By Hon Davies Mwila
Zambia and India have enjoyed enduring mutually beneficial economic and political ties predate Zambia’s own independence on 24th October, 1964.
Having attained its independence from British rule on 15th August, 1947, India became an inspiration for political independence to peoples in the Global South under colonial rule. India was not only an to inspiration to then Northern Rhodesia and others in the Global South; but actively supported Northern Rhodesia’s fight for independence from British rule through moral and material support.
In addition to this support by the newly independent Indian state, many people of Indian origin who were already resident in Northern Rhodesia at the time, supported the liberation movement in Zambia, and at the stroke of midnight on 24th October, 1964, chose become Zambian citizens too.
POST-INDEPENDENCE ZAMBIA – INDIA TIES*
Almost exactly 55 years since attaining political independence on 24th October, 1964, India has remained as Zambia’s unwavering partner in its quest to achieve its own national strategic goals.
1. Economic Diversification and Job Creation is the first strategic goal of the 7NDP. Indeed, Zambia stands to gain significant economic and job creation benefits from its close ties with India. For example, during the India-Zambia Business Forum in India held on 21st August, 2019, His Excellency President Lungu revealed that,
“These (Zambia-India) relations have now culminated into a strong economic engagement as evidenced by the significant amount of Foreign Direct Investment from India into Zambia, which now stands at 5 Billion United States Dollars. Notable Indian companies present in Zambia include, Taj Pamodzi Hotel; Bharti Airtel; Nava Bharat; and Indo Zambia Bank, among others. These companies have created jobs and skills, and brought socio-economic value for the local communities in zambia. zambia has taken keen interest in your programmes such as make in india, skill india, start-up india, and digital india.
Furthermore, zambia has followed with interest how your small and medium enterprises thrive alongside large companies, creating jobs, and ensuring wealth distribution.
From our side, we have embarked on programmes such as proudly zambia campaign, business linkage programmes and value chain development programme, among others, which we hope will help us in attaining our goal of enhancing value addition and entrepreneurship development.
We are committed your excellency, to learn from you on how well we can strengthen and enhance our small and medium enterprise participation in the economy.
The Government of The Republic of Zambia, has continued to pursue the implementation of the private sector development initiatives.
We are committed to developing policies that respond to the needs of industry so that we facilitate for a robust private sector-led industrialisation growth.”
In addition, Zambia stands to continue reaping significant economic benefits through its strong ties with India considering the steady increase in bilateral trade, which stood at United States Dollars 833 Million in 2018-19 and dominated mainly by exports from Zambia. To benefit further, the PF Government under President Lungu, through the Ministry of Agriculture, has continued to push for the expansion of the basket of traded items.
In order to accelerate economic diversification and job creation further, the 7NDP Development Outcome Number 6 aims at “Improving Transport Systems and Infrastructure.” Speaking along this line, President Lungu noted during the above-mentioned India-Zambia Business Forum, that:
“In addition to creating the favourable business environment and investment climate, my government has prioritised infrastructure development, as a key strategy for attracting foreign direct investment and stimulating local investments.
The main thrust under infrastructure development has been road construction and rehabilitation; expansion and construction of hydro-power stations; rehabilitation of railway line; construction and modernisation of airports and information and communication technology.
We are doing everything possible to ensure that we facilitate investment, and for business to thrive. we believe, infrastructure development is the foundation for any meaningful economic development.”
In addition to the above, Zambia is benefiting from its strong collaboration with India in attaining the 7NDP goal of improving transport systems and infrastructure through, among others; the ongoing implementation of the Lusaka City Roads Decongestion Project, funded with support from Indian Government under Buyers Credit scheme of Exim Bank of India.
Concerning Economic Diversification and Job Creation through “A Diversified and Export-Oriented Agriculture Sector” and other means prescribed in the 7NDP; Zambia stands to gain from its close bilateral ties with India through, for example; India’s agreement to set up an a SME Incubation Centre, with a view to promote development of Small and Medium enterprises in Zambia; and India’s grants for 100 Solar Irrigation pumps for boosting agriculture in Zambia including India’s grant of 1000 MT of rice and 100 MT of milk powder as humanitarian assistance to Zambia following poor rains in the 2018/2019 season.
2. Creating A Conducive Governance Environment For A Diversified and Inclusive Economy is the 5th strategic area of the 7NDP. In order to achieve this, the 7NDP Development Outcome 3 aims at ensuring “An Inclusive Democratic System of Governance.” In line with this, and speaking during the aforementioned 2019 India-Zambia Business Forum in India, His Excellency President Lungu said that:
“We know that the key drivers to attracting investment include political stability, abundance of attractive investment opportunities, appropriate legal and regulatory framework, good corporate governance, and availability of transport and communication infrastructure.”
Against this background and guided by the above-mentioned 7NDP goal, the PF Government, through the Electoral Commission of Zambia, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Elections. As the world’s largest democracy, Zambia will learn from India’s old and vast experience in creating a conducive governance environment – including strengthening institutions and ensuring political stability with a population of 1.3 billion people – for a diversified and inclusive economy.
However, collaboration in this area is not new because, soon after independence, Africa was at the centre of the Cold War between USA and USSR. As a result, the Non-Aligned Movement was formed by those states that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the USA or USSR, but sought to remain independent or neutral. In the Non-Aligned Movement, India was one of Zambia’s key allies in the collective stance against Cold War maneuvers.
3. Enhancing Human Development is the fourth strategic goal of the 7NDP. According to the 7NDP, human development will be enhanced through:
a. Development Outcome Number 1: Improved Health and Health-Related Services
In the context of this 7NDP goal, the Zambia-India relationship is already yielding tremendous benefits for Zambia as evidenced by the “Zambia-India cooperation in the Health Sector, such as the ongoing construction of 650 Health Posts across Zambia with the support of the Indian government”.
Furthermore, India’s donation of medicines and medical equipment worth United States Dollars 3 Million delivered to Zambia, is yet another benefit for Zambia arising from this bilateral relationship. In addition, an MoU for Zambia’s participation in tele-education, telemedicine that is; e VBAB Network Project has been signed and will greatly benefit Zambia.
b. Development Outcome Number 2: Improved Education and Skills Development
Concerning the above 7NDP goal, Zambia is benefiting from its ties with India in this area by collaborating to address the human resource and skills gaps, through the scholarships offered by the Indian Government to Zambian citizens annually and several other knowledge exchanges between the two Governments. This also includes gestures such as “India’s donation of $100,000 to the Mahatma Gandhi Primary School, that was announced during the visit of Honourable President of India in 2018.”
4. A Strategic Partner At the Global Stage and In Global Issues: For Zambia, India remains a reliable ally on the global stage to address issues affecting the developing world and the whole world at large such as; advocating for the ongoing reforms of the United Nations and its principal organs with a view to making the institution more democratic, representative, transparent and efficient so that it can deal more effectively with the myriad challenges of the contemporary world. This also includes an early reform of the United Nations Security Council, in permanent and non-permanent membership categories, so that it reflects the current realities and functions in an accountable, representative and effective manner; as well as, the push for reformed multilateralism on the global stage.
In conclusion, the Zambia–India bilateral ties predate Zambia’s birth on 24th October, 1964, and have deepened over time to culminate into strong mutually beneficial socio-economic ties.
May these bilateral ties between Zambia and India continue to flourish.
Long live the Zambia – India bilateral ties!
Long live the friendship between the peoples of these two great nations!
The Author is Patriotic Front Secretary General