I OWE my thoughts in this article to some conversations I have had with a number of persons about the future of Zambia and that of Africa as a whole.
I also owe my thoughts to some events I have had the privilege to attend in different parts of the continent and elsewhere.

And speaking about events, let me quickly mention that the corporate event management talk is on tomorrow from 08:30 to 13:00hours at Zamcom Lodge on Church Road. This will be a professional networking and information sharing event on how to successfully host corporate events and how to run event management as a business.

A number of experts in the field from Image Promotion, TLC Events, Kadiva Event Management, KashOne Communications and Kenmark Communications, will give insight on a number of topics including: Event Management as a profession; business opportunities and the event management process; managing brands and, funding for your event management business.

I'm told only limited seating is available. So anyone interested in last minute booking should get in touch with organisers on the details listed at the end of this article.

Back to our discussion; about a month ago, I sat on a plane from Johannesburg next to someone who has since become my professional acquaintance.

Coming out of New York where she has been practicing corporate law, this aggressive and prolific young lawyer narrated to me how she, along with other like-minded colleagues, have teamed up to form a law group that is now representing the interests of western investors into Africa.

As part of this African business drive, she and her friends have ventured into a project they are calling: Re-branding Africa. Under the initiative, this group of young entrepreneurs is retelling the African story to raise more interest from mainly American investors to come and take up available opportunities in different African countries.

Through pushing the re-branding Africa effort, she and her legal colleagues have found themselves a niche market to discuss contracts with African governments on behalf of western investors bringing foreign direct investment into different sectors of the continent.

I got so interested in her story that I offered to help her network with some of the best legal minds in Zambia, a promise which I fulfilled. I also made sure her story made news headlines.

Out of our conversation, I realised there is so much interest in Africa today not only from the American investors, but much more from Asian and European businesses. I figured this was happening partly because the image of Africa in the eyes of the West has totally transformed.

Poverty and under-development notwithstanding, Africa is now being perceived as the ultimate market for expansion and acquisitions.

It also dawned on me that it's not just investors who are coming to look for opportunities in Zambia or even Africa; it's everyone, including acclaimed recording artistes. It looks like Africa is the future. A good African image is beginning to pay off. I hope the same is true about Zambia.

The realisation that everybody wants to get into Africa became even clearer two weeks ago when I got inquiries from a US-based promoter that music icons Jay Z, Mary J. Blige, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder would like to come and perform in Zambia.

My first reaction was to question their proposed budget for performance fees. I thought to myself, no single company has this kind of money in Zambia to single-handedly sponsor these prospecting sensational singers.

But then again I reminded myself of an event I attended last year in Kampala, Uganda, where R. Kelly was performing.

One thing that caught my attention was the fact that companies that teamed up to sponsor the R. Kelly concert, literally took over the media. Television billboards, outdoor signage, radio and newspaper adverts were all about R. Kelly.

Editorial coverage of the event alone raised the profiles of lead sponsors so high that they got more news coverage than any company in a year plagued with recession.

The mood in Kampala was electric. R. Kelly was a rare phenomenon. I was later told people flew in from Kenya and Tanzania, and others travelled by road just to be part of that historic concert.

Because of cost implications, rarely do you see American artists making major in-roads into Africa, apart from Nigeria and South Africa where companies have massive brand building budgets.

Reflecting on the list of these artists intending to come to Zambia, it dawned on me that we have never hosted any such high-profiled performers in the last 45 years of Zambia's independence.

Zambia's inability to host such big musical names has constantly robbed local brands exceptional brand building opportunities.

It's too good to be true that Jay Z, Mary J Blige, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder would each express interest to stage a performance in Zambia. I wonder if Zambia should let such an opportunity slip by.

What a better time to bring one of these music stars to come and light up Zambia's 46th independence celebrations, I thought to myself.

Looking at the number of companies in Zambia today, I convinced myself such an event could be possible to host. If we can just get two or three mining companies, one or two telecoms companies, two or three banks, one or two hotels, media houses, bingo! Zambia would have the best 46th independence celebration ever.

Zambian firms can for once come together and do something for Zambians, for the independence of the nation, for the customers and stakeholders. I think even the government would only be too happy to throw in an independence state banquet where one of these music icons could perform.

This is a challenge to chief executive officers, the institute of directors, all big-profit making companies in Zambia, and it's a challenge to the media houses.

The kind of frenzy, excitement, brand building and publicity opportunities tied to this would be priceless and unforgettable.

After these reflections, I promised to tell the nation about this opportunity.

I realised it might look impossible, only in my eyes. The national bonding effects of such an event are so strong that it does not matter whether one is from the right or left, rich or poor, tall or short, Christian or not, we could all stand as one. After all, it's our national independence concert.

I would like to end by calling on mining companies, telecom companies, manufacturing companies, hospitality companies, banking institutions, media houses, beverage companies and other firms operating in different sectors of the Zambian economy, let's get together, let's team up and let's celebrate Zambia's independent image.

Our nation cannot be so economically endowed as to fail to sponsor a once-in-a-lifetime event such as this one. Let's do it for Zambia, let's do it for the loyal customers, let's do it for our independence.

What might have appeared beyond budget could be reduced to nothing just by a few firms coming together for the good of their brand, their customers and the nation.

Those companies wishing to be a part of this historical and brand building event should get in touch with Michelle Matale on 0977596582 or 0978980657 or send an email on the details below! Lastly, don't forget to book yourself a seat for tomorrow's corporate event management talk by calling any of the numbers above.