Holding its own

Politically stable, peaceful and centrally-located, with a growing economy and a good supply of quality hotels in Lusaka, Zambia has much going for it, with its capital city finding favour as an African business travel destination.

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As the capital of Zambia, Lusaka attracts the majority of business travel to the country. It’s also the country’s most populated region, with nearly two million residents, as well as the chief administrative, financial, and commercial centre. Located in the south-central part of the nation, near the border with Zimbabwe, it is a sprawling city with modern infrastructure and friendly residents.

Along with great people, the city offers a great climate, with hot summers and mild winters.

Lusaka was established as a settlement in 1913 and the city celebrated its centenary during July 2013 with parades, panel discussions, productions, exhibitions and religious services.

Lusaka is also the central point from which a lot of other business travel takes place.

“Lusaka is a transit point for corporate travel to and from the Copperbelt,” says Paul Norman, General Manager of the Southern Sun Ridgeway. “There is a growth in the retail, and to a lesser extent, banking sectors, and Lusaka is the hub within the country for these sectors.”

City attractions include the Lusaka National Museum, the Political Museum, the Zintu Community Museum, the Freedom Statue, the Zambian National Assembly, the Agricultural Society Showgrounds (known for their annual agricultural show), the Moore Pottery Factory, the Lusaka Playhouse, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and the zoo and botanical gardens of the Munda Wanga Environmental Park.

Lusaka is also home to the University of Zambia and two large shopping malls, in the form of Arcades and Manda Hill shopping mall. The city centre includes several blocks west of Cairo Road, around which lie the New City Market and Kamwala Market, a major shopping area, as well as the Zintu Community Museum. Further east lies the government area, including the State House and the various ministries, around Cathedral Hill and Ridgeway neighbourhoods.

One of the main streets and points of interest for business is Cairo Road. Buildings along Cairo Road include the Central Bank Building, Zambia National Building Society, Zambia National Commercial Bank, Barclays Bank Zambia’s head office, Stanbic Bank Zambia, and Investrust Bank.

POLITICS

Politics in Zambia take place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Zambia is both head of state and head of government in a pluriform multi-party system. The government exercises executive power, while legislative power is vested in both the government and parliament.

Zambia became a republic immediately upon attaining independence in October 1964. From 2011 to 2014, Zambia’s president was Michael Sata, before his death in October of 2014.

After Sata’s death, Vice- President Guy Scott, a Zambian of Scottish descent, became acting President of Zambia. On 24 January 2015 it was announced that Edgar Chagwa Lungu had won the election to become the sixth president in a tightly contested race against Hakainde Hichilema.

ECONOMY

The Zambian economy revolves around copper and continues to grow, thanks to higher commodity prices and investments made after privatisation. The economy has remained stable over the last few years, making the country an attractive option for investors. So it stands to reason that business travel to the country is also on the rise.

In 2016, there was a year-on-year increase of 2.5% in business travellers arriving in Zambia.

The Zambian government is in the process of economic diversification to reduce the economy’s reliance on the copper industry. This initiative seeks to exploit other components of Zambia’s rich resource base, by promoting agriculture, tourism, gemstone mining and hydro-power.

“Zambia has experienced significant economic growth in recent years, the result of stability in the country from a political perspective, significant income from the local copper industry, and an economy that is being well managed,” says Nicholas Barenblatt, Area Director Marketing Africa, Marriott International, Middle East & Africa. “As a result, we’ve identified the country – and its capital Lusaka – as an environment with good potential in terms of business travel. As for tourism, the country has a great deal to offer.”

AIRPORT & AIRLINES

Kenneth Kaunda International Airport is the largest airport in Zambia. It is located 27 kilometres from Lusaka, and despite being built in the late 1960s is fairly well maintained, offering travellers access to car rental firms, transfer services, foreign exchange bureau, duty-free stores, a post office and a restaurant.

“It is obviously dated, but for the current levels of traffic it is sufficient,” says Norman. “The exception is immigration on arrival which can be time consuming. This however would be the case whatever the physical layout. Have a visa in advance, if required. This makes it quicker at immigration. Also, keep the baggage ‘stub’ for examination by officials as you leave the arrivals hall. On departure, there’s no need to arrive before 90 minutes prior to departure.”

The airport is in the process of being upgraded, the completion of which will make a huge difference to the airport experience. When the plans were first unveiled in 2013, it was said that the new airport would contain a new two-storey terminal building, including 22 check-in counters, 12 border channels, six security check counters, a shopping complex, an airport hotel of 80 rooms, and a new car park.

Construction on the new terminal building eventually began in June 2015 and is scheduled for completion in 2019. The project has been granted a budget of $360 million.

“The new airport will be shaped like an eagle, which is the Zambian trademark,” says Mweembe Sikaulu, Zambia Airports Corporation Communication and Brand Manager.

“We are thrilled about the expansion of the airport,” says Barenblatt. “The plan involves doubling the capacity for the number of passengers that can be processed by the airport, which bodes well for the tourism industry, since there are bound to be more foreign business and leisure travellers coming into the country.”

As for the lounge offering, September 2014 saw the announcement that Kenya Airways would open a brand new lounge, bringing to four the number of lounges at the international airport. The other lounges are the SAA, IAPCO Club and FNB lounges. First National Bank Zambia launched its first FNB Lounge at KKIA in 2013. FNB Premier Banking clients can use their Platinum card to gain exclusive access, and the lounge is wi-fi enabled, has catered food and comfortable wash and change rooms.

From an airline point of view, Emirates is arguably the biggest international airline flying into Lusaka, along with Africa’s ‘Big 3’ – South African Airways, Kenya Airways, and Ethiopian Airlines – and fastjet, which provides a low-cost option between Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Lusaka. Other African airlines flying into Kenneth Kaunda International include Air Botswana, Air Namibia, Air Zimbabwe, Airlink, Malawian Airlines, and TAAG, whilst 2015 saw RwandAir announce the launch of three weekly flights from Kigali. Airlink operates direct flights between Johannesburg and Lusaka on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Air Zimbabwe resumed scheduled flights between Harare and Lusaka in 2015.

Local Zambian carriers haven’t fared too well for a variety of reasons, but Proflight Zambia has been in business for 20 years and managed to prosper. It has also been quite active in the last couple of years, celebrating its first international scheduled air service from Lusaka to Lilongwe (Malawi) in 2013, followed by the launch of a service between Lusaka and Durban in South Africa. Proflight also flies to Livingstone, Kafue National Park, Solwezi, Ndola, Kitwe, Kasama, Jeki, Royal, and Mfuwe in Zambia. May also saw Proflight launch a new route to Kalabo in Zambia’s Western Province.

HOTELS

There is a good selection of well-known international brands in Lusaka, ensuring a steady supply of quality accommodation.

Protea Hotels by Marriott has the biggest presence. Its first property opened in 2000 when it rebranded the 20-room former Chisamba Safari Lodge, now known as Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Safari Lodge. Over the last 17 years the group has grown that presence with a further seven hotels in Zambia, three of which are also situated in Lusaka.

The Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Cairo Road, with 75 rooms, opened in June 2006; the 100-room Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka opened in August 2008; and the Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Tower, with 137 rooms, opened in April 2014.

Protea Hotel by Marriott Safari Lodge, situated in its own private game reserve, has twice expanded, adding 20 additional rooms each in 2005 and 2010, to offer a total of 60 rooms. Despite its seemingly leisure-focused location, it does offer conferencing facilities for up to 80 delegates, as well as free wireless internet access.

Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Cairo Road, in the heart of Lusaka’s CBD, provides quality and good value for money. The hotel has two conference rooms, both suitable for between 15 and 40 delegates, and can be combined for larger groups. There are also boardrooms on the second and fourth floors available for smaller business meetings. Free wireless internet access is available throughout the hotel.

Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka, across the road from the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, opened in August 2008. It is situated in the Arcades Shopping & Entertainment Complex, putting a range of shops, bars and restaurants with easy reach of guests.

The Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka Tower, also in the Arcades Shopping complex, opened in April 2014. The hotel’s ninth-floor restaurant and bar offer expansive views over the city. There are two meeting rooms and four boardrooms that complement the conferencing facilities at the neighbouring Protea Hotel by Marriott Lusaka.

There are also big international brands in the form of Best Western, Radisson Blu, InterContinental, and Taj.

The Radisson Blu Hotel, Lusaka opened in 2012 and offers upmarket accommodation five kilometres from the city centre.

The hotel’s location also offers convenient access to the thriving business and commercial districts. The Radisson Blu Hotel, Lusaka prides itself on its modern amenities and 142 rooms and suites. Those rooms are made up of 10 one-bedroom suites, 16 business class rooms, 17 superior rooms and 109 standard rooms. Guests enjoy free high-speed, wireless internet access, individual climate control, an inviting outdoor pool and a spa.

In terms of food and beverage, the hotel’s Chuma Grill Restaurant & Bar hosts the complimentary breakfast buffet and serves African fusion and international dishes for lunch and dinner. For a midday snack or cocktail while you lounge by the outdoor swimming pool, guests can order something from the Pool Bar.

The hotel also has a fitness centre, whilst the conference offering includes five fully-equipped conference rooms, a versatile pre-function area, and two spacious ballrooms. There’s also a professional conference co-ordinator on hand to assist, and there are 300 on-site parking spaces.

Best Western made its first foray into Zambia in 2015, linking up with the Golden Bridge Hotel in a venture that has resulted in the Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel. It is located in the CBD on the Great East Road, and its features and amenities include high-speed internet, complimentary breakfast, a pool, airport shuttles, a fitness centre, a meeting room and room service. The hotel’s restaurants include the Manna Restaurant, which offers international cuisine, and the Mandarin Restaurant, which has obvious appeal for Asian guests. There’s also the Wodka Piano Bar.

Lusaka is expected to welcome another international brand in the near future, with the opening of the Hilton Garden Inn. It was slated to open last year, but that has been pushed out to 2018. Whenever it does open, it will add 148 rooms to the market.

Looking at the African brands, Cresta Hotels has the Cresta Golfview, which has 78 rooms, four conference facilities that can accommodate up to 300 delegates, airport transfers and complimentary wi-fi. Another safe bet is going with Tsogo Sun Hotels, which operates the more budget-friendly StayEasy Lusaka and the four-star Southern Sun Ridgeway, which was formerly the Holiday Inn.

GETTING AROUND

Mini-buses are ubiquitous, cheap, and fast, and for a few kwacha, you can get into or out of town easily.

For the uninitiated, though, a taxi might be a better option, at least initially. Taxis come in two colours – sky blue and a light grey, and are usually Toyota Corollas. There are no meters in Zambia’s taxis, so prices are somewhat negotiable, but always on the high side for Africa. Be sure to set a price before getting in the cab. A good tip is to ask the hotel concierge how much your trip should cost. If the cab driver states a higher price, mention that you’re happy to ride a mini-bus. Watch the price drop.

Take down a taxi driver’s mobile number and most will be happy to do an all-day deal, waiting for you while you conduct business, or pick you up early or late and take you to and from the airport.

Walking is an option as distances are not that large, and there are a fair number of street names to help orientate yourself. However, walking at night does have its hazards – manhole covers are not Lusaka’s strong point and there are many uncovered drains that could swallow you whole, hence a torch is a good idea!

Like in most fast-growing African cities, traffic is atrocious – avoid going in and out of the city centre by any route during rush hour, if you can. Increasingly, slow traffic does at least help reduce the awful death rate on Lusaka’s roads. Better enforcement of drunk-driving laws would reduce it considerably more.

MULUNGUSHI INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION CENTRE

Most hotels and lodges offer some form of conference and event facilities, but the Mulungushi International Convention Centre was purpose-built to host large conventions. The ‘old wing’ was built to host the Non-Aligned Summit in 1970. It offers seven conference halls with the largest hall capacity of up to 2,500 people. The ‘new wing’, adjacent to the original building on Great East Road, was designed to “reflect the international flair of a conference venue”. It added 13 conference halls, the largest of which can accommodate up to 1,000 people.

Lusaka has hosted several important conventions aimed at improving the lives of Africans, which has earned the city the moniker of Africa’s ‘City of Peace’. These events have included:

  • The East and Central African Summit Conferences of April 1969, which led to the signing of the Lusaka Manifesto. This declaration of principles and intentions guided the relations between Portugal, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and South Africa.
  • The Lusaka Protocol was signed in October 1994, following peace involving the Angolan government and UNITA in an effort to end the Angolan Civil War and forge national reconciliation.
  • In July 1999 Lusaka again hosted peace talks, this time between the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel forces. This resulted in the signing of a ceasefire agreement.
  • In September 1999, Lusaka hosted the 11th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa, resulting in a commitment to put institutional frameworks into place that would curtail the spread of these diseases.
DINING OUT

If you’d like to eat somewhere other than your hotel restaurant, here are five suggestions that TripAdvisor reviewers recommend:

  1. Marlin Restaurant

Reviewers rave about the restaurant’s pepper steak

  1. Mint Lounge

Fresh salads and freshly-squeezed fruit juices receive the most compliments

  1. Rhapsody Lusaka

Try the avo and Brie fillet. The sushi and Death by Chocolate dessert also get favourable mentions

  1. Chang Thai

Great Thai food “in the heart of Africa”. Try the Pad Thai or Panang curry

  1. Royal Dil

If you’re a fan of North Indian cuisine, try this restaurant in the Arcade shopping complex

THINGS TO DO IN LUSAKA

If you have time for a little leisure on your next business trip, here are a few ideas on how to spend your time:

  1. Wildlife

Munda Wanga is an environmental park with an education centre and a botanical garden located just 16 kilometres from Lusaka’s city centre, and is open daily from 08h00 to 16h00. Fifteen minutes south of Lusaka on the Kafue Road, you’ll find a turn-off to Lilayi Game Reserve. Part of the reserve houses an elephant orphanage project that rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephants before releasing them back into the wild. It is open daily for viewing of the baby elephants between 11h30 and 13h00.

  1. Markets

The city prides itself on its market culture and every day you can browse through thousands of stalls. There are fresh fruit stalls, hairdressers, fishmongers, restaurants, spare parts, second hand clothing and plenty more. The Lusaka City Market is host to over 400 stalls and despite its chaotic nature, tourists don’t often get hassled. The Soweto Market is more functional than the City Market, and worth a visit. Every Sunday the Arcades Shopping Centre car park is turned into a market, known as the Sunday Craft Market – a great place for gifts and crafts. Souvenir shoppers should visit the Northmead Market. The surrounding areas also have a great selection of small supermarkets, restaurants and fresh food stalls.

  1. Monuments & Museums

There is a lot of history in Lusaka and there are many places to visit to get better acquainted with the city. If time allows, try to see the Ayrshire Farm Rock Engravings, Leopard’s Hill Cave, the Twickenham Road Archaeological Site, Freedom House, Matero House No. 3144, the Old Chilenje House Number 280, the Football Heroes Burial Site, and the Old National Assembly. As for museums, you can while away a few hours at the Lusaka National Museum, which tells the story of Zambia in four main sections: ethnography, witchcraft, history and contemporary art.