The Zambia-South Africa Business Council (ZSABC) has been launched in Johannesburg, South Africa. Formed under the auspices of the Zambian High Commission in South Africa, the body aims to promote investment and trade between the two countries and to advocate quick resolution of disputes and barriers.
This is according to a press statement released to media yesterday by the Press Secretary at the High Commission of Zambia Nicky Shabolyo.
And officiating at the launch, Zambia’s Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Mrs. Margaret Mwanakatwe, and South Africa’s Minister of Small Business Development Ms. Lindiwe Zulu agreed that it was time for Zambia and South Africa to scale up their relations from political to business cooperation if the economic status of the people of the two countries was to improve.
The event which attracted an impressive crowd from those who have already invested in Zambia, potential investors and various interest groups from both Zambia and South Africa was described by many as a befitting signal to herald the start of increased economic cooperation between the two countries.
It was also attended by Zambia’s High Commissioner – Designate to South Africa, His Excellency Mr. Emmanuel Mwamba, Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry vice-president, Dr. Chabuka Kawesha and representatives from the South Africa Chambers of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).
Others were African National Congress (ANC) struggle Stalwart Ms. Sophia Williams de Bruyn, Massmart Chairman Mr. Kuseni Dlamini and technocrats from the South African Department of Trade and Industry.
ZACCI and SACCI also signed a memorandum of understanding at the launch aimed at establishing closer and stronger ties in commerce and industry between the two nations.
Mrs. Mwanakatwe pointed out that Zambia and South Africa have had long political relations which began during the liberation struggle and that this should now move toward economic cooperation. She said 74 percent of the trade that took place in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was South African and that four percent was a combination of Zambia’s and Zimbabwe’s.
“This is a sad situation. But in that sadness, there is hope. I cannot pick up Zambian products when I walk into Shoprite in Zambia today. That is sad. But in that lies opportunities. We should look at the glass as half full and not half empty. South Africa is ahead, please help us improve our relevant sectors so that our trade levels can improve,” Mrs. Mwanakatwe said.
She hoped Zambian products would be available in Builders Warehouse, a South African renowned outlet under Massmart, which would be opened in Lusaka in November this year.
Mrs. Mwanakatwe said Africa should realise that it was attracting world attention economically and that countries on the continent should strive to do business among themselves in order to empower their people.
“I was at the India-Africa Summit two weeks ago and I realised that India is positioning herself just like the other parts of the world have done on Africa. There is no return on your money in Europe but you are assured of a return on your money in Africa. Africa is probably the last frontier,” Mrs. Mwanakatwe said.
She commended His Excellency Mwamba for taking up the lead to form the business council.
And Ms. Zulu said Zambia and South Africa have been proponents of regional enterprise development pointing out that it was important to highlight the importance of small enterprises as they were the backbone of economies.
“What we start today should be followed through so that we can achieve bigger things. It should not die a few months down the line. Let us all work on this from the basis of our historical ties. We should be aiming to move things forward and for me the next level should be about economic empowerment of our people,” Ms. Zulu said.
“Let us go into this wholeheartedly. That is not to say there will be no differences, but let us maximise the benefits in the areas in which we will be agreed,” she added.
She agreed with Mrs. Mwanakatwe pointing out that it was clear that there was need for Zambia and South Africa, and the rest of the continent to forge links in order to end poverty through the use of the political power embodied in the leaders.
And in his presentation titled “Zambia a rich country”, Mr. Mwamba said Zambia still had untapped potential in agriculture, tourism, energy, and other sectors and that this was the reason government has embarked on a vigorous diversification programme to move away from mining.
Mr. Mwamba pointed out that potential investors should not look at the 15 million people as the only market if they had to invest in Zambia but should consider the country’s central location which was an ideal position from which to service the region.
“We have well developed road linkages and we have continued developing new regional and national roads so that we truly realise our position as a land linked and not land locked country. So when you are in Zambia, you are in fact investing in the region,” Mr. Mwamba said.
He noted that business was sensitive to politics and that Zambia’s political stability was just the right ingredient for investment.
Mr. Mwamba and other speakers bemoaned the education curricular which they said did not equip graduates with skills that could enable them survive without seeking employment from government or other entities or individuals.
Meanwhile, speaking on a panel discussion, Father Peter Chungu, Parish Priest in-charge at the Catholic Diocese of Port Elizabeth in South Africa castigated some sections of society for claiming that the day of national prayer proclaimed by President Edgar Lungu was meant to pray for the strengthening of the Kwacha.
Father Chungu told the audience that this was misrepresentation because Zambia, just as the national constitution declares, was a Christian nation. He said the prayers were directed at the social, economic, political and moral degeneration that had occurred in the country so that God could give the nation wisdom to face those challenges.
Other speakers were energy expert Mr. Johnstone Chikwanda who spoke on the potential in the energy sector, among others, Mr. Peter Mwanza from the United Nations Development Programme in South Africa and a Dr. Musonda from the University of Johannesburg.
ZSABC chairman, Mr. Charles Kalima said objectives central to the council were to promote investment in both countries and to share information on business opportunities and potential investors from the two countries. He said ZSABC was open to all categories of business from the two countries.
Massmart chairman, Mr, Dlamini said his business has been in Zambia for 16 years and was determined to grow as it had found the country conducive. He said with the combined over 250 employees in its outlets in Zambia Massmart will be adding another 156 employees when it opens Builders Warehouse in the next few weeks.
“Zambia is ready for business and if anyone doubts that, they will miss the bus. We are committed to ensuring that we support the local producers through our outlets such as Game Stores and even those we shall establish in the future,” Mr. Dlamini said.