More global defense equipment manufacturers from Russia, China, Italy and South Africa are already competing to meet the country's need for new aircraft, aerial defense systems, troop carriers, Navy boats and special forces equipment in a country with a rising defense budget. Chinese companies are set to win more patrol boat orders for Zambia's the ZDF's new naval unit, the 48th Marine Group, which was launched late in July to protect the country's in-land maritime borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe.
Last month, President Edgar Lungu, who is also defence minister, appointed a Defence Force Modernization Commission to which will work with the ministries of defence and finance to acquire in acquiring new equipment for the armed forces modernization program. The commission, which is headed by Cabinet Secretary Roland Msiska, will plan how to spend a budget that has increased to 3.2 trillion Kwacha (US$600.5 million) in 2014/2015, defense budget of up from 1.6 trillion Kwacha in the 2012/2013 financial year.
In addition to its own budget, Zambia early this year secured US $192 million from China to buy fund the acquisition of new weapons to replace the largely obsolete equipment. of the defense force. Most of it will be used to upgrade the Air Force Zambian Air Force (ZAF) with the acquisition of new Mi-17 attack/transport helicopters, SF 260 TW trainers, L-15 fighter jets and C-27 J Spartan transports to boost attack, airlift and border surveillance capabilities.
A former Zambian Army official who is now a defense attache in a neighboring country told Defense News that Zambia, which was declared incapable of defending itself in 2013, will soon emerge as one of the biggest defense markets and equipment manufacturers in Africa as it realigns its defense and strategic interests with the rest of the world.
"Since 2013, Zambia has been moving gradually to make sure that it is capable of defending itself. That includes teaming up with companies in and outside the country to ensure a revival of the armed forces and the defense industrial complex.
"In this regard, Zambia will continue to acquire equipment from the rest of the world but move to make sure that our joint venture partners set up manufacturing plants for military vehicles and basic weapons for local use and export to the rest of Africa. I have no doubt that with the projects already in the pipeline, we will move from a net importer of military equipment to a producer and exporter of the same," he said.
Companies from Russia, China, Italy, South Africa and Brazil are competing to supply Zambia's needs for new aerial defense assets.
According to Deputy Defence Minister Christopher Mulenga, Brazilian-Chinese truck manufacturer Metro-Shacman Trucks is negotiating to set up a factory to supply ZDF with troop carriers. The company is a subsidiary of China's Shaanxi Automobile Group Co.
In a statement released following a meeting of the two parties at the 10th LAAD Defence and Security exhibition held in Brazil in AprilMay, Zambian Embassy Press Secretary Patson Chilemba said Shacman Trucks wants to take advantage of the country's stability to supply the local and regional troop carrier market .
"They [Shacman] have requested to come to Zambia for further discussions and possibly make formalities. Highlighting the stability and security in Zambia, Shacman thought it appropriate to deepen its investment in the country," Chilemba said.
Shacman hopes to build on the Zambian success of its $6 billion commercial truck plant, which was officially launched in Zambia this year with the goal of producing 1,000 trucks per annum. It will join two other Chinese truck brands — the Great Wall and Higer — which are already established in the Zambian market. The Chinese government has also provided Zambia with a $19 million loan to help revive fund the revival of a weapons factory to manufacture bombs, ammunition and gunpowder for the military and the ZDF and regional market.
The Army-owned factory was founded in the 1970s by former president Kenneth Kaunda to supply ammunition, light bombs and landmines to regional liberation movements in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa. In terms of the new plan, state-owned Chinese arms manufacturer Norinco will invest at least $19.5 million in the revival of the factory. However, it remains unclear if production will restart before the end of the year as planned.
China is expected to earn more from the sale of patrol boats to Zambia's new 48th marine special forces unit which was launched at the end of July. The unit, which has three squadrons based on the Luapula River, Lake Kariba and Lake Mweru in the north, is equipped with at least five Mac-5 patrol boats donated by China.
Launching the special forces unit, Lungu said he is leading negotiations to acquire for the supply of suppliers of more patrol boats and high-tech equipment to meet the unit's operational needs. of the special forces unit.
"The deployment of this marine special forces unit in Luapula Pprovince marks the beginning of securing of our water bodies across the country. I authorized the establishment of this unit of special forces and with its establishment comes a lot of challenges which we will address. This unit will ensure the effective enforcement of the fishing bans in place in water bodies around the country," Lungu said.
According to Deputy defense minister Mulenga, said Zambia welcomes the establishment of new military equipment manufacturing companies in the country, saying this will cut the cost of imports while ensuring that locals will benefit from learn critical skills needed for the country to operate its own defense industries in the future.