Transparency of the Regulatory System
Proposed laws and other statutory instruments are often insufficiently vetted with interest groups or are not released in draft form for public comment. Proposed bills are published on the National Assembly of Zambia website (http://www.parliament.gov.zm/ ) for public viewing. Hard copies of the documents are delivered by courier to the stakeholders’ premises/mailboxes.
Opportunities for comment on proposed laws and regulations sometimes exist through trade associations, such as the Zambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Zambia Association of Manufacturers, Zambia Chamber of Mines, and American Chamber of Commerce in Zambia. Stakeholder consultation in developing legislation and regulation has, however, generally been poor under the current administration. The government established the BRRA in 2014 with the mandate to administer the Business Regulatory Act. The Act requires public entities to submit for Cabinet approval a policy or proposed law that regulates business activity, after the policy or proposed law has BRRA approval. A public entity that intends to introduce any policy or law for regulating business activities should give notice, in writing, to the BRRA at least two months prior to submitting it to Cabinet; hold public consultations for at least 30 days with relevant stakeholders, and perform a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). The BRRA works in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice, which does not approve any proposed law to regulate business activity without the approval of BRRA. While this framework is solid on paper, the BRRA and the consultative process is still relatively new and unknown even by other government officials, and it appears that in some cases the BRRA is informed after the Ministry of Justice has already approved a law.
While there are clear public procurement guidelines, concerns persist regarding transparency and a level playing field for U.S. firms. To enhance the transparency, integrity, and efficiency of Zambia’s procurement system the GRZ launched the electronic government procurement (e-GP) in July 2016. In 2018, Cabinet approved legislation to repeal the Public Procurement Act of 2008 in order to introduce price benchmarking and expert estimates in tendering for capital projects and other high value goods and services, but Parliament has not passed the measure as of April 2020.
International Regulatory Considerations
On October 2, 2000, Zambia became a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) market access treaty with the United States, and was again found eligible for continuous benefits under AGOA in March 2019.
Zambia is a member of a number of regional and international groupings aimed at expanding markets for domestically produced goods and services. These include membership in both COMESA and SADC Free Trade Areas (FTAs). Zambia is also an active participant in the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area between COMESA, SADC, and the East African Community (EAC).
In February 2019, Zambia signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA); as of the end of the first quarter of 2020, it still awaits ratification by Zambia’s Parliament. The trade agreement among 54 African Union member states creates a continent-wide single market, followed by the free movement of people and a single-currency union; much work remains to develop implementation protocols and mechanisms across Africa.
At the multilateral level, Zambia has been a WTO member since January 1, 1995. Zambia’s investment incentives program is transparent and has been included in the WTO’s trade policy reviews. The incentive packages are also subject to reviews by the Board of the ZDA and to periodic reviews by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Zambia is a signatory to the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) but still faces major challenges in expediting the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit, which is a major requisite of the TFA. Zambia has benefited from duty-free and quota-free market access to the EU through its Everything but Arms FTA, and to the United States from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and AGOA agreements.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Zambia has a dual legal system that consists of statutory and customary law administered through a single formal court system. Statutory law is derived from the English legal system with some English Acts of Parliament still deemed to be in full force and effect within Zambia. Traditional and customary laws, which remain in a state of flux, are generally not written or codified, although some of them have been unified under Acts of Parliament. No clear definition of customary law has been developed by the courts, and there has not been systematic development of this subject.
Zambia has a written commercial law. The Commercial Court, a division of the High Court, deals with disputes arising out of commercial transactions. All commercial matters are registered in the commercial registry and judges of the Commercial Court are experienced in commercial law. Appeals from the Commercial Court, based on the amended January 2016 constitution, now fall under the recently established Court of Appeals, comprised of eight judges. The Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act, Chapter 76, makes provision for the enforcement in Zambia of judgments given in foreign countries that accord reciprocal treatment. The registration of a foreign judgment is not automatic. Although Zambia is a state party to international human rights and regional instruments, it has a dualist system of jurisprudence that considers international treaty law as a separate system of law from domestic law. Domestication of international instruments by Acts of Parliament is necessary for these to be applicable in the country. Systematic efforts to domesticate international instruments are quite slow, but progressing.
The courts support Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and there has been an increase in the use of arbitration, mediation, and tribunals by litigants in Zambia. Arbitration is common in commercial matters and the proceedings are governed by the Arbitration Act No. 19 of 2000. The Act incorporates United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) and the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Zambian courts have no jurisdiction if parties have agreed to an arbitration clause in their contract. The establishment of the fee-based judicial commercial division in 2014 to adjudicate high-value claims has helped accelerate resolution of such cases.
The courts in Zambia are generally independent, but contractual and property rights enforcement is weak and final court decisions can take a prohibitively long time. At times, politicians have exerted pressure on the judiciary in politically controversial cases. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and adjudication depends on the matter at hand and the principal law or act governing the regulations.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
The major laws affecting foreign investment in Zambia include:
- The Zambia Development Agency Act of 2006, which offers a wide range of incentives in the form of allowances, exemptions, and concessions to companies.
- The Companies Act of 1994, which governs the registration of companies in Zambia.
- The Zambia Revenue Authority’s Customs and Excise Act, Income Tax Act of 1966, and the Value Added Tax of 1995 provide for general incentives to investors in various sectors.
- The Employment Code Act of 2019, Zambia’s basic employment law that provides for required minimum employment contractual terms.
- The Immigration and Deportation Act, Chapter 123, regulates the entry into and residency in Zambia of visitors, expatriates, and immigrants.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
Market competition operates under a relatively weak regulatory framework, although there is freedom of pricing, currency convertibility, freedom of trade, and free use of profits. A fairly strong institutional framework is provided for strategic sectors, such as mining and mining supply industries, and large-scale commercial farming. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is a statutory body established with a unique dual mandate to protect the competition process in the economy and to protect consumers. The mandate of the Commission cuts across all economic sectors. The CCPC regulates the economy to avoid restrictive business practices, abuse of dominant position of market power, anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, and cartels that erode consumer welfare. The Commission is also mandated to enhance consumer welfare. In general terms, therefore, the principal aim of the Commission is to safeguard competition and ensure consumer protection, but it has been described as ineffectual and lacks legislative influence.
In 2016, the CCPC published a series of guidelines and policies that included adopting a formal Leniency Policy, a policy that encourages persons to report to the CCPC information that may help to uncover prohibited agreements. In certain circumstances, the person receives immunity from prosecution, imposition of fines, or the guarantee of a reduction in fines. The policy also calculates administrative penalties. In addition, the CCPC in 2016 published the draft Settlement Guidelines, which provide a formal framework for parties seeking to engage the CCPC for purposes of reaching a settlement.
The Competition and Fair Trading Act, Chapter 417, prevents firms from distorting the competitive process through conduct or agreements designed to exclude actual or potential competitors, and applies to all entities, regardless of whether private, public, or foreign. Although the Commission largely opens investigations when a complaint is filed, it can also open investigations on its own initiative. Zambian competition law can also be enforced by civil lawsuits in court brought by private parties and criminal prosecution by the Commission is possible in cartel cases without the involvement of the Director of Public Prosecution under the Competition and Consumer Protection Act (CCPA) No. 24 of 2010. However, the general perception is the Commission may be restricted in applying the competition law against government agencies and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs), especially those protected by other laws.
Expropriation and Compensation
Zambia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) of the World Bank and other international agreements. This guarantees foreign investment protection in cases of war, strife, disasters, and other disturbances, or in cases of expropriation. Zambia has signed bilateral reciprocal promotional and protection of investment protocols with a number of countries. The ZDA also offers further security for investments in the country through the signing of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (IPPAs).
Investments may only be legally expropriated by an act of Parliament relating to the specific property expropriated. Although the ZDA Act states that compensation must be at a fair market value, the method for determining fair market value is ill-defined. Compensation is convertible at the current exchange rate. The ZDA Act also protects investors from being adversely affected by any subsequent changes to the Investment Act of 1993 for seven years from their initial investment.
Leasehold land, which is granted under 99-year leases, may revert to the government if it is determined to be undeveloped after a certain amount of time, generally five years. Land title is sometimes questioned in court, and land is re-titled to other owners.
There is no pattern of discrimination against U.S. persons by way of an illegal expropriation by the government or authority in the country. There are no high-risk sectors prone to expropriation actions.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Zambia is party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 1958, which entered into force on June 7, 1959, and party to the Convention of the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States of 1965, which entered into force on October 14, 1966. These are enforced through the Investment Disputes Convention Act Chapter 42.
Zambia is a member state of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Convention and a signatory to the United Nations Commission of International Trade Law (UNCITRAL Model Law). In 2002, Zambia ratified the convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (1958 New York Convention).
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Over the past 10 years, previous disputes involved delayed payments from SOEs to U.S. companies for goods and services and the delayed deregistration of a U.S.-owned aircraft that was leased to a Zambian airline company that went bankrupt. Currently, a U.S. company is in dispute over the refusal of payment by its local joint venture partner that resulted from goods delivered to the government of Zambia. The case, however, has not officially reached Zambian courts.
Relatively few investment disputes involving U.S. companies have occurred since Zambia’s economy was liberalized following the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1991. The Zambian Investment Code stipulates that claimants must first file internal dispute claims with the Zambian High Court. Failing that, the parties may go to international arbitration. However, U.S. companies can encounter difficulties in receiving payments from the government for work performed or products and services rendered. This can be due to inefficient government bureaucracy or, more often, to a lack of funds available to the government to meet its obligations.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
The Zambian Arbitration Act Number 19 of 2000 incorporates the UNCITRAL and the New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. The Act applies to both domestic and international arbitration and is based on the UNCITRAL model law. Foreign lawyers cannot be used to represent parties in domestic or international arbitrations taking place in Zambia. There are no facilities that provide online arbitration, although the Zambia Institute of Arbitrators promotes and facilitates arbitration and other forms of ADR. The New York Convention on the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards has been domesticated into Zambian legislation by virtue of Section 31 of the Arbitration Act. Arbitration awards are enforced in the High Court of Zambia, and judgments enforcing or denying enforcement of an award can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Bankruptcy Act, Chapter 82 provides for the administration of bankruptcy of the estates of debtors and makes provision for punishment of offenses committed by debtors. It also provides for reciprocity in bankruptcy proceedings between Zambia and other countries and for matters incidental to and consequential upon the foregoing. This applies to individuals, local, and foreign investors. Bankruptcy judgments are made in local currency but can be paid out in any internationally convertible currency. Under the Bankruptcy Act, a person can be charged as a criminal. A person guilty of an offense declared to be a felony or misdemeanor under the Bankruptcy Act in respect of which no special penalty is imposed by this Act shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
Zambia has made strides in improving its credit information system. Since 2008, the credit bureau, TransUnion, requires banks and some non-banks to provide loans requirement information and consult it when making loans. The credit bureau eventually captures data from other institutions such as utilities. The bureau’s coverage is still less than 10 percent of the population; the quality of information is suspect; and there is lack of clarity on data sources and the inclusion of positive information.