Lusaka (Zambia), April 22, 2015

The Ministry of commerce trade and industry (MCTI) said once the advocacy phase for the CREW project is implemented, it will assist government and regulators in understanding where the successes and challenges are, as well as the kind of policy options Zambia may need to consider for the maize sector and the passenger transport sector.

And Mr Gregory Chilufya, Assistant Representative for programmes at the Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said there is need for collaborative efforts from all stakeholders in order to yield better results from the agriculture sector.

Meanwhile Consumer Unity ant Trust Society Centre Coordinator, Simon Ng’ona said while there is willingness by government to implement pro-competitive reforms, Competition reforms need constant assessments to understand whether they are benefiting both consumers and producers. He emphasised on the role of Research Think Tanks in informing policy processes through research. He said CUTS will continue providing evidence based policy options to aid government in the development process.

They were speaking on the fourth National Reference Group (NRG IV) Meeting for the Competition Reforms in Key Markets for Enhancing Social and Economic Welfare in Developing Countries- CREW Project in Lusaka.

Cornelius Dube, who presented the findings of the Diagnostic Country Report covering the Maize and public passenger transport sector, indicated that for the maize sector, the floor price implemented by the government led to an increase in maize prices and had minimal beneficial effects in Zambia. He added that prioritizing FISP as a cornerstone of the government’s poverty reduction strategy has had little or no measurable impact on rural poverty due to failure to successfully target poor farmers, delays in input distribution and leakages. He also mentioned that very little of the costs incurred in providing FRA grain to millers at below-market prices benefited the urban consumers who are the majority consumers of the mealie-meal from the millers.

With regard to the public passenger transport sector Cornelius added that there is lack of coordination between the Road Transport and Safety Agency, Ministry of Transport and other regulatory agencies. The study also revealed that bus fares in Zambia have been on the rise as they are equivalent to USD$ 82 cents which is higher than other countries where consumers spend USD$ 50 cents, he added. Additionally, there is lack of coherence between the fares vis-à-vis the quality of the service and thus there is absence of a proper mechanism to make operators compete on quality.

Mr Siazongo Siakalenge, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Commerce Trade and industry in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Sunday Chikoti, the Chief Economist at the Ministry said government is interested in the promotion and development of commercial, trade and industrial sectors in order to enhance socio-economic development.

“Government through a number of reforms has over the years made efforts to empower its citizens with the ultimate result of contributing to private sector growth. Major reform interventions that were introduced by the government were aimed at creating an enabling environment for effective competition, increased private sector participation and ultimately the growth of the economy”, he said.

The CREW project highly concentrated on such key reforms that had been undertaken in both the maize sector and the bus transport sector thus in view of this, he said government is optimistic that an evidence based advocacy strategy will produce positive outcomes which will not only boost but also help in solving problems of sustainable consumption, social justice and overcoming poverty in these and other sectors.

Chilufya on the other hand added that government needed to invest more in agriculture conservation programmes and initiatives such as the E-voucher system in order to improve the crop yields, preserving stock quality and improving nutrition levels at household level. He further added that there was need to encourage crop diversification in the agriculture sector in Zambia to reduce reliability on maize farming and save government revenue.

While commenting on the importance of the bus transport sector, Mr Kamuti, President of Commuter Rights Association of Zambia (CRAZ) said that government had implemented a number of pro-competitive reforms in the sector. He however mentioned that the sector had continued to face challenges despite the reforms which are largely attributed to lack of adherence to quality standards for public passenger transportation. He added that he was delighted to see that the advocacy strategy for the project had adequately captured this issue and believed that a positive outcome would be achieved.