On 18th December 2018, the local community of Chinkuli in Chongwe District turned out in force for the opening of the very first Rural Enterprise Hub by the Hon. Japhen Mwakalombe, Member of Parliament for Chongwe and Minister for the Copperbelt.
The Rural Enterprise Hub will provide a centre for the supply of goods and services to the local community who come to use the cooperative’s adjacent hammer mill, installed as part of the recent Presidential Initiative.
This inaugural solar powered Rural Enterprise Hub is hosted by the Chinkuli cooperative in Chongwe District in conjunction with the Zambia Cooperatives Federation and was initiated by the UK aid-funded Private Enterprise Programme Zambia (PEPZ).
The Chinkuli cooperative itself will be offering internet and printing services through its newly installed information and communication centre, an essential part of the Hub’s operation. It will give the members of this largely off-grid rural community affordable access to online services.
Commercial partners Vitalite and Airtel are also represented at the Chinkuli Hub. Vitalite offers access to affordable household and farming products including its pay-as-you-go home solar systems. Airtel supplies connectivity and mobile money services. It is expected that other commercial providers will also join the pilot programme in the near future.
Cutting the ribbon which marked the official launch of this exciting pilot project was Guest of Honour, Hon Japhen Mwakalombe. The Minister commented, “I applaud PEP Zambia and our partners for this initiative, supporting the Government's 7th National Development Plan and bringing jobs and fighting poverty in rural communities”.
The Rural Enterprise Hub in Chinkuli is the first in a planned pilot project of three such hubs. Having established the model, the plan is to roll out the programme with a variety of partners to establish a nationwide network of commercially self-sustaining Hubs to serve rural communities.
The aim of this pilot is to demonstrate that a rural ‘shopping mall’ for goods and services relevant to people in rural communities across Zambia is commercially viable.
PEPZ team leader, James Blewett, remarked that, “Establishing these Rural Enterprise Hubs will serve as a catalyst for economic development in rural areas. The hubs will bring internet access, communications and money transfer services to rural communities as well as access to farming and household products”.