ZAMBIA: Private development for top university

Creaking under strains of limited state funding, dilapidated infrastructure and insufficient personnel, the University of Zambia has handed over land for private development by a consortium called Graduare Property Development Limited.

Under a public-private partnership the company will invest US$150 million in constructing a business park, a three-star hotel, staff housing, a sports stadium and student hostels.

Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula, chair of council and deputy governor of Zambia's central bank, said an estate development master plan containing a road map on infrastructure development was developed in 2006 to address a shortfall of accommodation at the university.

But Kankasa-Mabula said Zambia's largest and oldest university faced many challenges and had recognised the need to partner with the private sector to solve its problem of financial constraint and secure funds to realise the plan.

Graduare Property is led by Intermarket Securities Limited, the Colmack Company and Katayi Associates.

Kankasa-Mabula said the need for more student accommodation and staff housing would be tackled after the completion of the project, which would provide the University of Zambia with opportunities to generate income in a sustainable manner.

The university has been experiencing a dire shortage of accommodation, forcing some students to construct makeshift rooms on campus.

Last year the government started implementing a public-private partnership initiative. The intention is to engage the private sector in the development of infrastructure and services.

According to the Zambia Development Agency, the government will continue its role of encouraging and enhancing private investment in the public sector. Most construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of infrastructure is being contracted out to further increase private sector involvement.

Education Minister Dora Siliya said recently the University of Zambia has been struggling to settle a 380 billion Kwacha (US$74 million) debt owed to various creditors and that the government was studying the matter.

But Siliya said state funding of education was improving. In accordance with recommended international standards, the government has allocated 19.9% of this year's national budget to education - a 26.4% increase over last year's budget.