Zambia signs deal with Mwale after Jeff Bezos-backed company discovers large copper deposits

The Industrial Development Corporation of Zambia (IDC) has completed a wide-ranging deal with US-based Kenyan investor and founder of Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC) Julius Mwale in Lusaka, Zambia.

IDC, chaired by President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, signed the agreement after seven months of negotiations between the consortium led by the tycoon and the government of Zambia.

Mwale led a delegation to State House in Zambia in October last year at the invitation of President Hichilema, after the Zambian government delegation visited Mwale Medical and Technology City (MMTC) in Butere, Kenya in September 2023 for benchmarking purposes.

President Hichilema then introduced the consortium to IDC, where a deal was struck for smart cities, mining, infrastructure and agriculture, to help IDC fulfill its mandate to develop Zambia’s domestic industrial capacity and create jobs.

The deal comes after US company KoBold Metals discovered large copper deposits at its Mingomba copper project in Zambia, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. KoBold metals, backed by billionaires including Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, discovered one of the world’s largest high-grade copper mines early this year. It said it had raised $150 million for the exploration process in Zambia.

The discovery of the massive copper deposit could help in the global race to secure supplies of minerals crucial to the energy transition. Copper is in high demand due to its use in renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Zambia and the DRC have sufficient mineral resources that are crucial for the production of batteries for domestic power consumption and electric vehicles. Mwale’s foray into Zambia positions him as a key player in the industry as MMTC expands to develop 18 smart cities in 12 countries in Africa by 2050. The cities will be powered by batteries like MMTC in Kenya.

“We will start immediately in July and work to fulfill the agreement,” said Norbert Mugeni, chemical engineer and assistant project manager at MMTC’s energy division.

He said mining takes place in nickel, cobalt and copper. “We want to use cobalt and nickel to build battery factories for electric vehicles in the Kasempa region of Zambia.” He said he was using the abbreviation for Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries.”

Jack Chadukwa, the CEO of Afritechnics in Zambia, another consortium member, said the aim is to create industries in Zambia that will add value and create thousands of jobs.

“We are happy to be part of Mwale’s consortium so that we can replicate what we have seen here in Zambia at MMTC in Kenya,” he said.

He said they will build smart cities and roads and harness mineral resources for new factories that will employ thousands of Zambians. The consortium will also invest in healthcare and agriculture. He said the consortium has so far secured $2.4 billion for the Zambia projects.

MMTC in Kenya is a $2 billion sustainable city founded by Mwale and built around the Hamptons Hospital that treats thousands of Kenyans and medical tourists. Local Kenyans with NHIF are treated without paying a co-payment. The city has five districts and has received visits from many African leaders and businessmen for benchmarking purposes.

Mwale received a Social Infrastructure Award from the Africa Prosperity Network in Ghana in January, presented by President Nana Akuffo-Addo for his work on MMTC.

Zambia is Africa’s second largest copper producer after the DRC. The country also has large nickel deposits near its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, attracting global investors with deep pockets.

The electric battery market is estimated to be worth about $43 trillion between last year and 2050, according to industry estimates. MMTC previously said they are building 18 smart cities in Africa by 2050 and want to use the batteries to power their smart cities.