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AT VICTORIA FALLS.

Just a few years ago, Zambia would have been a poor candidate for the title of 'a model for Africa'. That has changed in a remarkably short space of time, and the country's economic future is looking sunny and prosperous. Today, Zambia is becoming known in international investment circles as 'The Best Address in Africa'.

The Sun International's latest hotel and resort development on the banks of the mighty Zambezi happens at a time when Zambia is experiencing a strong economic recovery triggered by the privatisation of its copper mining industry and the return of American and global big names in mining Anglo American and Dodge Phelps to mention just two.

Sun International predicts that its development near the Victoria Falls will have the same beneficial effect on Zambia's economy as those in other countries where the group has established its leisure enterprises.

"The Comores, Mauritius and the Bahamas saw significant revival of their economies as a result of our developments there," Phillip Couvaras, GM Operations-Zambia, points out. "Now, in Zambia, we have formed relationships with trading partners from among the country's suppliers of every conceivable product and service that will be required by The Falls."

Couvaras believes that the indirect benefits to small business and, of course, the tourism industry itself is significant: "Our projections are that by 2002, the country's gross domestic product will have been boosted by at least 3% as a result of our presence here in Zambia."

Local economy to be stimulated

The local economy on the Zambian side of the Victoria Falls will also be stimulated by tourism spin-offs for tour-guides and tour operations, informal traders and vendors of local artworks and produce.

"Those who are benefiting most directly," says Couvaras, "are predominantly the previously unemployed people of Livingstone and the suppliers of goods and services to the hotels and resort."

As Zambia's economy continues to grow, investor confidence will increase and more dollars, pounds and yen will transform a wide spectrum of economic activity.

With just 9m people in a country the size of France, Austria, Hungary and Switzerland combined, Zambia is thinly populated in comparison with its regional neighbours and farms only 15% of its arable land. That's changing as development farmers set about transforming the veld into productive agriculture.

Besides copper and other metals, a wealth of gemstones waits to be recovered in Zambia. Emerald, amethyst, aquamarine, garnet, diamond and tourmarine are a small sampling of the country's treasure trove. The intensely-coloured Zambian emerald is in great international demand and the local amethyst is considered to be among the world's best quality with its velvety colour and strong reddish glow.

The Zambia Export Board promotes the development and marketing of Zambian gemstones through exhibitions and international advertising.

'Value adding' has become a national war cry as the country seeks more ways to beneficiate its raw mining and agricultural output. Manufacturing's greatest challenge is to take advantage of the value-adding opportunities available and transform itself into a robust industrial entity.

Always better from the Zambia side

Tourism is Zambia's fastest growing industry, and its greatest attraction is the Victoria Falls. Many tourists have come to marvel at the spectacular cascades, although most of them on the Zimbabwe side. However, the best views are actually to be had from Zambia, near the town of Livingstone. Tourism developments, such as Sun International's and others, are putting the picture right, so to speak, and it's likely that visitors to Zambia's falls will rapidly increase over the next year or two.

Almost a third of Zambian territory is set aside for wildlife conservation, with 19 national parks underlining its commitment to the natural environment.

Wedged between eight other countries, Zambia had tended to be forgotten as a tourism destination. Just 30,000 tourists visited the country in 1995, compared with 900,000 to neighbouring Zimbabwe in the same period. New tourism-dedicated projects, airport upgrades, an upswing in foreign confidence in the country and growing interest by airlines and the international travel community are making Zambia Africa's new tourism magnet.

"Zambia is the last remaining country where investors can combine profitable business with an outdoor lifestyle in unspoiled Africa," says former Investment Centre director, PK Nkanza.

In the words of the late finance minister, Ronald Penza: "Zambia is a model for Africa. It has an open, transparent system of government with a human rights record second to none." The Zambian government has taken the economy from the verge of complete collapse, stabilised it and begun the process of regenerating sustained growth. The Zambian people have shown through their courage and enterprise that an apparently hopeless economic situation can be transformed so that generations to come can face a future in which rising welfare and expanding opportunities are the norm.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

Finding a name for a hotel reflects Sun International's regional director resorts, Philip Georgas is not much that different from naming a child. "It has to be right. Both the person and the building must live with it for the rest of their lives."

So it was that all concerned with the naming of the group's new hotels at Victoria Falls in Zambia gave long and thoughtful consideration to the matter. After a selection process stretching over several months, Sun International finally settled on names for their two new hotels on the banks of the Zambezi overlooking the awesome falls.

The 173-room five-star hotel has been named 'The Royal Livingstone', the 212 room three-star hotel is the 'Zambezi Sun', the Convention Centre, Casino and retail centre come under the umbrella name 'The Falls'.

"The names were chosen to evoke the essence both of contemporary Zambia and its romantic past," Georgas points out, "and to underline the history and grand tradition that surrounds the resort. The names are familiar and strongly associated with Zambia, emphasising the ties between the resort and the country with which Sun International has formed this partnership."

Architecture and design reflect the culture and heritage of the people of the Zambezi River, "acknowledging roots that stretch back to prehistory".

The two hotels, that opened in April and May, form the core of the US$56m investment covering 46 hectares of a World Heritage site.

The hotels are designed to appeal to different sectors of the tourism market. The development as a whole forms the apex of a triangle of African resorts, the other two points being in South Africa: Sun City to the north of Johannesburg and the Table Bay Hotel on the Cape Town waterfront.

"These magnificent properties," says Georgas, "therefore offer a combination of attractions that will prove an irresistible drawcard for visitors to the southern part of the continent." The construction contract for the resort was awarded to Zambian companies and many local artisans were employed in the construction phase of the project.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Nevin, Tom
Publication:African Business
Geographic Code:6ZAMB
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Words:1135
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