Agri All Africa (AaA), a farmer organisation that aims to support the development of commercial agriculture in Africa, has urged South African farmers to look to investing in Zambia because the country had some of the most conducive policies and the right environment to support agriculture.
And Lusaka Province Minister, Mr. Japhen Mwakalombe, has assured the farmers that Zambia’s policies were tailored to support the private sector and that investors’ finances were secure once they started doing business in Zambia.
According to a statement released to the media by Nicky Shabolyo, the press Secretary at the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa, Mr. Mwakalombe was speaking in Pretoria yesterday at a symposium organised by AaA to discuss foreign direct investment in agricultural opportunities in Zambia.
The meeting brought together about 60 agriculture and banking industry specialists from South Africa.
Mr. Mwakalombe pointed out that 80 per cent of Zambia’s land was arable but that not much of it was being utilised. He said the country had abundant water which could be harnessed for agricultural purposes.
The minister said Zambia has proved that it was politically stable having had installed six presidents since independence through peaceful elections.
“This therefore goes to show that your investment in Zambia would be secure. You don’t need to worry about any forms of instability that would distabilise your investment. There is also great potential in the country if you look at the available arable land and the water,” Mr. Mwakalombe said.
He said Government has embarked on various ambitious road and rail construction projects meant to connect the country to its neighbours as well as sea ports in order to make it easy for business to operate. New airports were also being constructed while others were being expanded to position Zambia as a regional hub for commerce.
Mr. Mwakalombe said, as outlined in President Edgar Lungu’s speech during the official opening of Parliament this year, Zambia was focusing on achieving a diversified economy through agriculture as enshrined in the Seventh National Development Plan.
AaA Chief Executive Officer, Dirk Hanekom, said his organisation wanted to work with all governments in countries where their members entered and that they should not be viewed as “colonialists or land grabbers.”
Mr. Hanekom said in the case of Zambia, AaA members will join organisations such as the Zambia National Farmers Union and other interest groups when they start operations in the country.
“There is no way we shall enter Zambia and start our activities without talking to the government. We want to support government in achieving its goal of serving the people,” Mr. Hanekom said.
AaA Board Chairperson, Dr. Theo De Jager noted that agriculture was not just about good soils but required other elements such as good policies, stability as well as good people and that Zambia stood out from among other countries on the continent as one which had these qualities.
He bemoaned the fact that 97 per cent of food traded on the continent was with other continents and not among African countries. He said countries found it easier to trade with Europe and other continents because of the bureaucratic nature of doing things by most African countries.
AaA Chief Financial Officer who is also Agri Zambia Managing Director, Mr. Landon Romano told the audience that Zambia had policies specifically tailored to cater to fresh investments, such as tax exemption, in the initial stages of a business.
Other topics discussed at the symposium included; responsible investments and farming in the Zambian environment, organised farming value and agribusiness propositions, and why one should look at farming prospects outside South Africa.