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Alba Iulia
Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Appointing Ambassadors is good, but figures show that they don’t Perform

Headlines Appointing Ambassadors is good, but figures show that they don’t Perform

-President Edgar Lungu congratulates newly appointed Ambassador of the Republic of Zambia to Germany Anthony Mukwita during the swearing in ceremony at State House

They must be held accountable

It is always nice to announce names of the luck and privileged few Zambians who finally make it as Ambassadors to represent this poor country that desperately needs foreign direct investment and international and regional trade to boost its economy, create jobs and reduce poverty. The problem for Zambia is that there appears to be a negative relationship between appointment of Ambassadors and return on such investment. The normal logic is that when they are appointed, Ambassadors would boost the country’s image to at least promote investment and trade. But for a long time, we have had Ambassadors sent to Embassies abroad, some even showing off that they will promote trade but there is always no indicator of achievement with which we can judge their performance. When they are being sworn-in, they all look very flamboyant with new suits and dresses and always wearing big smiles in front of the camera and perhaps that is the first and last that Zambians see or hear from them.

After they have left the country, it remains between they and the appointing authorities to see how they are performing and that is never open to the Zambians to know or see. I am talking about transparency and accountability. I am remining ourselves that public funds that are spent on so many Ambassadors and their officers, many of the them (the latter) whom we don’t know how they are selected and sent abroad must be accounted for. How nice it would be to see the appointing authorities parade these Ambassadors the same way they do when swearing them in to this time around ask them after two years how they are promoting investment and trade. I think the people of Zambia need to see these Ambassadors again, this time, to rigorously ask them to explain what actions they are undertaking in Embassies to ensure they take investment and trade to a different level.

Trade Performance of top Zambian Embassies shows disappointing figures

Yes, to a different level because look at the current trade performance of the key Embassies where Zambia is present. First, does it make sense to anyone that a country that is dependent on exports of minerals like copper must be obtaining from markets abroad only a total of $ 5.8 billion or even $9.3 billion in both 2016 and 2012 as Table 1 shows? I would expect much more. Secondly, we can understand how each Embassy performs in terms of trade promotion by examining what goes to the country where it is, at least in terms of statistics. And Table 1 below shows us that there is something wrong going on in Embassies where Zambia exports goods. The export figures are in million dollars. For example, Zambia’s exports to Belgium in 2012 were only $ 118 million, to Germany only $28million, to India only $185 million and South Africa only 651million? We need an explanation why Zambia is exporting only $37 million to the United State and UK only $192million in 2012. Look at exports in 2015. Some have since gone up and others down. But even the ones that have gone up, the figures are simply too low. The Embassies that are making sense are only Switzerland and China although we know again that since it is copper largely going to these two countries, there is almost no effort from the Embassies in terms of promoting trade. But can they not promote trade in other sectors or products?

Rigorousness must start with the swearing-in ceremony itself where performance benchmarks must be set while Zambians are listening and could even contribute. That means we ourselves as appointing authorities first understanding the trade dynamics of Zambia in those countries. We have the national statistics office that can provide figures which can be used to provide planning and setting targets to Ambassadors.

  1. What has been happening in the Embassy in Washington?
  2. Why is trade so low given Zambia being a beneficiary of the almost free market access to the US such as AGOA?
  3. Why does Zambia like other African countries ask the US to continue providing AGOA which it doesn’t utilize?
  4. What specific goals were given to Ambassador Simbyakula to promote trade and investment in the US to do better than his predecessors?
  5. Was he even the right qualified person or we needed to send a businessman who can hit the ground running?
  6. Germany, another big country has someone whose credentials we are not sure will enable him to hit the ground running. Why did Ambassador Chiti allow exports to remain so low in a country with potential?
  7. Is the Ambassador in South Africa bringing trade and investment?
    Zambia’s exports to South Africa fell from $651 million to half in 2015. What happened and what steps are being taken by the Ambassador and business community in Zambia to go back to the 2012 level?
  8. The official website of the Zambian High Commission in London looks beautiful. But, what work program does Ambassador Chikonde in London must promote trade and investment from the former colonial power where we should be doing much better?
  9. Will he do better than his predecessors who have disappointed the Zambian people in trade promotion?

Table 1: Zambia’s Exports of Goods to these countries in $millions

2012 2015 2016
World 9,365 6,983 5,801
Belgium 118 84 6
China 2,307 1,443 1,039
Germany 28 22 30
India 185 218 56
South Africa 651 378 371
Switzerland 2,037 1,582 2,291
United Kingdom 192 46 195
United States 37 26 2

Source: Unctadstat

Government is not a trader: Where is the business sector?

Clearly, to rebrand Zambia’s Embassies abroad will require not only the participation of Government. The more important player is the business sector whose exporters and importers are the key people to reposition trade promotion in Embassies. The public-private partnership is key here. It is not a question of simply holding meetings with the business sector and later proclaiming that there is strong collaboration between the two. Collaboration is more important in including the business in key decisions such as who should be Ambassador for Washington, Bonn or London, and others where the country can maximize trade and investment benefits. Is it possible for the business sector to have its own Ambassadors in certain Embassies where they can focus on promoting real business issues like trade and investment because they know better the landscape of business? Can we have some unique management styles like that whereby we do things in a business way? If a business person is sent to Germany (the country of industrial machines) as Ambassador, reporting to the Zambia Manufacturing Association and Government, wouldn’t that signal an innovative move and change of the way we manage Embassies?

Wouldn’t things change somehow? Common, look at the low range of products that are being exported by our business sector. To the UK, only copper, precious stones, printed matter, sugar, vegetables, tobacco and cotton. But they all have very low values. To Germany, you are only exporting tobacco, vegetables, copper and semi-precious stones. It is the same backward products and in very low values. That is not Government’s job. Government regulates and provides a conducive environment for trade. But the choice and size of export products is the business sector’s job. Please see how you can improve because your colleagues in other African countries are doing much better than you.

A good Ambassador must monitor competition from other countries

Yes, that is another point for Ambassadors. Don’t just think about Zambia when you are in the Embassy. Think about competing countries, from Africa and elsewhere. Even as you meet as African Ambassadors in Germany, speak about this competition to improve. It is embarrassing that Zambia is ranked number 25 in African countries based in Germany and exporting to that country as Table 2 shows. Perhaps for trade it is not the country’s priority. I don’t know what the policy is. Competition analysis can be done by other Ambassadors the same way.

Table 2: Zambia’s exports to Germany compared with African countries in $millions

Africa 12,707
1 South Africa 5,260
2 Tunisia 1,451
3 Nigeria 1,172
4 Egypt 910
5 Morocco 750
6 Côte d’Ivoire 562
7 Libya 521
8 Dem. Rep. of the Congo 285
9 Ethiopia 278
10 Madagascar 184
11 Ghana 183
12 Tanzania 144
13 Equatorial Guinea 124
14 Kenya 122
15 Uganda 104
16 Namibia 103
17 Malawi 65
18 Guinea 64
19 Mozambique 49
20 Algeria 47
21 Cameroon 38
22 Mauritius 37
23 Gabon 34
24 Zimbabwe 34
25 Zambia 30

Source: Unctadstat


  • The President needs someone who can help him to rigorously monitor the performance of Ambassadors so that they become accountable and results-oriented. He needs a small Unit in State House to check on these highly paid Ambassadors.
  • Perhaps the President should allocate ten Ambassador posts in serious and big Embassies to be selected by the Public Service Commission including the business sector to seriously go and do business. These posts should not be subjected to political appointments. It is not fair for us to burden the Head of State to undertake basically ALL appointments.

By Economic.Governance

[Read 227 times, 3 reads today]


    • Why does unpd cadres like day dreaming?? Nowonder under 5 will never rule Zambia but rot in opposition

    • US Dollar wise, how much are these so called Diplomats earn at Ambassador/High Commissioner level? We should extrapolate from thereon on the loss to the tax payers. We know they have tax free incentives on everything, but what is their Gross or net in remuneration? This data needs to be in public domain for the public to informatively debate and pressurize the appointing authority.

  1. The authors of this piece could have a point but it seems or looks like their analysis is subjective rather than objective because embassies are not solely for Trade soliciting but have various Bilateral relations such as Education Research, Human Relations between the two peoples of the countries involved as well as other things we’re not privy to…

    • “The President needs someone who can help him to rigorously monitor the performance of highly paid Ambassadors so that they become accountable and results-oriented……”

      No, that is the Presidents job! What you are actually saying is that Lungu has failed to execute the DUTIES of a “PRESIDENT” !!! And his Minister of Foreign Affairs Kalaba who is next in line is also USELESS!

      Face it. These appointments are not based on ability, but on what Lungu thinks they can do for HIM, not the Nation.

  2. all them old guts. appoint young men and women as well below 40 years. we also need. Vernon was high commissioner at 21

  3. The paper while its good, its skewed and narrow as Embassies have broader roles not only trade and investment. Trade and investment depend on so many factors, eg distance, language, bilateral arrangements and nature of the market (openness) etc. Each Embassy operates from a different market and so cannot be compared to the other e.g you cant compare Zambia’s exports to China and exports to Ghana. The markets are different. Each Embassy is unique. What is important is for each Embassy to maximise benefits attainable from each respective country e.g securing scholarships, securing partners etc


  4. Ambassador is the laziest most idle job one can get in Zambia. You do literally nothing after your appointment except wait for your paycheck. Ask Joe Chilaizya. At least ministers are monitored a little because they are in the news lots of times but ambassadors? We forget about them the moment they are appointed.


  5. How can diplomats perform when they are kept busy chasing baseless corruption allegations by UP.NDonkeys?
    By the way when under5 accused God of filling up a beautiful Zambia with cowards, what exactly did he mean? That he Under5 could have done better than God?

  6. Cadre mentality? Yes embassies play other roles but this data shows zambia is z least beneficiary economically. Among african countries zambia is at z bottom in exports to germany. Still z cadre says diplomats play many other roles! Did z author say there are no other roles? In any case, how has zambia benefited from these so called other roles than those other countries which seem to do well economically?

  7. we probably do not need these embassies abroad especially if they spend more than we bring in.
    Smart countries do not start embassies on emotional capital or ideology or indeed just pure political-the end result other countries do this is- business.Australia was asked by Zambia to start an embassy post of high commission post in Zambia-Australia refused because there is no economic sense or gain.

  8. Not a good article. The writer does not know the real reason why countries have missions abroad. What is the task of an Embassy?

    An Embassy is the diplomatic representation of a country’s government in another country.
    It’s not just about trade and investment. The embassy is there transmit messages of its home government to the government of the host country and vice versa.

    It informs its home government about important political, social, economical, military and other events happening in the host country. It prepares international treaties and official state visits and promotes its own home culture, economy and science in the host country.

    • Go on @Wally and list the benefits that accrue to our country by the reasons of having embassies you have listed.

  9. Simbyakula, honestly, from being a Minister of Justice/Acting President when Lungu used to gallivant the World, to accept to be Ambassador?? Kwena, insala ibibi sana. So now you have to report to the PS, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You see how you complicate things for yourself??
    We do not want you to be reporting to the President but observe the chain of command, otherwise, it will be tough for you!!

  10. Ubukopo pa Zed. The topic was purely looking at economic diplomacy….ONLY THAT angle. You can write another story if you want to broaden the subject to include all those examples you are giving.

  11. Total ignorance of what international trade is in the world today! To quote a popular cliche: It is the MORAL EQUIVALENT OF WAR! Zambia will continue to export raw minerals and import all its finished industrial needs from all over the world:
    1. Firstly because it has no international trade STRATEGY [Please do not use the Zambian workshop defininition of strategy:Try the business school definition of strategy].
    2. Secondly you have no NATIONAL trade policies [Please do not talk about the World Bank FACILITATED plolicies at Siavonga!].
    3. Thirdly you need employees that are serious and committed to achive the objectives of their assignmants. They muust be EXPERIENCED and qualfied. Theese days we hear of QUALIFIED people only because they possess multiple degrees but do not know even…

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