DIPLOMACY - INTERVIEW WITH ZAMBIAN AMBASSADOR IN FRANCE, H.E HUMPHREY CHIBANDA
Diversify the Economy to promote others sectors
A 5-year term is the time that the re-elected President Mr. Edgar Lungu has to straighten the Zambian Economy. A gamble where expenses must be carefully controlled because while 20121 may seem far away, ultimately people will either be grateful or adamant towards the President.
54 ETATS: Due to its history and language, the Zambian Diaspora in France is underrepresented, so naturally what are the diplomatic, political and economic relations that Zambia has with France?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: As for economic relations, France is an important commercial partner for Zambia. As you are aware, France provides support to Zambia through multilateral arrangements such the United Nations and the European Union.
Bilaterally, Zambia is a beneficiary of France’s specialized agencies such AgenceFrancaise de Developpement (AFD) and Proparco.
Furthermore, you may wish to know that Thirty-two (32) French companies have invested in Zambia in the sectors such as manufacturing, transport, tourism, agriculture and services. Some notable investors being: The Lafarge Group, Total, Africa Logistics (Bollore), Pamalat (Groupe Lactalis), AGCO Massey Ferguson, Comelex (Alstom subsidiary), Alstom, Veolia, Limagrain (has a stake in SeedCo), Schneider Electric, Newrest, Thales, among others.
In terms of trade, France has been an important trading partner of Zambia. A steady increase in non- traditional exports from Zambia to France has been recorded. Trade has gradually improved from US$ 17 million in 2009 to US$ 56.9 million in 2015.
54 ETATS: The Zambian President Mr. Edgar Lungu was received at Elysee in February by François Hollande, What are the conclusions of this first official visit that had not occurred between a French President and a Zambian President since 1983?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: You are right this was the first time the Zambian Head of State was invited on an official visit to France in more than 23 years. This was a very special and important visit between the two countries in terms of cementing the political and economic relations between the two countries.
Arising from this visit, it was concluded between the two countries that we will cooperate in the areas of aviation, culture, education, tourism and broadcasting. You may wish to know that during this visit, six (6) agreements were signed bordering on the aforementioned areas of cooperation.
54 ETATS: Economic issues. The Zambian President committed himself to controlling the budgetary expenditure by 2021, a promise which he made to his people and partner the international monetary fund. For the moment the Zambian growth remains very weak and Zambia is in crisis. In your opinion Your Excellency, how will this budgetary restraint be structured?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: As you have rightly pointed out, Zambia’s economy has been hard hit by low commodity prices coupled with the change in climatic conditions that lead to the country experiencing drought and as such, reducing the levels of water in our main dam where we generate electric power causing power deficits.
Government is currently putting in place an economic recovery and stabilization programme which will be a basis of engaging the IMF. You may wish to note that Government has made it clear that this will be a Zambian owned programme that will focus on firstly, a gradual removal of government subsidies; then there will be an increase in allocation to social safety nets to prevent the removal of subsidies impacting the most vulnerable in society. The Government will also put in place very strict use of public resources and cut down on unnecessary expenditure that are recurrent in nature.The 2017 National Budget will be the first annual plan under the economic stabilisation and recovery programme being developed by the government.
54 ETATS: Tourism is one of the most profitable sectors in your country. How much government revenue share does this domain represent?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: The profile of visitors to Zambia is both leisure and business. In comparison, the number of tourists is more than investors for the simple reason that the two types of visitors have different needs and they also have different travel patterns. For example, many tourists like the Chinese travel in groups while investors or “business travelers” usually travel either alone or in smaller groups when seeking opportunities. They may travel in numbers in circumstances where the government, development co-operation agencies or business associations arrange business delegations or trade missions to the country.
Regarding tourists; the source markets for Zambia are South Africa, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands, USA and now China. Africa and Europe top the list of tourist source markets for Zambia.
On the importance of the tourism sector to the economic development of the country, the government has identified and prioritised the tourism industry as one of the areas that would contribute to the economic development of the country because of the sector’s various forward and backward linkages to different sectors of the economy.
In fact, under Zambia’s revised Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP) the focus has been placed on tourism as one of the priority areas for employment creation, revenue generation and investment.
Thedirect contribution of travel & tourism to total GDP stood at3% in 2015. The sector is forecast to grown at an annual growth rate of 8.2% per annum from 2016-2026 by 2026.
Therefore the tourism industry remains one sector that would contribute to economic growth, employment creation and poverty reduction.
54 ETATS: Presently Zambia solely depends oncopper productionand since 2011 copper has lost more than a third of its value, Therefore what does Zambia envision in order to diversify its economy?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: It is indeed true that Zambia has been a mono economy for a long time and this is one of the reasons each time there is a drop in the prices of copper, the economy is adversely affected in a negative way. It is in that connection that Government is now diversifying the economy to promote other sectors such as agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and energy.
Infact, next year, we will be launching our seventh national development plan that will be anchored on agriculture. Zambia has huge portions of land with a relatively good climate and water resources, we feel that promoting the agriculture sector in Zambia will bring about a green revolution in the country.
54 ETATS: The falling copper prices led to the depreciation of Kwacha, Zambia's currency. Compared to Franc Zone countries whose currency is pegged to the Euro and the fixed rate, what are the advantages and disadvantages of possessing one’s own currency?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: Indeed, using own currency come with some challenges. But I will dwell on the merits of using own’s currency. I think the reason is simple, it’s all because of monetary sovereignty. I think any country would want to have powers to exercise exclusive legal control over its currency. Even in times where central banks are used as lenders of last resort, I think it would be very difficult to lend the commercial banks in an event that you have a dollarized economy.
54 ETATS: The other concern in Zambia is the terrible drought which disrupts hydroelectric generation. This results to power outages causing significant activities downturn in the country. In the development of renewable energy,which are the direct economic actors both public and private able to support you?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: As I indicated earlier on, the drought affected the water levels of our major dam where power is generated from. The power deficit at one point exceeded 600 MW. This was really a strain not only to commercial users but also industrial users.However, Government has been working with the World Bank through the scaling solar programme in promoting renewable energy sources. So far, we have launched a total of 100 MW solar power facility. In addition, Government is working with the Germany Government under the Get Fit Programme that also aims at promoting solar energy.
54 ETATS: Defense and Security. Zambia shares its borders with several countries i.e. Namibia, Angola, Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. What is your relation quality and trade nature?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: Zambia relates very well with all its neighbors. Under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) configuration, Zambia is able to resolve political issues among the SADC Member States and also Zambia is able to trade with each one of them effectively. You may wish to know that Zambia’s main trading partners are in SADC vis-à-vis: South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
54 ETATS: François Hollande commended the participation of Zambian forces to the United Nations operations in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo contributing to the restoration of peace. What would you say about this subject?
Amb. Humphrey Chibanda: As I have noted above, Zambia is one of the very few countries in Africa that has been a haven of peace since its independence in 1964. Thus, Zambia cherishes peace and also recognizes that without peace it’s impossible to make meaningful social and economic strides in the life of a nation. This explains the reason Zambia was actively involved in the liberation struggles of its neighbours like Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa and also has taken part in United Nations Peacekeeping Missions in a number of countries including the Central African Republic.