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Zambia stops all digital projects as it looks to avert debt crisis

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Zambia , 02 Aug 2022
City at night, Lusaka, Zambia.
City at night, Lusaka, Zambia.

Zambia’s new government has put an immediate stop to pending digital projects, including the phased implementation of Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Systems, as it looks to avert a debt crisis.

Authorities have cancelled the projects, backed by Chinese financiers, most notably phases two and three of the Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Systems project, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services.

The main objective of this project is to fully migrate the country from analogue to digital broadcasting.

However, the final phases of the project, which will cost US$273-million, is being heavily scrutinised after information came to light that the cost may have been inflated.

In 2017, former Information and Broadcasting Minister Chishimba Kambwili first raised the alarm over the cost of phases 2 and 3 of the project.

Kambwili said the government spent US$9-million on phase 1 of the project, which covered three provinces. The former Minister questioned the cost of US$273-million to migrate the remaining seven provinces, and called for an investigation into the matter.

Smart Zambia

The Ministry of Finance has announced that the Smart Zambia project phase II under Cabinet office has also been stopped.

Secretary to the Treasury Felix Nkulukusa said the country had notified the Chinese lenders and contractors about plans to cancel the non-disbursed loan balances for the projects.

Nkulukusa said the government will move to stop the disbursement of the US$333.2-million for Smart Zambia phase 2, to be implemented by Huawei Technologies Zambia and funded by China’s EXIM Bank.

He added that certain critical projects would be re-scoped to allow vital components to be finished using budget resources allocated over the medium term.

Nkulukusa said, “Measures have been taken by the Republic of Zambia to address the current debt challenges-beyond the debt restructuring process. Cabinet has taken measures to discontinue some loan financed projects including Smart Zambia and the Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting Systems in Zambia.”

The Smart Zambia initiative was established to centralise all government public services online. The initial phase of the project involved building a national datacentre and an ICT talent training centre.

Under the project, Huawei will develop Zambia’s national broadband system to bolster public service delivery. 

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