Nonprofit organisation the Southern African (SA)-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry is aiming to invite more German companies to Zambia to display digital solutions for mining and Industry 4.0, following the success of its German-Zambian Business Forum.
SA-German Chamber Lusaka office head Johannes Kurt tells Mining Weekly that this opportunity allows for one of Zambia’s biggest challenges – productivity – to be addressed.
“A breakthrough in productivity is now within the industry’s reach through digital and technological advancements that could transform key aspects of the Zambian mining sector.”
He adds that the application of these developments, not only offer mining companies a comprehensive understanding of the resource base, but also optimise material and equipment flow, improve the anticipation of failures and allow for the monitoring of performance in real time.
However, he notes that the main driver for the implementation of German innovation and digitalisation in Zambia is to increase the tax revenues the country derives from its mining industry.
Within the framework of the first bilateral German-Zambian Business Forum held in June, Kurt explains that Germany-based business-to-business company ibes launched a public–private partnership project, which will be implemented in conjunction with the Zambian Revenue Authority (ZRA).
The project was officially initiated at a signing ceremony at the forum’s event by ZRA commissioner general Kingsley Chanda and ibes chairperson Rainhard Nidel.
“The current legislative systems are considered somewhat erratic and the digitalisation of these public administration systems may improve the efficiency in which policies are passed and grants are issued,” Kurt notes.
He explains that fiscal matters can be made much more transparent with improved information technology, as financial flows can be tracked more easily when local authorities publish their revenues and expenditures.
Kurt says Germany is a “leading partner” for investments in the modernisation and efficiency of ageing mines in the Zambian Copperbelt.
Mines in Zambia are offering a high degree of copper concentration, from 2% to 3%, as well as feasible investment opportunities in old Copperbelt mines, with the worldwide average of copper concentration being 0.8%, Kurt adds.
“All mining companies on the Copperbelt are looking to invest in modernisation and the enhancement of their production efficiency. The reduction of production costs is a key driver in these considerations.”
However, he adds that, from a mining perspective, Zambia is a country where German companies are best able to establish themselves as suppliers and service providers, as there is currently a lack of active German mining companies in the country.
Such companies can supply solutions in the form of efficient and resource-saving equipment, including thermal isolation and ventilation engineering, extraction technology and conveyor equipment, as well as energy solutions, such as solar-hybrid systems, Kurt explains.
“Several German equipment suppliers are already successfully supplying Zambian mines and an increasing number are also opening regional offices in Zambia. These partnerships and long- term engagements help to bring about the transfer of knowledge and the introduction of the latest technologies, which are customised to the requirements of the Zambian market, thereby developing the local value chain,” he enthuses.
He explains that the Zambian mining sector is “system-intensive” and maintenance measures require maximum efficiency to ensure maximum production and cost savings.
Solutions for asset health management, such as sensors, enable machines, including conveyor systems, mills and crushers, to supply additional data to the mine on the operation of equipment.
“Data analysis, through the innovation of technologies, provides mining companies with the relevant information to make well-informed, fact-based maintenance decisions at any time, and plan maintenance and service measures well in advance. This, in turn, makes mines more cost effective,” Kurt enthuses.
Kurt says the aim of the chamber’s office in Zambia, which opened its doors in May last year, is to promote bilateral trade relations between Germany and Zambia, specifically by drawing the attention of German companies to the opportunities offered in the Zambian market.
These opportunities, Kurt notes, will link German companies with decision-makers in the country and support them in accessing the market for trade and investment.
“This office works in close coordination with the chamber’s Competence Centres for Mineral Resources and Sustainable Energies and, as such, this office hosts several business delegations and workshops.”
To strengthen the economic ties between the private sectors of Germany and Zambia, the German-Zambian Business Forum will be held every two years, alternating between Zambia and Germany.
The forum, Kurt notes, reflected the vital interest of the German private sector in Zambia, as several bilateral projects in the private sector were either launched or announced at the event.
Thirty-five representatives from German enterprises attended the forum, which Kurt notes is “a remarkable figure that indicates the vast potential of more joint activities between the two countries”.
The Chamber of Commerce will target Zambia’s energy, agriculture and mining sectors, with the overall aim of the forum being to showcase these and other opportunities in the various sectors in the Zambian economy.
“Since the chamber’s Competence Centre for Mineral Resources views Zambia as a key focus in its efforts, the competence centre hosted a mining workshop the day after the forum, which saw ten participants invited to join a delegation to the Copperbelt region,” Kurt notes.
A highlight of this trip, he enthuses, was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the SA-German Chamber of Commerce and Zambia’s Ndola District Chamber of Commerce.
The trip to the Copperbelt included the SA-German Chamber of Commerce’s immediate past president Seth Phalatse, underground mining specialist company Ritz Pumps and Ndola District Chamber of Commerce president Ashu Sagar.