Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema used his trip to the United States to thank that country for assisting Zambia in various sectors of the economy.
And Mr Hichilema has revealed that private investors from the US have pledged to invest over US$25.8 billion in Zambia in the first 5 years of his administration.
Mr Hichilema was speaking in Washington DC at the Woodrow Wilson Centre where he discussed the State of Play in Zambia.
When asked if he would support sanctions through withholding aid, Mr Hichilema noted that this support to the Zambian people remains critical and should continue.
He said withholding such assistance would only harm poor Zambians.
Mr Hichilema thanked the America taxpayers for supporting Zambia’s HIV and AIDS programme.
“Aside from promoting investment opportunities available in our country, we thanked the American taxpayers for their engagement through successive governments on HIV/AIDS through its PEPFAR program that has benefitted and continues to save lives of many Zambians,” he said.
“We also acknowledged the Millennium Challenge Compact in Zambia through which the U.S. government invested in water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure to decrease water-related diseases and flood losses.”
“On the security front, we noted with gratitude the role that the State Department and Department of Defense have played in training Zambia Defence Forces through the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) and the Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) program,” he stated.
He said the engagement has been central to Zambia Defence Forces deployment for United Nations Peacekeeping missions.
“As of August 31, 2019, Zambia was the 22nd leading contributor in the world to UN peacekeeping missions with 1,025 personal. It was humbling meeting with some of the previous American Ambassadors to Zambia.
He said the audience’s main interest were the human rights and economic situation in the country.
Mr Hichilema said the audience were also interested to know what the UPND would do differently if it were in office.
“On the human rights abuses, we assured them that we as opposition charged with the responsibility of providing checks and balances will continue holding the PF government accountable.”
He reiterated the party’s resolve to amend certain pieces of legislation such as the colonial Public Order Act that limits people’s freedoms of assembly and does not conform to the current international standards and norms.
“On the economy the various stakeholders we engaged in a side event, especially investors, are very worried about the mounting debt. We requested that the investors in the room could begin to speak to their fellow private sector players on possibility of debt restructuring. They made a commitment that once they see a serious commitment to fiscal discipline, they are willing to help the country to renegotiate the debt held by private sector.”
“We spoke about the opportunities for the investors to come and partner with our Zambian businessmen. They had no objection to creating joint ventures. They pledged investment of about US$25.8 billion over a period of 5 years. They are interested in electricity, agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, infrastructure and mining. The bulk of their investment will be in electricity generation and portfolio diversification, they also see agriculture and tourism as main foreign exchange earners.”
He said the investors believe that reliable infrastructure will also provide dividends to their investment.
Mr Hichilema stated that the investors repeated the pledge for joint ventures as long as the government has policy consistency and fiscal discipline.
“Ultimately the stakeholders we met are very optimistic about the country after we shared our plan for revitalising the economy. They placed the onus of creating a Zambia we want, on ourselves as citizens of the country.”
He added, “Our appeal to all Zambians is that we need to work together and ensure a peaceful and democratic transition by massively voting for UPND in 2021 so that these investment pledges can come forth. We have a great plan and vision for Zambia. Let us all seize the moment to rebuild our great country.”