Zambia’s Transport Problem

Problems with transport and communications help keep Zambia poor. Whether by rail or road, transport is expensive and unreliable. This affects industry, making Zambian goods expensive in the region. It affects agriculture, as inputs are delayed and expensive, and produce cannot be collected from remote farmers or transported for a reasonable cost. It affects the poor, as they have problems reaching schools and hospitals, and these institutions rarely receive visits and deliveries from outside.

Much of Zambia’s development has taken place along the “line of rail”. Zambia Railways and TAZARA link Zambia to Tanzania and to the Southern Africa network. But the railways have broken down, and most bulky imports and exports (as well as domestic cargo) now use roads. But the heavy use of the roads means they break up quickly.

In most places, road transport is the only option. The tarmac roads do not even reach every district, and nearly 80% of gazetted roads are made of gravel or earth. The quality of most roads is very bad – a result of many years of poor maintenance. This has a direct effect on the rural poor, isolating them from markets and services.

Even air services affect the poor. Private air transport operators do not run a full range of services to rural tourism centres. This reduces the tourism industry, and therefore reduces the benefits from tourism for the poor.

Water transport is important in some places in Zambia. The use of some waterways for regional transport could be increased for more exports of Zambian products (e.g. Lake Tanganyika). Other waterways are only used for local economic purposes (e.g. n Western Province, or Lake Bangweulu), but poor maintenance and harbour facilities have limited the development of water-based activities.

For most people, communication services means telephones and postal services. The introduction of mobile telephones doubled the number of phone users in Zambia, but this is restricted to urban areas. In many district towns, phone services are expensive and quality is bad. Outside the towns, phones are very rare. Even postal services are unreliable in many places. There is almost no way of communicating with most rural places, which helps to maintain poverty.

PRSP Activities for Transport & Communications

PRSP prioritises improvements in transport & communication. This will support improvements in all other sectors.

Road Improvement

Road improvement is prioritised in PRSP. This will focus on rehabilitation and maintenance of existing roads. Some new roads may also be needed to support new development areas (e.g. new farm blocks, mines, tourism areas).

Road Transport Once better roads are available, PRSP will work with communities and private sector to improve transport services in rural areas. A variety of forms of transport (including animal-draft power) will be promoted. Communities will be encouraged to participate in improved maintenance, upgrading and transport management.

Road safety

Zambia’s poor road safety record costs the country lives, skills and money. The PRSP will assist Government to implement road safety standards more effectively, including better vehicle examination, safer road engineering and strict enforcement of road traffic laws and regulations.

Civil Aviation

The PRSP will contribute to the upgrading of key airports to encourage tourism development. The PRSP will also support activities aiming to attract international carriers into Zambia, and to expand domestic air transport services.


The PRSP will support the development of a comprehensive waterways plan. The plan will expand safe, efficient and clean water transport services, with the expansion in private sector investment, and upgrading of ports to regional standards.


The PRSP will improve telephone services in rural areas, and in tourism locations. This will serve farmers and residents in remote areas, and make Zambia more attractive to foreign investors and tourists.

Infrastructure 2: Energy

There are two subjects in the energy sector. One is the large-scale production of electricity, for use in Zambia and for export. The other is the distribution and use of various energy sources in Zambia, including wood fuel, oil (diesel & petrol) and electricity.

Producing Electricity on a Large Scale

Zambia has great potential to supply electricity in the region. Although the cost of building power stations and power lines is expensive, the industry can be very profitable over many years. The industry employs many people, and provides power that facilitates many other jobs, and supplies schools / hospitals etc as well as homes. Generating electricity is therefore good for the economy and good for poverty reduction.

Currently, Zambia produces about a quarter of the electricity that we possibly could using hydropower. The major plants are Kafue Gorge, Kariba North Bank and Victoria Falls. These plants are in need of rehabilitation, with additional improvements to the distribution line. A project has been on going since 1998 to carry out these works.

Zambia needs to produce more electricity for domestic consumption and for export. To meet this challenge, there are plans to build a second power station at Kafue Gorge, and another at Itezhi-Tezhi. This will increase national production by 45%. These projects are being financed through private sector investment.

Zambia needs to improve transmission lines to Tanzania and to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). These will carry exports from Zambia and DRC to East Africa and South Africa. These projects will be funded from the private sector investment with some donor support.

Meeting Zambia’s Energy Requirements

Most people in Zambia have poor access to modern energy. The poor usually depend only on wood fuel / charcoal, which harms the environment and is bad for health. Energy supplies to agriculture and industry are often inefficient, expensive or just impossible, which reduces production and employment. But Zambia has ample natural energy resources, including wood fuel, coal, hydropower and renewable energy sources (e.g. solar power, wind power), and can import oil products.

PRSP aims to reduce poverty by increasing efficient access to appropriate energy sources.

Discussion Point

What forms of fuel are used in your community?
What are the costs, advantages and disadvantages of each?
What would improve community fuel

Government has already started to rehabilitate power stations and transmission lines. This will improve the reliability of power supplies to households, industry and farmers. The TAZAMA pipeline and Indeni Refinery are also being modernised. This will improve the availability of affordable petroleum products to all users.

The PRSP has identified three key activities that will improve access to energy:

Improving Efficiency of Wood Fuel

Zambia uses so much fire wood and charcoal that our environment is threatened with deforestation. The process is wasteful, because production and use are both inefficient. PRSP will promote better charcoal burning techniques and improved stoves so that each tree cut produces more energy. Alternative fuel sources for home use will also be studied.

Rural Electrification Programme

The Rural Electrification Programme will increase access to electricity. At present, very few households have access to electricity, which affects health, reduces the possibilities for irrigation and other farming activities, and means that households use a lot of labour for moving water, collecting wood etc. The Rural Electrification Programme will increase access to ZESCO but may also promote solar power or small-scale local hydropower stations as appropriate.

Electrification of Mkushi Farm Block

This programme will provide ZESCO to farmers in Mkushi farm block and to surrounding traditional farming areas. Electricity will enable the farmers to increase production.

Infrastructure 3: Water & Sanitation

Zambia has rich water resources, with adequate rainfall, rivers, lakes and under-ground water. There is enough water to meet all possible needs, although in some places this might be difficult at times.

Despite these resources, most people in Zambia do not have reliable access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, or water for crop irrigation, livestock or industry. Women and children spend many hours unproductive collecting water. As we saw in the chapter on energy, water is rarely used to generate electricity for local use.

Government has been reforming the water sector since 1994, resulting in new policies, objectives, activities and institutions.

  • The objectives of the new policy are to improve the management of water resources, improve access to clean water and sanitation (in rural and urban areas), and promote the use of water for economic benefits.

  • The activities needed to achieve these objectives have been set out in the Water Resources Action Programme.

  • Implementation is through nine new commercial water companies that have been set up to improve urban water supply, and the WASHE programme that works in rural provinces, districts and communities. The Water Board supervises the management of water resources, whilst the National Water Supply and Sanitation Council (NWASCO) regulates the provision of water and sanitation.
Despite all these reforms, the new policy is not yet successful. The new water companies do not have funds to invest in water provision, and face problems collecting payments for water bills. The poor face particularly high water charges, and may be forced to use unsafe water. In rural areas, slow improvements in provision of safe water are matched by constant breakdowns and failures in maintenance. Adequate sanitation is limited to less than 20% of the population.

Discussion Point

How far can community initiatives go to clean up urban compounds?

PRSP Activities for Safe Water and Sanitation

The main objective is that PRSP will provide access to safe water and sanitation to 5 million more people, which will extend services to virtually all citizens. This is an ambitious but important goal. This will be realised through two activities:

Rural Water Supply & Sanitation

The PRSP will support WASHE activities where they are on going, and will establish new rural water programmes where none exist. All rural areas that do not have safe water and sanitation already will be targeted. PRSP will emphasis public education and community management of water supplies.

Urban Water Supply & Sanitation

The PRSP will support the existing urban water supply programmes, and assist the commercial providers to extend reliable services to all residents. PRSP will also support a new peri-urban water & sanitation programme, to ensure that all communities benefit from improved services.

PRSP will also work to improve management of water resources, including national and large-scale management, as well as local and community based water management.

Water Resources Action Programme

PRSP will support improved planning, management and monitoring of national water resources. This provides vital oversight and information for the regulation of all water supply and utilisation.

Kafue River Basin Pilot Project

For most sectors, planning and management of resources and activities is done by Province and District. But we cannot control nature, and Zambia’s rivers cut across these boundaries regardless – Kafue River touches six Provinces! The PRSP will support a pilot project to improve the planning, utilisation and monitoring of water in the Kafue River Basin, with a single management structure.

Dam Construction

PRSP will construct new dams and rehabilitate existing dams in drought prone areas. Multi-purpose dams will be targeted, that support irrigation, livestock and domestic water supply.

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