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Building new green jobs in Zambia

Zambia Green Jobs
Winnie Kakunta of the ILO leads a green jobs training session. Image credit: ILO Zambia

Zambia’s brown economy was booming, but ordinary people were being left behind. Now a new approach is helping bring jobs, wealth and power to Zambians – all through inclusive green growth

Since its independence in 1964, Zambia’s stability and huge reserves of copper ore have attracted massive investment, making the economy one of the fastest growing in Africa. But this growth has done little to improve the lives of ordinary Zambians. Two-thirds are still mired in poverty, and per capita incomes are lower today than at independence. Inequality and unemployment are rife, especially among women and youth. And many of the growth industries – such as mining and construction – are taking a heavy toll on the environment.

The brown economy isn’t working

Faced with such challenges, in 2013 the Zambian government launched an ambitious new programme that seeks to address all the issues simultaneously: the Zambian Green Jobs Programme. Developed by a team of UN agencies led by the International Labour Organisation, the scheme is designed to help green the construction industry while creating new jobs for ordinary Zambians – thereby driving fair, inclusive economic growth for all.

Emmery Matongo, a mother of seven from the village of Kalulushi, is just one of almost 5000 Zambians who have found new green jobs under the scheme. “We had on the job training – we learnt how to build houses by actually building them,” she explains. “Working together, we built 18 houses in less than five months.” The houses are all built using sustainable materials and techniques, helping to address Zambia’s serious housing shortage without destroying the environment in the process.

Work, energy, power

But the new houses still lacked one essential thing: power. With Kalulushi situated far from the electrical grid, the villagers had to either spend hours in the dark or use dangerous, dirty alternatives such as kerosene. “You may not appreciate the power of light until you are in darkness,” says Tapera Muzira of the ILO. “For poor urban and rural households, having access to light is life changing – enabling children to study, helping enterprises to operate, and combating crime."

That’s why the Green Jobs programme is also helping to train Emmery and thousands like her in solar panel assembly and installation. The new panels have not only transformed the lives of the villagers, but also opened new job opportunities for women and young people. “Solar power is better than regular electricity,” Emmery says. “When everyone else in the country has power cuts, we still have electricity. And solar power is the best – it’s good for the environment, and it’s cheaper.”

Health and wealth

The programme is also helping to transform the wider industry. It includes new regulations to promote sustainable building materials, products and methods, and encourages employers to improve access to occupational safety and health services for workers. Following the successes seen in construction, the Ministry of Finance is considering whether other sectors - including energy, waste management, agriculture and tourism – could benefit from the green jobs approach.

Creating good new jobs for those who need them most, mainstreaming sustainability throughout the sector, diversifying the economy away from copper mining, and tackling energy poverty: the Zambian Green Jobs scheme shows that inclusive green growth can have a major impact.

Impact

  • People

    +5000 new jobs, new homes, access to energy

  • Planet

    Greening the construction sector for lower emissions

  • Prosperity

    Inclusive growth, tackling poverty, diversifying economy

Find out more: 
  • The ILO have an excellent web portal on the scheme.
  • This in-depth guide to the Green Jobs programme has the details of implementation.
  • The Zambia Green Jobs Programme website has more details and updates.
  • And the scheme has been widely reported on in the Zambian media.
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