/a> by mitia on 6/20/13
By HUMPHREY NKONDE –
Zambia can capitalise on the forthcoming United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly to market the northern circuit, which has untapped tourism investment potential.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are co-hosting the 20th General Assembly of the UNWTO from 24th to 29th in August this year.
This global event would be co-hosted in Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls Town and Livingstone, Zambia’s tourist capital.
What is referred to as the northern tourism circuit covers Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces.
However, the major tourist destinations in the northern circuit narrows to Mporokoso, Mpulungu, Mbala and Nakonde, the gateway to East Africa.
While the main attraction down south is the Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the northern tourism circuit has more water falls than any other region.
The miniature Victoria Falls
Mporokoso is home to the Lumangwe, the second largest after the Victoria Falls.
In fact, this rural-based water-falls is often referred to as the miniature Victoria Falls.
Besides Lumangwe, there is also Mbala’s Kalambo Falls, the second highest uninterrupted falls in Africa after South Africa’s Drankensburg and the twelfth in the world.
The Kalambo River, whose water plunges into the gorge 212 metres below, flows into Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest fresh water lake and the earth’s second deepest after Baikal of Siberia.
There are several other water falls in Muchinga Province owing to the folds that were created following volcanic eruptions that created the Muchinga Escarpment’s hard rock millions of years ago.
Muchinga Province, whose name has been derived from the escarpment, can be rightly referred to as a region of water falls.
The highest point or rather Zambia’s “roof” at a height of 2,301 metres above sea level is in Mafinga District in Muchinga Province.
It could be marketed in the same way as Mount Kilimanjaro commonly referred to as the “roof” of Africa.
In spite of these credentials, tourism in the northern circuit has not reached its potential owing to poor roads, lack of airports and railways as well as lack of shopping facilities, electricity, tourism-related accommodation and internet cafes.
While some tourists can brave poor terrains as part of adventure, another factor is that Zambia has not aggressively marketed its tourism destinations compared to Kenya, Botswana and South Africa.
The northern circuit can be the centre of marine tourism in which soldiers and divers could retrieve guns that were thrown into Mbala’s Lake Chila by German soldiers after the World War I.
Some of the guns have been retrieved and form part of the artefacts at Mbala’s Motomoto Museum, the country’s second largest after Livingstone Museum.
Mbala, which was Britain’s old establishment starting in the 1890s, was part of the war zone between Germany that controlled German East Africa (now Tanzania) and Britain that controlled Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia).
MV Liemba, the former war ship
Before World War I, Germany placed a war ship on Lake Tanganyika to protect German East Africa from the British who were interested in taking over what is now known as Tanzania.
The war ship, now called MV Liemba, has been converted into a cargo and passenger liner by the Tanzanian government.
With its passenger transport facilities, this ship could foster cross-border marine tourism on Lake Tanganyika.
The former warship was constructed in Germany exactly 100 years this year and its parts were shipped in crates to Africa shortly before the onset of World War I. As a result of the fight over the lake and Germany’s interest in protecting coffee plantations, war spread to lakeside settlements in Abercorn (now Mbala), Isoka and Nakonde.
According to war maps, the Germany Commander Lieutenant Colonel Von-Lettow-Voerbeck entered Northern Rhodesia near Kanyala Border on the outskirts of the present-day Nakonde District, where the British had built an establishment.
The establishment’s ruins, made of pan bricks, are near the burial place for German soldiers who were killed during World War I.
These ruins and war trenches could be preserved to foster tourism in Nakonde.
Lt Colonel Von Lettow’s undefeated command reached Chambeshi River near the present-day Kasama in November 1918.
A monument has been constructed near Kasama where the German commander succumbed to a ceasefire.
Von Lettow succumbed to a ceasefire after an armistice was reached that month to end World I and he officially surrendered in Mbala on November 25, 1918.
A cenotaph has been constructed in Mbala to commemorate Germany’s surrender.
There are also possibilities of developing sub-marine tourism in Mpulungu owing to the depth of Lake Tanganyika, which could easily accommodate sub-marines.
And by deepening the same lake in Nsumbu, another harbour could offer water transport to Nsumbu National Park.
Most of the tourists who visit Zambia go to Livingstone because of the scenic view at the Victoria Falls, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) heritage site.
Tourism in the northern circuit, which falls between Livingstone and East Africa, can be improved once the airport infrastructure is rehabilitated in Mbala and Kasaba Bay.
Airport development projects in Mbala and Kasaba Bay are not green field in the sense that these facilities were created a long time ago and only need to be rehabilitated.
There is also need to preserve animals in the Nsumbu National Park since research has shown that most tourists who come to Zambia want to view wild game animals.
On top of this, a golf course in the Nsumbu National Park could be improved upon in order to foster sports tourism.
One other reason tourism should be developed around Lake Tanganyika is that it could form an extension for tourists visiting East Africa.
Using Tsavo National Park in Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, the continent’s “roof” and other tourist destinations, East Africa has tapped into markets from India, China and Japan.
Improving airport infrastructure could lead to establishment of airlines to the northern circuit.
For instance, Ethiopian Airways has started flights to Ndola on the Copperbelt.
If this airline could develop flights to the Copperbelt, it cannot fail to service the much nearer Kasaba Bay and Mbala.
In the railway transport sector, there are plans to divert the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) from Nseluka in Kasama to Mpulungu port.
That rail line is needed because of heavy loads that need to be imported or exported using the port in Mpulungu.
However, there is need for a tourism element to be incorporated into the designs, the way the railway from South Africa was spurned so that train passengers could view the Victoria Falls in Livingstone.
If run efficiently, railway transport could offer an intermodal package with the MV Liemba on Lake Tanganyika.
Before boarding the MV Liemba in Mpulungu, tourists can view the country’s oldest stone church, the Niamukolo, which was constructed by the London Missionary Society in the 1890s following Scottish explorer David Livingstone’s trails.
Tourists can also view one of the country’s largest aquariums within Mpulungu.
Nakonde-Zwangendaba’s burial place
Many may dismiss Nakonde as a tourist attraction because it is regarded as a trading post where used vehicles mostly from Japan are cleared.
Contrary to this classification, Nakonde boasts of some historic sites including the burial place for the Ngoni King Zwangendaba and the resting place for German soldiers who died in the World War I.
History books say that King Zwangendaba died in Ufipa in Tanzania around 1848.
But the reality is that he met his death in Kapwila on the outskirts of Nakonde.
This site, which has attracted researchers from as far as South Africa, is along the Mbala-Nakonde Road.
Zwangendaba died after fleeing from wars that King Shaka perpetrated in South Africa’s Kwa Zulu Natal.
Although the site is very near to Nakonde, what lengthens the journey is the poor state of the road.
Government intends to tar the Mbala-Nakonde Road, which not only leads to Zwangendaba’s burial place, but also to Mpulungu and the Kalambo Falls in Mbala.
A survey in Nakonde showed poor tourism-based accommodation compared to Tunduma, its Siamese twin town on the other side of the border in Tanzania.
The author was forced to relocate to Tanzania owing to high standards of hotels there.
Nakonde cannot match the high level of hospitality that was exhibited in Tunduma, where a transporter had to offer personalised services to the author to carry his baggage from Nakonde using a Bajaj.
This three-wheeled vehicle, developed in India, has provided employment opportunities for many enterprising Tanzanians.
Tourism development is complex, requiring an integrated approach involving state institutions and the private sector, mostly under public private partnerships to spread high investment costs.
State-run institutions like the National Airports Authority, the Zambia Electricity Supply Corporation, the Zambia Wildlife Authority, National Roads Board and others would be required to provide services to develop the northern circuit.
Once these have provided economic enablers such as roads, electricity, airports and others, the private sector will come in with auxiliary services including hotels, lodges, car hire, mobile phone infrastructure, flight schedules and internet cafes.
Humphrey Nkonde is a freelance journalist and a transport and logistics professional who has toured more than 40 districts for his book, Zambian People and Places. He is interested to hear about fascinating places as well as people (living or dead).
He can be reached on 096-9-179805 or by e-mail on