Development of Luapula Province, Zambia

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15 April, 2021

Long time ago, the Luapula province was part of Northern Province before Government decided to separate and delink it from Northern Province. The name Luapula is derived from a River “Luapula” which means “cut across”. The indigenous people gave that name to the river after they realized the river passes through two big lakes with its distinct waters visible on the lake when it passes through. The same rivers cut across 7 out of 10 districts in the province.

The province is between 1.2m-1.5m above sea level. The provincial capital is Mansa town. The total population for the province is about 1 million (CSO 2010 census) and it accounts for 7.57 percent of the total Zambian population (Source: Wikipedia)

Luapula shares a large geographical boarder with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This has resulted in a lot of cross-border trade between the two countries. The main tribes found in Luapula province are: Ushi, Ngumbo, Lungu, Lunda, Chishinga, Shila and Kabende. Each district has two or more traditional leaders who are gazetted by the government. The senior chief from each District then represents other chiefs at National level. These chiefs have by-laws which they use to govern their chiefdoms.

The economic mainstay of the province is Fishing and Agriculture though many rivers and lakes have been depleted of fish.. 60% of the population are peasant farmers. The main crops grown in Luapula are Maize, Cassava, Finger Millet, and Sorghum. Recently, some farmers have started cultivating soya and sugar beans especially those in Kawambwa district. A few commercial farming projects have been introduced with state-owned cattle ranch being constructed in Kawambwa. DRC provides a ready market for many of the crops produced in the province and a few are returned for home consumption. Those with a surplus tend to sell to the Government. DRC does not just offer a ready market but also provides a competitive price for all that is sold there including fish.

Luapula province has a lot of potential in Energy and Tourism which has not been utilized nor developed properly. It is surrounded by many rivers and lakes. Luapula boasts of many waterfalls as eg. Lumangwe, Kabwelume, Kunda Bwika, Kalume Bwika, Ntumbachushi, Mumbuluma, Chilongoshi, Mumbuluma waterfalls. Lumangwe is the second biggest waterfall in Zambia, quite spectacular, and can only be compared in size and splendor to Niagara Falls, Canada. It is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.. 

Again, the province is home to 5 fresh water lakes namely: Lake Mweru, Lake Kampolombo, Lake Bangweulu, Lake Chinabuli and Lake Walilupe. They account for 40% of water resources in Zambia. The big rivers include Pambashe, Lufubu, Kalungwishi, and Luapula rivers respectively. As alluded to earlier, Luapula River cuts across two lakes as it passes across the 7 districts before it forms Lualaba river in DRC and runs into Congo river up to the Atlantic Ocean.

Luapula is a province with rich tradition and culture. In Kazembe village of Mwansabombwe, the Umutomboko Ceremony is celebrated which is one of Zambia’s biggest traditional ceremonies attended by thousands of people from within and outside the country.  The Umutomboko ceremony is one of the four traditional ceremonies in Zambia recognised by UNESCO and it’s a national flag carrier. Luapula accounts for several mineral deposits like copper, manganese, cobalt, zinc to mention a few.. Oil exploration is also under way.

Despite the potential in terms of natural resources, the province is largely poor and remains second poorest in Zambia. Illiteracy levels are quite high at about 80%. Per capita income is low with a large population surviving on less than a $ per day.

Since the first republic when the country experienced massive infrastructure development many of which have now become outdated and decrepit, Luapula is bereft of good infrastructures such as road network, airports, hospitals and industries. It lacks economic activities which can steer and revive the economy. Unemployment level is dismally high. The Government remains the biggest employer in the province. There are, however, pockets of NGOs in selected districts but these only contribute to 0.5% jobs in the market for the province. 

Luapula needs a holistic approach for steering the economy and putting it back on the map. It will require a change in the mindset of the local population who would begin to see the importance of education and value the contribution education plays in the development of the province and country at large. Again, the Government requires to create an enabling environment for the investors to invest in agriculture, tourism, mining and hydro power generation. With an informed population, investment in the 4 key economic sectors, the province can develop. Illiteracy levels will drop leading to gradual elimination of poverty.  There will be new developments in infrastructure such as roads, bridges and universities. The province of Luapula will then be able to contribute to the GDP of the country, positively.


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