The foundations have been laid for Zambia’s first official polytechnic, Chapula Polytechnic, a new state-of-the-art training centre that’s being constructed and equipped with funding from Kagem Mining Limited (Kagem) at a cost of ZMW 52.5 million (USD 2.5 million).

The centre will equip local people from Lufwanyama and other areas surrounding the Kagem mine with skills that they can leverage to find employment, or set up businesses in a variety of industries, as they see fit.

The country’s Minister of Technology and Science, Hon. Felix Mutati MP, who led the centre’s groundbreaking ceremony in Lufwanyama District on 8 June described this initiative as a good example of an effective public-private partnership.

“You cannot achieve transformation of the economy if you do not decentralise,” the Minister said during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Government and Kagem, when the mine formally committed to constructing and equipping the centre. 

The Chapula Polytechnic is currently being built near Chapula Secondary School, the construction of which was funded by the emerald mining company in 2016. The land has been made available by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Centre for Horticultural Training. Kagem is also partnering with the Ministry of Technology and Science, which has agreed to conduct comprehensive assessments to identify courses that will best serve local communities’ needs.

Groundbreaking ceremony of the Chapula Polytechnic in Lufwanyama on 8 June 2024. Pictured are Minister of Technology and Science, Hon. Felix Mutati, MP (centre), Dr Sixtus Mulenga (left of centre), His Royal Highness Chief Lumpuma of the Lamba Lima people (right of centre), Hon. Kenny Siachisumo, Lufwanyama Member of Parliament (second right), Mr CV Suresh, Kaegm Managing Director (third right), Dr Boniface Mulenga, Kagem government representative director on the board (fourth right)

As it stands, the centre plans to offer a wide range of courses, including carpentry, plumbing, heavy earth moving machinery, computing, and information technology (IT). Once completed, the Chapula Polytechnic will be handed over to the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA), which will run industry-standard, curriculum-based courses.

“What we are doing today is taking a centre of excellence to a rural part of Zambia,” said Hon. Mutati, “and distributing the resources of this country to include our boys and girls in Chapula.”

A stepping stone to economic diversification

Dr Sixtus Mulenga attended the groundbreaking ceremony in his capacity as Kagem Mining Limited Chairman, joining His Royal Highness Chief Lumpuma of the Lamba Lima people and other esteemed guests in symbolically laying the flagship polytechnic’s first bricks. Dr Mulenga said: “It is our hope – and, indeed, our expectation – that the Chapula Polytechnic will serve to enhance the skills base in the district, as well as give rise to new opportunities for trade and industry within our communities.”

“It is our hope – and, indeed, our expectation – that the Chapula Polytechnic will serve to enhance the skills base in the district, as well as give rise to new opportunities for trade and industry within our communities.”


These “new opportunities” could, of course, be in any number of sectors. The arrival of a polytechnic in a region that’s heavily dependent on mining is an important reminder of the need for  Government to be proactive in diversifying the country’s economy away from mining.

This polytechnic is as much about locals gaining skills that they can use to contribute to the economy in Lufwanyama as it is about them taking skills beyond the district, Hon. Mutati pointed out.

There are also parallels to be drawn between the Chapula Polytechnic’s goals and Dr Mulenga’s intentions for his own fledgling manganese mining company, Musamu Resources Limited, in the sense that a strong desire to support economic diversification is at the core of both.

One of Dr Mulenga’s visions for Musamu Resources – Zambia’s first wholly and privately-owned large-scale, indigenous mining company, which grew out of an entirely self-funded mineral exploration project – is to pave the way for economic diversification around his new mine. He hopes to catalyse development in sectors like agro-processing and manufacturing that can sustain themselves beyond the life of mine. One source of inspiration has been Kalumbila: the mining town that was designed specifically to outlive the mine around which it was built.

The arrival of a polytechnic in a region that’s heavily dependent on mining is an important reminder of the need for the Government to be proactive in diversifying its economy away from mining.

Beyond bricks and mortar

Kagem has funnelled plenty of resources into building, renovating and equipping educational institutions in the area. There’s Kapila Primary, where Gemfields Foundation (Kagem’s parent company’s charitable arm) and Government came together to make the district’s first solar-powered computer lab a reality. Then there’s Chapula Secondary school – a neighbour to the future polytechnic, and one of the best secondary schools in the district – which was built and equipped with USD 1.2 million of funding from Kagem.

But building and equipping schools is just the first hurdle. The next vital step is ensuring that they will be well run once it’s time for Kagem to hand the project over. That’s one reason why there’s no shortage of optimism around the Chapula Polytechnic: it will be under TEVETA’s administration.

TEVETA has also partnered with Kagem to provide a series of skills training programmes for the mine’s employees, after which participants will receive certificates recognised by TEVETA and the Zambia Qualification Authority (ZAQA). Kagem will invest approximately ZMW 2,250,800 (USD 85,000) into these training programmes over the next year or so.

At a recent Labour Day event, Lufwanyama’s District Commissioner, Mr. Justin Mwalikwa, confirmed: “In an effort to have a skilled labour force that responds to the needs of the industry, government has continued to engage skills training institutions, as well as support young people to acquire relevant skills.”

Opportunities are there to be taken with both hands, Mr Mwalikwa suggested: “I encourage all the young people in the district to take advantage of grants under CDF [Constituency Development Fund] and others, to pursue skills training from trades training institutes and colleges.”

Kagem is also a long-standing supporter of university scholarship programmes, having sponsored students in the geological and mining engineering departments at the School of Mines at the Copperbelt University (CBU) and the University of Zambia (UNZA) at a cost of USD 345,000 over a period of eight years. The mining company recently renewed these partnerships, committing the same amount of funding to new scholarship programmes.

Kapila Secondary students in the new computer lab at Kapila Primary

Fostering growth and development

The Chapula Polytechnic is an exciting step towards rolling out the Government’s Eighth National Development Plan (8NDP), and reflects Kagem’s longstanding support of regional and national economic development.

Mining has been Zambia’s economic mainstay for as long as most of us can remember. Thinking about a future where, a few decades from now, mining activity will be on the decline – along with the economic opportunities that it creates – is a somewhat scary prospect. That’s why the foresight and proactivity – and, of course, funding – that it takes to drive projects like the Chapula Polytechnic are more important now than ever.

The community initiatives and programmes that will have the biggest impact are those that support the creation of successful and, crucially, independent communities in and around mining areas.

Kagem’s Head of Human Resources, Dr Wesley Chishimba, expressed: “At Kagem, we are hopeful that by setting up the Chapula Polytechnic, our young people will feel empowered through gaining relevant and useful skills that will enable them to pursue job opportunities of their choice. We see the centre as being instrumental in fostering the growth of the private sector,” he added.

“The future of Zambia is in this generation’s hands,” said Kagem’s Managing Director, Mr CV Suresh, “and this training centre will play a part in upskilling them for prosperity.”

Construction of the Chapula Polytechnic is expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

See also: Powering education in rural Zambia, together