As His excellency travels yet again, the Zambian foreign policy seems haphazard to say the least. It does not seem to have a clearly defined objective.
The trips seem to be more of ceremonial arrangements than trips to target certain specific objectives.
What we need as a country is to increase the number of countries we do trade with, especially in Africa, and thereby lessening the impact of the Chinese economy on our economy. The fact that China accounts for the majority of our produce is frightening. Because the current economic down turn we are undergoing is as a result of over dependance on a single customer, who now has challenges of her own.
Even as we strive to diversify into agriculture, Africa presents a unique opportunity for trade in agriculture produce. An example, Angola has the second highest cost of living in the world, because of pockets of violence still exists in the outskirts, and also the heavily mined fields, means the conditions are not suitable for farming.This essentially means , Angola is heavily dependent on agricultural imports. Many countries in Africa are in such predicaments as Angola. Burundi, Sierra Leone, DRC, etc Are all examples. All these still import a lot of food.
The Congolese maize saga of two years ago, for instance seemed like a problem because we nearly had a shortage of maize produce because farmers and millers preferred to sell their maize and mealie to DRC because they would pay three times more than Zambians would have at the time, but indeed that was a window of opportunity that we ought to have exploited further. There are numerous markets around Africa for what we are currently producing and for what we hope to produce. So even as His Excellence and Honourable Kalaba , Minister of foreign affairs travel around the world and especially, Africa, trade formalization should be the main agenda item. We need to see focus on this area more and more because currently it does not seem as though that is a key agenda .
By Niza Phiri