THE call for Zambians working abroad to return home yesterday took a new twist when Foreign Affairs Minister Given Lubinda asked Zambians living in Botswana and other countries abroad not to feel pressured to return home in what appears like a major policy shift.
“Our policy in the PF is not to ask people to come to Zambia even if they have nothing to do on return,” Mr. Lubinda said. “If you are doing well here in Botswana or anywhere else for that matter…our advice is that you stay there, earn money and build a place in Zambia because you can’t live abroad forever.”
Mr Lubinda was responding to Zambia’s envoy to Botswana Robert Mataka who disclosed that up to 6,000 Zambians are working and running their own businesses in Botswana presently.
“We have on our embassy records about 2,000 Zambians working as medical doctors, university lecturers,” Mr. Mataka said. “But we estimate that in total there are up to 6,000 Zambians also engaged in personal businesses that contribute positively to the economy here.”
Mr. Lubinda noted that given the size of the population of Botswana, the 6,000 Zambians living in Botswana actually could make up a small town but the main point is they should invest wisely.
In the past the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) administration’s emphasis was placed on Zambians returning home from abroad albeit no tangible plan was put in place to soak them into the ‘new’ society they had sometimes left behind for more than a decade.
Examples of countries that have benefitted from an ‘intelligent’ diaspora abounds, according to UN studies and other independent studies that state that Ghana and Nigeria and most recently Zimbabwe are among top countries earning top dollars from citizens working abroad.
The Zambian community living in Botswana is expected to have candid discussions with President Sata when they meet him this week to test his government’s policies.
Meanwhile, President Sata this week embarks on a historical state visit of Botswana in a move expected to enhance economic and social partnerships between the two sister countries.
Foreign Affairs Minister Given Lubinda, who is leading an advance party, described the President’s pending two-day state visit as unique and significant in more ways than one during an interview in Gaborone yesterday.
“President Sata has received numerous invitations from the SADC leadership and beyond for state visits but due to his busy domestic schedule he has always turned the visits down,” Mr Lubinda said. “He, however, accepted to take up this first state visit on invitation from His Excellency General Ian Khama.”
Mr Lubinda said one of the most significant historical factors that bind Zambia and Botswana is that “Zambia was the first country to establish bilateral and diplomatic relations with Botswana some 46 years ago in 1966 and relations have been growing since then”.
He said President Sata will hold various meetings with Gen. Khama aimed at enhancing economic relations.
This will include discussions on the construction of a multi-million dollar bridge over the troubled Zambezi River in Kazungula currently being serviced by a problematic ferry that has oftentimes led to loss of lives.
The bridge project is scheduled to be completed next year. The bridge, whose cost of construction approximately stands at about US$260 million, would be funded by the two governments, JICA and the World Bank.
“It’s a long-term project of humongous importance whose benefits cannot be under estimated, hence the reason President Sata has decided to get directly involved in moving it,” Mr. Lubinda said.
Once completed, border transit time will be reduced and it will also put in place improved procedures on trade facilitation plus improved border management operations.
Thousands of Zambian and Botswana jobs are expected to be created through the project plus increased economic activities between the peoples of the two countries.
The President will also commission a multi-million pula educational facility.
[Zambia Daily Mail]