Solwezi as seen through the eyes of an indigenous tourist!

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Traditionally, I come from North Western Province. This is no secret, especially from the well knowing Zambians who are able to associate names to languages and provinces from which they originate. They would tell you that I am Luvale and from either Zambezi or Chavuma districts in North Western Province, based on my names alone. And I would agree with them by saying I am very much Luvale because both my parents hail from this Province.

However, I was born and bred on the Copperbelt Province – My father relocated from this province in search of a better education and employment prospects because at the time there was only so much this province could offer him and so many people like him – where he met and married my mother.

Until recently, I did the opposite of what my father did by relocating back to the province of my heritage and the home of my ancestors, in search of any employment prospects and also maybe just for adventure, especially after going through 5 years of Architecture School in the province I was born in, the province I was bred in. I needed something different, to find something I might have lost in the 5 years in School. To find myself, that missing link, that missing piece to the puzzle.
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I moved to Solwezi in November of 2014, a few months after graduating from the Copperbelt University, which is about 5 months ago now. My relocation to Solwezi is the closest I have come to my village with Solwezi being just a fewer miles away from Zambezi and Chavuma than Kitwe (which is in the Copperbelt Province where I was bred) was. Although Solwezi is no longer the rural dwelling it once was.
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Solwezi is the capital of North Western Province for all those that might not know this. It has an approximate population of over 60 000 local people mostly of the Lunda and the Luvale speaking people (with my roots springing from this grouping). It once was a sleeping little town with nothing much to see, little to no attractions whatsoever – which might explain my father’s relocation in part, but the recent developments have put the town in motion; from humble beginnings as a trading station servicing the nearby mines and employees to a fully mushroomed important node. It has become the core town in the new Zambian copper-belt because it has experienced an increase in mining-related and business activities. In addition, trade on the Congolese border of agrarian produce (mainly maize) sales to the Democratic Republic of Zambia just 12 kilometres away has further boosted development and business activity.
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Solwezi has seen significant growth in recent years, driven by
copper and nickel mines, which are run by First Quantum and Barrick Gold with the resumption of major mining activities at Kansanshi and Lumwana mines respectively. People from the Copperbelt Province like myself and other parts of Zambia have therefore flocked to Solwezi, hailing the town as the “new Copperbelt”.

There is a dire shortage of formal
hotel accommodation in the town and this is evident by the US$200-plus room rate for a two-star room.

The current hotel operations at Royal Solwezi Hotel and Kansanshi Hotel are running at more than 90% occupancy with extremely high room rates.
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A landmark hotel in Solwezi, the Royal Solwezi Hotel offers deluxe accommodation and convenience to both businessmen and travellers alike. The Hotel is currently the most prestigious in the North Western Province offering luxury amenities and easy access to the central business district. The Hotel is located just 10km from First Quantum’s Kansanshi Mine, 60km from Barrick’s Lumwana Mine, and about a 15 minute drive from Solwezi Airport.
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Expect high levels of service,
impressive facilities and dishes to suit any taste as a guest of the hotel. With meeting rooms and conference space for up to 250 people, the Royal Solwezi Hotel is one of the most established conference hotels in Solwezi.
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Guests are sure to stay connected with complimentary WiFi access,
and can enjoy complimentary breakfast and refreshments overlooking the manicured
gardens, while the outdoor swimming pool offers an ideal place to unwind after a busy day.

The Royal Solwezi Hotel was officially opened by the then Republican President,  former President – the Honourable Rupiah Banda – on the 27th August 2007.

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The Kansanshi hotel however, is in a league of its own. It is an eco-friendly four star hotel that was built with thatch architecture, local materials and has its own solar power. The ideal setting for all kinds of functions, located in the residential area known as Mbonge on the Old Chingola Road 5km from Solwezi’s business district.
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Kansanshi Hotel has 38 rooms:
6 standard and 18 duplex thatched bedrooms, with unique designs and decorations, 6 executive suites, in individual colour schemes of gold, black, red, blue, green and yellow, 4 self-catering villas, containing two bedrooms, bathroom, a lounge and a kitchen.

I especially love this hotel because it was designed by one of my former lecturers from Architecture School who has a great admiration for local architecture and let’s face it, it’s also cheaper. It’s because of that, that I tend to frequent it and they also serve very nice pizza here which a non-guest like myself does enjoy from time to time and especially on payday whilst enjoying a refreshment of my own taste from a bar that’s open to the public and accessible to anyone above the age of 18 (might be 21 albeit).

This population boom has put pressure on the current social services infrastructure, including housing, education, health and the local roads network,  making it imperative to re-plan the town, especially the Central Business District (CBD, hereafter). Works on a new Civic centre and a maiden modern shopping mall have since commenced, as part of efforts to upgrade the town to city status. Other requirements needed to achieve this status are the construction of a cathedral as well as possession of about four traffic lights at various points within the CBD with Solwezi being short of only two of such lights. Upon attaining the city status, the local authority known as the Solwezi Municipal Council will come to be called the Solwezi City Council like all other councils in cities before it.
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The development of the town has therefore attracted more banks into the region such as our nationally owned big, strong and reliable bank – Zambia National Commercial Bank (Zanaco, hereafter) – Barclays bank, Stanbic bank, Investrust bank, National Savings bank (Natsave, hereafter), First National Bank (FNB, hereafter) – the bank I was fortunate to open an account with during my time here because of their convenience and efficiency when it comes to opening an account. All I needed was a police stamped affidavit, my National Registration Card (NRC, hereafter) and everything was done just under 30 minutes by a more than helpful employee, and Cavemont bank, as well as snack bars such as Wimpy where you can enjoy that good steak for a local tourist like myself or a platter of seafood for that foreign tourist and Hungry Lion for the traditional chicken and fries we Zambians have grown accustomed to as nice food, and chain retail stores like Shoprite Checkers for your daily grocery shopping, wine shopping, among many other household needs on your shopping list(the only formal supermarket which cannot alone cater for the growing demand) and Pep stores for medium end clothing shopping.
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My work as an architect requires me to stay familia with local authorities like the Municipal Council. It’s through such affiliations that I came to learn about the Integrated Development Plan (IDP, hereafter). The Physical Planning Department of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing recently presented one to all stakeholders in Solwezi. The IDP provides a physical framework for the allocation and development of land, and includes the identification of programmes and projects in all sectors that will guide and enhance sustainable development and improved standards of living in Solwezi. The IDP proposes that the planning area will be separated into heavy and light industrial areas, 10,000 housing units, a shopping mall and other basic infrastructure such as schools, health facilities including a main hospital, offices and commercial farmland. Other proposals include the construction of infrastructure for public services, roads, electricity distribution, back-up electricity generation, and water and sewerage reticulation facilities.
The IDP is mindful of the fact that Solwezi’s development depends on the promotion of sectors such as agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, tourism and construction industries. One example of the attempt to reduce
the dependency on mining is the introduction of conservation farming by the Kansanshi
Foundation which is located right behind my backyard. Looking over the fence, greenhouses and shelters used for animals can be seen. One can also see mounds on patches of land within the foundation grounds.

The new Solwezi town is expected to be completed by 2016.

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In 2013, First Quantum begun a new US $1 billion investment plan in a project called Trident. This consists of three new mines and will have an annual capacity of 300,000 tons of copper per year.
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The closest town to Trident is Solwezi. Solwezi is therefore in need of more small to medium sized commercial property developments with a retail anchor, a hospitality partner, numerous line shops and banking facilities if it’s to help support an influx from Trident.
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The town like most in Zambia, is also blessed with magnificent water bodies for recreation which I have of course been fortunate enough to see like the Wamami dam which is basically an expanse of water where you can enjoy a boat ride for all those adventurous souls while the not – so-adventurous tourists can enjoy a view onto the waters under the comforts of chalets. When you are hungry there is a chef within reach to roast for you a snack of beef or chicken on a brai stand located just next to a bar where you can order yourself a refreshment to suit your taste and to go with that snack.
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Mutunda Falls which has been declared a National Heritage site is a 20 minute drive away from the Wamami dam, it’s not a massive waterfall but it is very quiet and very refreshing, i like it. It has such magnificent beauty. The management allows visitors to take pictures as well as take a dive into it’s waters – provided you can swim. There are chalets as seen in the image below where you can sit and enjoy a good brew while you wait for snacks being roasted by friendly chefs. You are also allowed to carry out a roast yourself if you are too particular on how you like your meat.
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My only reservations are more less a plea to the government and all other able corporations that are benefitting the most from the resources in the province to look into the Chingola – Solwezi road to North Western Province which is in such a deplorable state and have it worked on. Is it that they are just too busy hauling away minerals from the region that they fail to even notice the state the road is in now?

In conclusion, I’ll quote an uncle that recently said,

“Can someone tell these people to stop hoodwinking the people; it is not a good game, it is not funny!”, talking about political parties that make fake promises about doing something about the road.

“The Chingola – Solwezi road requires reconstruction, i.e. complete replacement with a new state of the art modern road, not rehabilitation again like it is
reported on ZNBC television. I believe the North Western Province region itself can fund this undertaking, can it not? We have heard these pronouncements before; I only hope they are serious this time. Let’s face it; this is the life line of the nation! Any disruptions on this road could have serious repercussions on the country’s economy”.

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