Eastern Province has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) of cooperation in agriculture, tourism and commerce with the Shandong Province of China.
The MOU which twins the two provinces, is expected to enhance Chinese investments in value addition in Eastern Province and the exchange of notes on best practices to grow the two economies for mutual benefits.
Acting Eastern Province Permanent Secretary Royd Tembo signed on behalf of the province while Director General of Shandong Provincial Foreign Affairs, Xue Qinggu signed on behalf of the Shandong Province at a ceremony witnessed by Eastern Province Minister Makebi Zulu and Shandong Vice Governor Ren Airong in Mambwe district yesterday.
Eastern Province Minister Makebi Zulu said the document is expected to see the two regions partnering in social and economic spheres to enhance growth.
Mr Zulu noted that the region has vast economic potential in agriculture and tourism which can be of benefit if it taps into the wealth of the Chinese province, to open up industries in value addition.
And Mr Zulu said the region is Zambia’s largest producer of cotton, tobacco, maize, groundnuts and soya beans, adding that the establishment of processing plants will therefore improve employment levels and grow the economy of the region.
He observed that both Eastern and Shandong Provinces are highly dependent on agriculture, saying Eastern Province can take some lessons on how Shandong which has a GDP of over USD 1 trillion managed to grow its economy.
Mr Zulu stated that the MOU also includes the exchange of notes in education and health.
He also noted that the province is a house to one of the world’s best wildlife sanctuaries in the SADC region and that there is need to take advantage of the Chinese population as it provides a huge market for the tourism sector.
The Provincial Minister however said there is need for more investments in lodges and hotels as the province does not have adequate accommodation to for the many international tourists who may wish to visit at the region.
And Shandong Province vice governor Ren Airong said matchmaking of Shandong and Eastern Province was ideal to meet the demands of investors in Shandong and the potential that lies in Eastern province of Zambia.
Ms Ren said her province has a number of industries that are involved in value addition and that could invest in the country’s agricultural sector.
She noted that Shandong is a powerhouse of education with 145 higher learning facilities and more than 200 vocational schools saying it has professionals who have the capacity to help improve the sectors of education and tourism in Eastern Zambia.
She added that Shandong Province already has a solid foundation with Eastern Province as a Chinese firm was established, and specialised in the processing of cotton in Chipata district.
Ms Ren said China Africa cotton is evidence of the Chinese investment in the region.