Visiting United States (US) Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has left Zambia after winding up her schedule in the country where she also addressed the 10th Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum which officially closed yesterday.
The plane carrying Mrs. Clinton took off at the Lusaka International Airport at 14-30 hours local time. She has gone to Tanzania on other official duties.
ZANIS reports that the former first Lady was seen off at the airport by Foreign Affairs Minister Kabinga Pande, Tourism and Natural Resources Minister Catherine Namugala, US Ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella and senior government officials from the two governments.
Later in the evening, Mrs. Clinton who arrived yesterday (Friday), in the country private talks with President Rupiah Banda at State House where a dinner was also hosted in her honour.
Today, the US Secretary of State graced the official launch of the Zambia-American Chamber of Commerce at Intercontinental Hotel.
Mrs Clinton also handed over a state of art Pediatric Centre of Excellence at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) to President Banda who received the facility on behalf of the Zambian Government.
Shortly after the handover ceremony, she held private talks with two major opposition political party leaders; Michael Sata and Hakainde Hichilema of the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) respectively on this year’s elections.
While in Zambia, the United States (US) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has bemoaned the low level of economic cooperation, integration and trade among African countries saying this was an obstacle to sustainable growth on the continent.
Mrs Clinton noted that the benefits of economic integration were well known which included reducing food insecurity by allowing agricultural goods to move efficiently to the places where they are needed and landlocked countries have access to ports and habours.
ZANIS reports that officially closing the 10th Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday, She added that other benefits of economic integration was that African companies were allowed to tap into a very promising new market.
Addressing more than 3 000 delegates from US and 37 eligible African countries, the US Secretary of State said there was less trade within the Sub Saharan Africa than within any other region of the World and attributed this to partly improving Africa’s infrastructure stressing that the limiting factor was not roads but people.
‘’It is partly a matter of improving Africa’s infrastructure. But the most important limiting factor isn’t roads. It’s people.’’She said.
[pullquote]‘’It is partly a matter of improving Africa’s infrastructure. But the most important limiting factor isn’t roads. It’s people.’’She said.[/pullquote]
Mrs Clinton who is also former First Lady cited a number of problems to economic integration noting that trade officials wanted to protect their home-grown industries with Government leaders of smaller countries concerned about larger ones gaining too much influence among others.
She further stated that while these problems were not unique to Africa, they had a powerful and lasting impact and emphasised that it was up to leaders in the Sub Saharan region to decide whether they wanted economic integration.
‘’They will have to take on entrenched interests and respond to concerns about new competition, while making clear to their constituents how they will benefit from expanded regional trade,’’She said.
Host, Commerce Trade and Industry Minister Felix Mutati was present.
In another development, the US Secretary of State hailed women for their significant contribution towards African economies and the rest of the world.
Mrs Clinton noted that evidence showed that small and medium-sized enterprises run by women were major drivers of economic growth adding that when a woman prospered she reinvested her earnings in her family and that the positive effects rippled throughout the entire community.
She further said there was need to help more women connect to the global economy adding that no country could survive when half of its people are left behind.
However, Mrs Clinton observed that cultural traditions continued to make it difficult for a woman to start a business as they discouraged her from handling money or managing employees.
The AGOA Forum was held under the theme: ‘’Enhanced Trade Through Increased Competitiveness, Value Addition and Deeper Regional Integration.’’