At least a thousand ICT jobs could materialise in 2017 in Zambia if the Southern African country is able to make progress on its first PC assembly plant and data centre.
In the latest development the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) has signed a lease agreement with the Lusaka South Multi Facility Economic Zone to facilitate construction of the project.
The manufacturing plant project was first announced by the late Zambian president Michael Sata in 2014. However, following his death, the project was temporarily abandoned as construction was scheduled to begin the same year.
At the time the government announced that the plant would cost US$24 million. However, this amount has since increased to US$75 million because ZICTA intends to establish a data centre on the same site.
At the signing ceremony yesterday, Lusaka South Multi facility Economic Zone managing director Fortune Kamusaki said the plant will create employment for over 1,000 people specialising in providing ICT services and others.
"The plant will help reduce the cost of importing computers and laptops from outside the country," Kamusaki said.
The availability of hardware and ability to source locally produced equipment has impacted on the country's education sector, specifically in terms of enforcing compulsory ICT examinations across schools.
In November 2015 power supply issues and a limited number of available computers, compounded by bureaucracy, impacted on examinations with authorities having to request that pupils share infrastructure.
More recently in the beginning of March, the country's Ministry of General Education confirmed the intention to float a tender for the supply of 3,000 computers for schools. The tender is part of the first phase of a US$20-million ICT-focused programme.
ZICTA plans to leverage the plant to further the Connecting Learning Institutions project which is aimed at establishing computer labs in learning institutions.
While no date has been confirmed, ZICTA claims it is on schedule to complete the plant next year (2017) and immediately start assembling computers and laptops.
Authorities have also not specified manufacturing capacity or design specifics/ size of the plant, saying that the President is yet to approve these details.