Thursday 15 June 2023

Seven African Presidents Off to Russia and Ukraine for Peace Talks

President Hichilema welcoming President El-Sisi
 in Lusaka last week during COMESA Summit.
-Picture by State House Zambia
 By Paul Shalala

Seven African Presidents are on their way to Europe to start mediating in the Russia-Ukraine War which has had global implications.

President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisis of Egypt, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazaville and President Azali Assoumani of the Comoros are on their way to Ukraine and Russia as part of the African Peace Initiative which aims at halting hostilities.

The African initiative is among many efforts being made to stop the war which has displaced millions of Ukrainians and left thousands dead.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, countless efforts by the Chinese, Americans and European countries have been made to end hostilities but all have failed.

And now African leaders want to try their luck.

Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stanley Kakubo says the African presidents will start their visit in Ukraine before proceeding to Russia.

Mr. Kakubo says President Hichilema and his African counterparts will hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday and later meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in his home town of Saint Petersburg the following day.

“The African Peace Initiative draws upon Africa’s successful track record of resolving conflicts through dialogue and peace-building, with the African leaders aiming to encourage open dialogue and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine,” said Mr. Kakubo.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mr. Kakubo said Zambia remains deeply committed to global peace as a catalyst for socio-economic development in Africa and the world at large.

He said the Russia-Ukraine war has disrupted Africa's commodity supply chain and extended the humanitarian crisis.

President Hichilema left Zambia on Wednesday night for Europe.

Of the seven African Presidents travelling to Europe for the peace mission, the South African leader Ramaphosa is the closest to Moscow and according to media reports in the west, he is the delegation leader.

President Ramaphosa may use his links to Russia to push for a resolution to the conflict in Ukraine.

South Africa has refused to condemn Russia for the February 2022 invasion of its neighbor and is currently embroiled in a diplomatic row over the presence of President Putin at the forthcoming BRICS summit it is scheduled to host in August.

A few weeks ago, Pretoria issued immunity to all heads of state who are expected to attend the summit which would pave way for the Russian strongman to attend even when the International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for him over the Ukrainian war.

BRICS is a group of emerging economies which has become a force in global economics and is slowly being tipped to be a shadow of the G8 group of countries.

It stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

A local think tank in Zambia is hopeful that the effort by African Presidents will yield positive results.

The Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) says African leaders have the capacity to do many good things not only on the continent but also at the world stage.

“The fact that the 7 countries have been accepted by both Ukraine and Russia as legitimate peace brokers must give confidence to all of us that there is a possibility for success. We commend the leaders of the 7 countries for being bold and wish them all the very best in undertaking this important peace building effort for the entire world,” said SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe in a statement.

And a good governance researcher at the University of Zambia Nalukui Milapo says the effort by African leaders is worth trying.

Dr. Milapo, who is part of the Institute of Economic and Social Research at the University of Zambia, says African countries enjoy warm relations with Moscow and they may just prevail over Putin.

“While relations between Moscow and a few African countries have weakened in the recent past, it is still worth noting that historically, Africa has enjoyed warm relations with Russia, which has provided education and covert military support. These ties go back to the Soviet era. On the other hand, the visit to Kiev is meant to underline the fact that Africans also still look to the West and their democratic ideals, which Zambia especially espouses. For me, Zambia has been enlisted because of its democratic credentials. I doubt if anything will come out of this engagement, but it is worth trying just like others have done,” said Dr. Milapo.

She adds that the African delegation headed for Moscow and Kiev has had varied positions on the war, recalling that during voting for the United Nations resolution condemning the Ukraine war, Zambia and Egypt voted in favour of the motion while South Africa and others abstained.

It is yet to be seen how far these African leaders will go in pushing for peace in Europe when little or not progress has been made in bringing peace to war torn Central African Republic, Sudan and Somalia which are in their backyard.

Tuesday 30 May 2023

SHEPHERDESS MULOMBA: Using Solar Energy For Mixed Farming

By Paul Shalala
Shepherdess Mulomba on duty

It is four years since we lost Pastor Obert Mulonga who was a District Pastor in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (SDA).

Pastor Mulomba served in the now defunct Central Zambia Conference and later in Lusaka Conference of the SDA Church as a District Pastor.

He died in the year 2019 when he was serving as District Pastor for Makeni Villa Mission District, leaving behind his wife Beene and children.

At the time of his death, Pastor Mulomba had secured a 3 hectares farm in Kasalu Village of Mumbwa District in Central Province were he sunk a borehole, bought solar panels and ensured farming activities would start.

Since his demise, his wife, Shepherdess Mulomba took on the mantle and transformed the farm into a successful mixed farming project.

For the sake of non-Adventsists, a Shepherdess is a term we use to address the wife of a Pastor in the SDA church.

Yesterday I visited my mother Mrs Phyllis Monde Shalala at our farm at Lubanze Village, which is a neighbouring village to the Shepherdess’ village.

Due to old age, Mum has not been well in the past week and I decided to drive to the farm to check on her. 

Mum buying maize from the Shepherdess

An hour after I arrived, she asked me to escort her to her friend ‘who sales fresh maize’ and I didn’t know which friend she meant.

We arrived at the said farm and guess who, it was Shepherdess Mulomba. 

Impact Of Solar Energy on the Farm:

The whole farm is well partitioned into portions for maize, tomatoes, cabbages, paw paws, bananas and a chicken run.

She has utilized the abundant sunlight in Mumbwa to power the whole farm using solar energy.

Two huge solar panels have been mounted on the farm and they provide the necessary power for lighting and pumping water to all the crops.

“My husband left these solar panels when he died and with the help of my son, we mounted them and also put up this water tank to start watering our crops,” said Shepherdess Mulomba in an impromptu interview. 

The 5,000 liters tank is raised five meters high above the ground and with the help of a pump and solar power, its supplies water to all the portions were crops are planted.

A huge network of plastic pipes has been installed to deliver water to all corners of the farm.

Solar panels and the tank supplying water

Through the solar-powered pump, drip irrigation delivers water bit by but to crops and they are watered in droplets.

Yesterday when mum and I visited the farm, we found Shepherdess Mulomba harvesting winter maize on a one acre portion.

On the next portion, another two acres of winter maize is at knee level and using drip irrigation, the crops look healthy and growing fast.

“With the help of solar, drip irrigation is helping us a lot. We no longer need to carry buckets to water the crops, we just switch on the button and the water flows to the crops, she said.”

Market For Crops:

With this successful business, I asked Shepherdess Mulomba how beneficial this business is and how she manages to cope with the market.

Despite having a light truck which she can use to supply the crops to Lusaka and other markets, Shepherdess Mulomba says she sales all her produce at the farm.

“When the crops are ready for the market, traders come here as early as 05:00hrs in the morning and they line up to buy. Tomatoes, maize, cabbages and even chickens sale so fast that within days, my stock is finished,” she said.

Tomatoes under drip irrigation
She says selling at the farm helps her cut on transport costs and making sure she has time to take care of her crops.

Other Farm Products:

Paw Paws which were planted last year are now two meters high and according to Shepherdess Mulomba, by the end of the year they will start producing flowers and the harvest will be done next year.

She says paw paws are also a good fruit as very few people in Mumbwa plant them on a large scale.

She also has a chicken run which at the time of the visit had about 25 birds, all village chickens.

The chickens are enclosed in a wire fence and they have facilities for feeding and hatching.

“We recently sold the village chickens and many people bought,” said Shepherdess Mulomba. 

At the edge of the farm in a huge pit which was dug when houses were being built at the farm.

That pit, if well utilized, the Shepherdess can use it for fish farming, that would be another revenue earner for her.


The moral of this story is that being a widow should not be the end of one’s life.

Village Chickens

Shepherdess Mulomba has shown what a widow can do if they continue the legacy of their late husband.

Her investment at the farm is inspirational and she has continued to sponsor her children at university using proceeds from the mixed farm.

Her shining example can be emulated by other women who need financial independence.

You do not need a lot of money or a huge piece of land to make money.

All you need is just a small a piece of land, abundant sunlight and your dedication to the business, then you can make it.

Sunday 29 January 2023

Western Leaders Flock To Zambia As Hichilema Is Darling Of the West

President Hichilema with Dr. Yellen at State House
-Picture by State House Media
By Paul Shalala

January 2023 has been a busy month for President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia.

This is the month when loadshedding has become intense following the historical reduction of water levels in the Kariba Dam which has consequently reduced the generation capacity of electricity.

Zambia and Zimbabwe depend on the Kariba Dam for most of their electricity and with the current status, the two countries are left with a huge energy deficit.

That aside, the restructuring of Zambia’s debt has been a main feature of President Hichilema’s work this month.

Observers say the Hichilema administration is a pro-western one, breaking away from a decade of looking to the east for help.

With 10 years of the Patriotic Front administration were China was the center of the country’s foreign policy which led to over $6 billion of debt being contracted from the Asian nation, the new government is doing its best to be a friend of the west.

Between 22 and 24 January, 2023, Zambia hosted United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

Dr. Yellen was in Zambia to promote US investment and offer support to Zambia while Ms. Georgieva was in the country to follow up on economic reforms.

During her three day stay in Zambia, Dr. Yellen visited an American company which makes anti-retroviral and malarial drugs in Lusaka, she also visited Java Foods, a private company owned by lawyer and enterprenuer Monica Musonda.

The American official also opened the Emergency Operations Center at the Zambia National Public Health Institute which was funded by American taxpayers.

Here, she held a question and answer session with local and international journalists.

I asked her about the role the United States is playing in ensuring that China is brought back to the negotiating table over Zambia’s debt restructuring process.

The US Treasury Secretary called out China, saying it was a stumbling block to the talks.

The following day, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing issued a strong statement against Dr. Yellen’s remarks.

The other interesting part of her visit was to meet small-scale farmers in the central Zambian town of Chongwe who are benefiting from the Green Climate Fund which is helping them engage in climate resilient farming practices.

“We will work together to improve Africa’s access to global agricultural commodity markets and meet its growing demand for fertilizer. And we will promote effective agricultural practices and approaches, including strengthening climate resilience.

We must take urgent action to adapt agricultural practices and technology to the changing climate. The project we are visiting today helps small-scale farmers better manage the impacts of climate change. It’s funded by the Green Climate Fund, which the United States is proud to be a part of. We are committed to making sure that the Fund has sufficient resources to carry on this important work. We are also advancing climate adaptation through our latest $155 million contribution to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program,” said Dr. Yellen.

Later, she met President Hichilema at State House where they discussed several issues.

Key to the discussions is the estimated $13.6 billion debt Zambia has with its several lenders.

President Hichilema meets Ms. Georgieva

”The United States insists that all major bilateral official and private creditors meaningfully participate in this debt relief, including China. It is our view that timely and comprehensive debt treatment can serve the interests of both debtors and creditors. In addition, President Hichilema and I will discuss how Zambia can help to tackle global challenges that have serious ramifications at the national level, including food security, which has worsened in this country and globally over the past year, as well as investing in healthy populations and preparedness for future health shocks,” she said during the meeting.

And in response, President Hichilema thanked the support the US Government is giving to his administration.

Like in any other major meeting, the Zambian leader did not miss the opportunity to seek help on its debt crisis.

“We convey our appreciation to the American citizens for the support in many sectors of our economy over the years. Among the key areas of support to the Zambian people have been in health, education, and recently the signed US$8.3 million from the Millennium Challenge Corporation towards the second compact aimed at alleviating poverty in our country. We also underscored the need for speedy resolution of our country's debt restructuring process so we can quickly stabilise the economy and focus on creating more opportunities for Zambian citizens that will lead to job creation,” President Hichilema wrote after the meeting.

For the IMF Chief, hers was a visit which took her closer to the Zambian people.

She met the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank and the President.

She also held a town hall meeting at the University of Zambia in Lusaka were students took turns, asking about the conditionalities of the $1.3 billion credit facility which the IMF gave Zambia in August 2022 as part of its debt restructuring programme.

Ms. Georgieva visited Matipula Primary School in Chongwe District where she saw for herself the implementation of the Free Education Policy which the new government started implementing in 2022.

There she saw for herself how children now come in their thousands to school and can attend class for free from Grade one to 12.

“Zambia is doing the most important investment of all—investing in its people. I saw today how “free education for all” is helping the bright minds at Matipula Primary & Secondary School, and how prioritizing social spending makes a real difference in people’s lives,” she wrote on her Facebook page.

Later, Ms. Georgieva met President Hichilema at State House.

The issue of debt was very topical during the meeting.

At the end of her visit, she issued this statement:

“Zambia is making tremendous progress on reforms, at what is a particularly a challenging time for the world economy. Zambia also needs a swift resolution of its debt situation to complement these reform efforts and preserve the positive growth momentum. We recognize that these are complex and challenging discussions, but it is clear from my visit that Zambia is doing its part, so I strongly encourage creditors to move forward and reach an agreement on a debt treatment as soon as possible.”

And Zambia’s Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane summed up the visit by the IMF Chief as follows:

Pearl Chunga poses a question to Ms. Georgieva
during a town hall meeting at University of Zambia
“We are grateful to all our partners for their continued, constructive discussions and work towards reaching an agreement on our debt restructuring. Finding a resolution to our debt burden as quickly as possible is essential for Zambia. It will help us achieve our medium-term ambitions of providing economic opportunities to all Zambians and becoming a middle-income country that is at the forefront of supporting the global energy transition. Reaching an agreement with creditors will help ensure that our economy rebounds and achieves sustained growth. This is in the interest of both our creditors and the Zambian people.”

Dr. Yellen and Ms. Georgieva are not the highest level officials to Zambia in the past one year.

In July 2022, United Nations Under Secretary General Vera Songwe visited Zambia at a time when the southern African country was pushing for an IMF financial bailout.

Dr. Songwe rallied the international community saying Zambia needed help to sort out its debt crisis.

And in October 2022, French Minister of State for Development, Francophone and International Partnerships Chrysoula Zacharopoulou visited Zambia and voiced French support for President Hichilema’s economic agenda.

Meanwhile, President Hichilema and US President Joe Biden will be co-hosting a US-African leaders summit to be held in Washington DC in March 2023.

The summit will be a follow up to the inaugural US-African Leaders Summit which was held in the American capital in December 2022.

And with President Biden visiting Africa later in 2023, Zambians have their fingers crossed, hoping he will visit Zambia too especially that the relations between the two countries are currently at their best.