PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has urged fellow Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) to double their efforts towards improving their trade competitiveness for them to fully integrate into the global trade circles.
Mr Lungu said there was need for LLDCs to redefine their development paths as espoused in the the Vienna Programme of Action (VPoA) adopted last year in November at a summit held in Vienna, Austria.
He said it was regrettable that a larger part of LLDCs group had remained excluded from both regional and global trade.
Mr Lungu was speaking in Livingstone at Chrismar Hotel when he officially opened the United Nations (UN) Conference on LLDCs.
Senior government officials, United Nations representatives and the private sector from across the globe are attending the conference to discuss concrete measures to effectively implement an ambitious action-plan that aims to put the world’s 32 LLDCs on the path to sustainable economic development.
The three-day meeting is a follow-up to the Second United Nations Conference on LLDCs that was held in November 2014 in Vienna, Austria, where UN Member States adopted the Vienna Programme of Action seen as a development blueprint for the LLDCs for the next decade.
“More than 20 per cent of the 450 million people in LLDCs live below the poverty datum line and their lives are characterised by hunger, malnutrition and disease, among others.
“We can never change our geographical position of being landlocked, however, our unwavering tenacity to confront the inherit challenges we face to propel us into a trajectory of accelerated sustainable development necessary for the transformation of the lives of our people,” Mr Lungu said.
Mr Lungu said a larger part of LLDCs group’s share of the global trade at the end of 2013 stood at paltry 1.2 per cent.
He said the group had a further challenge of diminished industrial production and value addition.
Mr Lungu said Zambia values the partnership with all stakeholders who were collaborating with landlocked countries.
He said the country, in partnership with landlocked and transit country neighbours in the region and with the support from development partners, had established transit corridors to boost trade.
The corridors include the Nakala Corridor linking Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique to the Indian Ocean as well as the Beira road Corridor linking Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique to the Indian Ocean.
Mr Lungu said competitive trade demanded adding more value to commodities and it was the reason that Zambia, as a country and collectively through Southern African Development Community (SADC) had emarked on an industrialisation strategy to ensure adequate value addition to create quality jobs.
He underscored the need for the UN Office for South-South Cooperation to fulfil its pledge and commitment to establish facility centres in a number of LLDCs for purposes of technology transfer.
Transport, Works, Supply and Communication Minister Yamfwa Mukanga said the opening of the conference by President Lungu signified the importance Zambia attached in addressing challenges affecting LLDCs.
Mr Mukanga, who is the chairperson of the LLDC Ministerial group, said the conference was a platform for sharing best practices as well as experiences and initiatives and come up with concrete actions in implementing and monitoring the VPoA.
“In the past 10 years, LLDCs gave made gains in developing transit transport infrastructure and in enhancing trade facilitation.
“We, as a group of LLDCs, have improved our share of the world trade over the past decades,” Mr Mukanga said.
UN Under-Secretary General for LLDC Gyan Chandra Acharya commended the Government of Zambia for hosting the meeting and the warm hospitality accorded to delegates.
Mr Acharya said the presence of President Lungu during the conference was an honour as it demonstrated Zambia’s strong commitment as chair of the group of LLDC to the VPoA and its effective implementation.
“I commend Zambia’s infrastructure development and trade initiatives, trade promotion initiatives and other sustainable development initiatives,” he said.
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Secretary General Mukhisa Kituyi said the challenges facing LLDCs were not insurmountable.
Mr Kituyi said concerted efforts of LLDCs, like the successful story of Botswana, could lead to sustainable results.
“I think the challenge of this conference is how to find substance that these challenges facing LLDCs are not insurmountable.
I hope that after this session, most of the remainder of this conference will be addressing questions like what are the actual policy and strategic decisions necessary to bring life into the promise of VPoA,” he said.
Others who spoke during the official opening session were co-chair of the group of Friends of LLDC Per Thoresson, World Trade Organisation (WTO) director of development division Shishir Priyarshi, International Trade Centre (ITC) deputy executive director Dorothy Tembo, director of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) regional service centre in Africa Lebogang Mmotlana and Florisvaldo Fier who is High representative general of South African’s leading trading block , MERCOSUR.