PRESIDENT Sata has said Zambia urgently needs a national airline and has invited international airlines to partner with government in setting up a national carrier.
He was speaking when he met the Swiss African Business Circle (SABC), an association of Swiss and African businessmen at Hotel Intercontinental in Geneva yesterday.
The President arrived in Geneva on Thursday night to address a special sitting at the 101st session of the International Labour Conference.
Speaking to the businessmen in the morning, President Sata said there is need for international airlines to partner with the Zambian government.
“We can’t have a country like Zambia without an airline. Bring a trade delegation so that they look at our laws and bring the money,” Mr Sata said.
“Because Africa has changed, Africans no longer come here to hide their money,” he added, in close reference to some African leaders who looted their countries and stashed their money in international banks in Europe.
President Sata said the trade delegation should visit and explore Zambia so that they see the gaps that exist in business potential.
And SABC president Anthony Travis, who was speaking in an interview later, agreed with President Sata that Zambia needs a national airline, stating that in Africa it is not only challenging to travel overseas but it is difficult to fly from one country to another within the same region.
“But we are there to allow individual firms or businessmen to explore the possibility, and we take President Sata’s invitation seriously,” Mr Travis said.
President Sata charmed the meeting as he picked on individual businessmen of African origin, to explain what they do in Switzerland, and at one point engaged a Tanzanian national in Swahili.
The businessmen came from a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, finance, and pharmaceuticals.
“The problem with African businessmen who live in Europe is that they have not invested in their own countries. So when they want to invest in Zambia, the question would be, ‘what have you done in your own country?”
President Sata said the investment climate in Zambia has greatly improved and cited a reduction in inflation, as well as reduced bureaucracy in setting up business.
“Zambia has lots of advantages, because if you make genuine money, no one will object to you exporting your dividends, but you would have created employment. So we want you to reactivate employment. The Africans you see here came because of unemployment. Can they be consultants in Africa when people are not employed?” he asked as the bemused businessmen chuckled.
The President was surprised that Credit Suisse, whom he said were setting base in Zambia, were not part of the meeting.
He also asked his ministers Fackson Shamenda (Information and Labour), Given Lubinda (Foreign Affairs and Tourism), and Emmanuel Chenda (Agriculture) to speak to the businessmen.
Mr Chenda said Zambia is a sleeping giant because its vast land and water resources are still underutilised. Mr Shamenda said Zambians are highly skilled and investors need not worry about who to employ once in the country.
Mr Lubinda added that Zambia has tremendous potential in the service industry and the need for greater investment cannot be overemphasised.
And President Sata paid tribute to Chinese investment, saying the Chinese can invest in any part of the country, including the most difficult areas to live in.
“Some of the concerns raised about Chinese investment are now under control, and we cannot do without their investment because they even invest in rural areas. But we also need your investment because you are endowed with good brains,” the President told the businessmen.
Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia president Joyce Nonde and Zambia Federation of Employers executive director Harrington Chibanda also spoke highly about the investment environment in Zambia, including reduced interest rates as well as reduced labour disputes.
Others in the meeting were Information, Broadcasting and Labour permanent secretary Amos Malupenga, Zambia’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva Encyla Sinjela and Youth and Sport permanent secretary Agness Musunga.
[Zambia Daily Mail]