Doing business

Current business situation

Zambia is a landlocked country in Southern Africa that is bordered by eight countries with an estimated population of 14 million people. It has a stable political climate, one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and a strong legal and financial system.

Zambia has 40 per cent of the water resources in the Southern African region and significant potential for the agricultural sector with 752 000km2 of land mass, 58 per cent of which is arable. Currently, only 14 per cent of the land is under cultivation and the Government has resolved to further develop the sector given its key role in promoting growth and alleviating poverty. Over 70 per cent of the food is produced by emerging and subsistence farmers, leaving an ample opportunity for commercial farmers.

Strategically positioned as a food basket for the region, Zambia is within easy access to:

  • Southern African Development Community (SADC)
  • Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region
  • European Union
  • USA markets.

Their main agricultural exports are:

  • wheat
  • tobacco
  • sugar
  • cotton
  • coffee
  • tea
  • horticulture
  • maize.

One of the drivers of the agricultural sector is contract farming, where a multinational company act as an off-taker for a group of small farmers to provide them a formal market to dispose of their produce.

There has been an increase in investment especially into the mining sector and infrastructure. The economy is still driven by the copper mining industry for export revenues and employment opportunities. A top priority for the Government is to reach production levels of 1.5 million tonnes of copper production by 2016 from the current 760 000 tonnes.

A report by the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICCM) shows the demand for mining related goods and services soared in the past decade due to increases in investments. The share of Zambian suppliers remains low, with most of the local suppliers act as agents for international companies.

Shortage of critical skills has been identified as one of the major challenges by most of the international companies. Local content and skill development remains a major priority for the Government in an effort to create employment opportunities, local participation and capacity building to alleviate poverty.

Zambia can benefit from Australia’s leadership in technology, farming business management, irrigation, storage and training.

Business culture

Zambians are generally approachable and friendly people, so their business culture is more relaxed. Shaking of hands is the common form of greetings before and after meetings. It is not common practice for business cards to be exchanged at the start of a meeting.

Appointments in Zambia can be difficult to secure and contacts may take some time to respond to requests. It can be more productive to contact people by telephone in advance to establish the context for your request before emailing them and it is essential to confirm all appointments.

Setting up in Market

In an effort to attract businesses into Zambia to create employment and ensure economic growth, the Government has established the Zambian Development Agency (ZDA) as a one-stop-shop for business registration, licences and investment incentives.

The ZDA also administers various rebates, tax incentives and investment protection to all foreign businesses investing in Zambia. It is not mandatory but advisable to select a local partner to operate in Zambia to assist with local knowledge and the Government encourages foreign companies to employ Zambians.

Banking and finance

The Bank of Zambia (BOZ) supervises banks and other financial service institutions registered under the Act to ensure a safe and sound financial system. Currently, there are 17 commercial banks licensed under the Banking and Financial Services Act of 1994.

The majority of banks are subsidiaries of foreign banks such as Barclays, Standard Chartered, Standard Bank and Citi Bank and they are also the most dominant and oldest financial institutions in Zambia. Their dominance is reflected in the size of their total assets, relative to other financial institutions, as well as in their relatively wider role in financial intermediation.

A number of non-bank registered financial institutions provide some financial services that commercial banks may not be well placed to provide, these include:

  • 42 foreign exchange bureaus
  • 20 micro finance institutions
  • 11 leasing companies
  • one development bank
  • one savings and credit institution.

The banks have come together under the Bankers Association of Zambia, serving as a forum to address issues affecting the sector. Despite the increase in access to financial services in Zambia, the cost of borrowing remains very high.

ATMs are available across the country and credit card is a widely acceptable method of payment.

Links and resources

Government, business and trade

World Bank
An Investment Guide to Zambia
The Embassy of the Republic of Zambia
Zambia Development Agency
Ministry of Commerce Trade and Industry
Zambia Revenue Authority
Association of Zambian Mineral Exploration Companies

News and media

Times of Zambia
The Post
Lusaka Times
Zambia Daily Mail
Zambian Watchdog

Please note: This list of websites and resources is not definitive. Inclusion in this list does not imply endorsement by Austrade. The information provided is a guide only. The content is for information and carries no warranty; as such, the addressee must exercise their own discretion in its use. Australia’s anti-bribery laws apply overseas and Austrade will not provide business related services to any party who breaches the law and will report credible evidence of any breach. For further information, please see foreign bribery information and awareness pack.