Republican President, Edgar Lungu, says government will pilot a one year visa waiver for nationals from four countries from Europe and Asia in a bid to ascertain the effect of tourism arrivals in the country.
President Lungu said during the period government would undertake a cost benefit analysis of the waiver with specific focus on the impact on security and other related matters.
Mr Lungu said government was ready to make reforms in the sector to ensure that Zambians do not continue being spectators but instead take part in wildlife and tourism in the country.
The Head of State has since directed the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) to propose policy and legislative reforms to boost the wildlife industry for the benefit of poor Zambians.
President Lungu said it was unacceptable that Zambians’ participation in the entire wildlife sector chain remains at bare minimum despite the country having the vast South Luangwa National Park among other resources.
“Our people cannot, as it were, be perpetual spectators in the midst of plenty. This saddens me. The policy direction you need we shall give you and I must assure you that I am prepared to go a step further to bring legislation to break up these cartels in the sector. If the industry cannot reform itself to allow locals to participate it is the responsibility of government to facilitate equity in the sharing of national resources.
“I want to see this sector benefit the poor people who are always invariably the owners of the resource. If the sector, which is a collective endowment for all of us, operates as a sector for only few by a few, then for me it can’t work. This is totally unacceptable. I want you to immediately bring up proposals for legal and policy reforms that will make this sector work for the people,” the President said.
According to a statement issued to ZANIS in Lusaka today by Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations, Amos Chanda, Mr Lungu was speaking when he received a special briefing on the status of the wildlife industry from the Acting ZAWA Director-General, Kampamba Kombe.
President Lungu also later visited Chimfule Lodge and Mushroom Lodge to understand the challenges Zambian entrepreneurs were facing to make it in the wildlife and tourism sectors.
“We cannot have a tourism and wildlife industry owned by foreigners, operated by foreigners and for foreigners. We need change.” he said.
President Lungu said it was of great concern that a great number of people were being excluded from the enjoyment of their God-given resource
“I want rapid transformation of this industry because when God gave us these resources, He intended that this to be a common resource and there is no reason it can remain a preserve for a few,” he said.
The President further encouraged the ZAWA boss to adhere to law and ensure that no single group of people were allowed to dominate the country’s hunting blocks
“When you are within the law you will always have our support and you, therefore, have to proceed as you professionally deem fit,” he aded.
Meanwhile, the ZAWA director thanked the President for retaining Jean Kapata as Tourism Minister.
Mr Kombe said this was because Ms Kapata had not only stabilised the operations of ZAWA but reduced negative publicity around the organisation to a bare minimum since she assumed office.