This yesterday President of the UPND Mr. Hakainde Hichilema addressed thousands of government officials and investors from across the globe as he spoke at the Global Investment In Africa Summit in London. Speaking alongside the President of Namibia H.E. Hage Geingob, UK Minister of Foreign Affairs Phillip Hammond and Ministers from the governments of Rwanda and Uganda, speakers at the Summit include President John Dramani Mahama (Ghana), President Peter Muthurika (Malawi), and President Thomas Boni Yayi (Benin).
Addressing the audience on the transformative potential of private equity Mr. Hichilema drew on his experience as a self-made businessman and entrepreneur; as well as his ideas about how governments can make changes to facilitate increased investment in areas that will help them to deliver on ambitious growth and development agendas.
Mr. Hichilema noted that while investor interest and appetite in African countries has continued to grow, many countries have failed to capitalise on this fully. In Zambia, for example, he noted that a heavy focus on the mining sector and continual fiddling with the regulation has not only resulted in damaging government’s relationship with companies, but has also seen other sectors neglected where investors are actively looking for opportunities, such as in tourism, agriculture, retail, finance and telecommunications.
These are sectors, Mr Hichilema stressed, which would have the added benefit of creating jobs and driving economic diversification, which is essential to stability and reducing the vulnerability of the currency to changes in the price of any one commodity. Value-addition industries were another priority area identified by Mr Hichilema.
He noted that when Zambia grows its value-addition industries not only will more jobs be created, but also workers can expect to see the value of their wages rise as prices fall due to reduced reliance on imports. We see value addition primary in agriculture. He stressed that selling raw agriculture produce has not helped the farmers that produce the crops. He also said tourism is an enabler that would create many jobs. He said Zambia’s tourism potential has been haphazardly marketed and as a result the country has not properly benefitted from it.
To increase investment flows Mr Hichilema advocated reductions in red tape and the streamlining of unnecessary bureaucratic processes, which are costly and confusing for both local and international businesses. He also spoke about the importance of governments recognising the full extent and transformative potential of opportunities within its own borders.
When a government can identify these opportunities and communicate them to those with the capital then the need for government to build up heavy debts both at home and abroad will be removed, Mr. Hichilema explained. He cautioned about the need for transparency, however, so that the benefit to each party was clear to see and no party was benefitting through corrupt means.
In summing up Mr. Hichilema said for him and the UPND discussions such as these are essential as economic growth is the only sustainable way of reducing poverty and ensuring that enough jobs are created for every citizen to be able to make a decent living. This, he said, would be done with the private sector as the major driver of economic growth.