In the year 2010, Zambia embarked on an aggressive drive to woo foreign investment into the country in order to increase the country’s revenue base and contribute to poverty reduction.
It is in this current year that President Rupiah Banda took to the skies to visit about 15 foreign countries to try and entice investors to come and invest in mother Zambia.
Arising from the 15 trips, I can safely say that the President was out of the country on an average of once in a month this year.
These trips have been condemned by some opposition political parties, civil society organisations and some clergymen.
However, the Ministry of foreign Affairs which is the formulator of Zambia’s foreign Policy is at pains to explain the importance of President Banda’s frequent trips abroad to the local citizenry.
In the following article, I will try and analyse the trips one by one and give an analysis of whether specific trips brought investment into the country.
In March, President Banda flew to Namibia where he enticed Namibian farmers to come and form partnerships with their Zambian counterparts in order to improve productivity in the Zambian agricultural sector.
From this trip, we are yet to see if any Namibian farmers will come and farm in Zambia.
In the same month, the Head of State also travelled to China where Zambia and China signed a US$1.5 billion to help Zambia in the energy sector.
According to Chief Government spokesman Lt. Gen. Ronnie Shikapwasha, China wrote off a substantial amount of debt Zambia owed that country.
In July, President Banda flew to Turkey where the two countries signed an aviation agreement in which Turkey’s national flag carrier, Turkish Airlines was to start flying directly from Istanbul to Lusaka.
To date, the promises of those direct flights from that European country have not been fulfilled, meaning the agreement is still on paper.
In August, the Zambian President again left the country for Congo Brazzaville and Mozambique where agreements were signed.
However, not much investment should be expected from those two countries because they are at the same level of development like Zambia and on top of that they are also poverty stricken just like we are here.
In September, President Banda embarked on his most condemned trip which took him to the west African regional giant Nigeria.
The Head of State carried with him 50 Zambian businessmen to Abuja where they took part in a business forum.
Not much is heard of in form of investment from that trip though we have seen an influx of Nigerian commercial banks pitching up in Lusaka.
Again in September, President Banda flew to Libya to attend the Africa-Arab Summit but many believe that the sale of ZAMTEL to Libya’s Lapgreen Networks was finalized during that trip.
Later, the Zambian President flew to the South American regional power Brazil where he went on a reciprocal visit following out-going Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Sylva made the trip to Lusaka.
During that visit, the President enticed large scale Brazilian investors such as Vale and UME to invest in Zambia.
Vale has so far invested about US$350 million in Zambia. However, our local labour unions initially objected to Vale’s investment saying the company has a history of abusing workers in countries where it has invested.
At the time of writing this article (30th December, 2010), President Banda was in Egypt on his final foreign trip. We are told the President is also trying to woo Egyptian investors to come to Zambia.
With the above round up of President Banda’s trips in 2010, my mind still wonders why it must take the President to fly around the world to look for investors when the country runs a number of Embassies, High Commissions and other Diplomatic Missions.
To try and answer this question, I decided to have a chat with a former Zambian diplomat Love Mtesa who spent 15 years in Geneva where he was Zambia’s Ambassador to Switzerland, the World Trade Organisation and other United Nations agencies based in the Swiss capital.
Ambassador Mtesa explained to me that a diplomat can only identify a potential foreign investor and his or her job ends there as they cannot sign investment agreements.
He also told me that the President and his Government are the only ones who can sign investment agreements and that their trips to those countries with potential investors are important.
With this explanation, I wish to urge all of you to judge these trips on the actual investment if at all it has come or not.
Wishing you a Happy Elections packed 2011.
By Paul Shalala
Friday, 31 December 2010
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Zambian political parties are gearing up for the 2011 general elections which are likely to be one of the hotly contested polls ever in the country’s young democracy.
Next year, Zambian voters will be voting for their councilors, members of parliament and their republican President.
These elections are likely to be heated because we now have more political parties than ever before in the history of this country.
We also know that political parties will be or are already moving around constituencies canvassing for new voters to back their candidates.
Aside of door to door campaigns and public rallies, another battleground has already been discovered and a number of political parties are already in that field wooing potential supporters.
In case you might be wondering which battleground this is, I’m talking about the internet.
A number of political parties have realized that the internet (Facebook in particular) is a rich and good platform for politicians to win supporters.
During US President Barack Obama’s campaigns for the White House between 2007 and 2008, his campaign strategists realized that the internet was the best platform to woo young voters and for sure the first black US President was made Commander-in-Chief with the help of the voters on the internet.
In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has resorted to campaigning on Facebook for his 2011 re-election campaign, he actually announced his presidential bid on Facebook.
My recent research of Zambian political parties campaigning on the internet has revealed that fewer than five political parties have joined the 2011 general elections “cyber war” on Facebook.
Leading these Facebook campaigns is the ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) followed by the opposition National Restoration Party (NAREP), the United Party for National Development (UPND) and the largest opposition political party (in terms of seats in parliament) the Patriotic Front (PF).
The MMD leads in terms of daily updates of political issues and other comments on current affairs.
MMD Spokesperson Dora Siliya is very active on Facebook and she posts an average of three posts per day and responds to almost all comments she receives from Facebook users.
Ms Siliya also updates the MMD’s Facebook page daily.
This also gives an opportunity to her supporters, critics and observers (like me) to comment, ask questions or “shoot” her on her party’s conduct in national affairs.
NAREP is second most active political party in Zambia in the political campaigns on Facebook.
NAREP National Youth Coordinator John Phiri also updates his party’s Facebook page not on a daily basis but twice or thrice a week.
Mr. Phiri gives NAREP supporters and sympathizers an update on his party president Elias Chipimo Jr’s itinerary in political campaigns.
Despite the party taking part in the on-going campaigns for the Chilanga parliamentary by-election, not many updates have been posted on this topic.
The NAREP Facebook platform could have been the best to introduce their party candidate Valerie for the said by-election.
The UPND is also present on the internet though its president Hakainde Hichilema’s pages are rarely updated.
Mr. Hichilema has more than one page and this leaves potential voters to wonder which one of the three pages is the opposition leader’s official page and mouthpiece.
Despite UPND Lusaka Province Youth Coordinator Brian Hapunda being present and active on Facebook, not much comes from him in terms of his party’s activities and campaigns.
Mr. Hapunda’s postings are usually personal and religious.
As a young politician, he could have used his personal and party Facebook pages to galvanise support for the 2011 general elections.
The PF is also present on Facebook.
The party’s president Michael Sata has a page which is rarely updated.
Since the PF is popular among urban people going by the elections results of 2006 and 2008, the party could have utilized online campaigns as there are more people online in urban areas where the internet is accessible.
In terms of the UPND-PF Electoral Pact on the internet, I have come across three pages on Facebook purporting to be campaigning for it.
These pages have proved to be popular on the internet though some online discussions have brought heated exchanges on the sustainability of the one year old electoral pact.
In the 2008 presidential elections, another cyber war was waged.
The opposition PF, UPND and the ruling MMD had launched websites for their presidential candidates.
This helped voters to have access to latest information on the activities of these respective political parties.
As we drift towards the 2011 general elections, it is my hope that more and more political parties will utilize the internet and learn the strategy President Obama used to beat his Republican Party rival Senator John McCain in the 2008 US presidential elections.
By Paul Shalala
Monday, 11 October 2010
The battles for the Chilanga and Mpulungu parliamentary by-elections have now been declared following the filing of nominations on 7th October, 2010.
In Mpulungu, five candidates successfully filed in to replace late area parliamentarian Lameck Chibombamilimo who died in India a month ago.
These were ruling Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD)’s Given Mungomba, Alex Mwazia of the National Restoration Party (NAREP), Freedom Sikazwe of the Patriotic Front (PF), Germaniko Simusokwe of United National Independence Party (UNIP) and Chilobwela Sinyangwe of the newly formed Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD).
Bearing in mind that the ruling MMD will be campaigning to retain ‘their seat’, the party will fight to the last blood to maintain its dominance in terms of the parliamentary seats it holds in the Northern Province.
Currently, the party has eleven of the 21 parliamentary seats in that province.
Most of these seats are in the northern part of the province and they stretch from Kaputa constituency in the west to Isoka East in the East.
This means that all parliamentary seats bordering with neighbouring Tanzania are all held by the ruling party.
Mpulungu is right in the heart of the MMD ‘strongholds’ as it is sandwiched between MMD constituencies such as Chimbamilonga, Senga Hill and Mbala.
However, the opposition PF is said to have made impressive in-roads in Mpulungu though they expect a stiff fight if they are to turn the tables to their favour.
The PF is likely to use the hounding out of the late area MP from the MMD as one of their campaign issues.
Late Chibombamilimo was expelled from the party after President Rupiah Banda sacked him as Energy Deputy Minister when he accused him of being loyal to the media and not him.
The President vowed to follow him to his constituency in an event of a by-election but that day never came as the late MP died before his appeal against his expulsion could be disposed off by the courts of law.
In Chilanga constituency, four candidates have entered the race to replace former area member of parliament Ng’andu Magande who was expelled from the party a month ago.
These candidates are ruling MMD’s Keith Mukuta, United Party for National Development (UPND)’s Captain Cosmas Moono, Valerie Mukeleni of NAREP and UNIP’s Henry Silumesi.
With the campaigns already under way, all parties have what it takes to upset tables but the main contest (I think) will be between the MMD and the UPND as these seem to be well grounded on the Chilanga terrain.
This is so because the MMD will be riding at the back of incumbency while the UPND has a former area Member of Parliament as its candidate who a number of electorates may still remember.
The vast Chilanga constituency borders the following constituencies both in Lusaka and Central Provinces: Katuba, Mwembeshi, Kafue, Kanyama and Chongwe.
It is this vastness which defines the distinct nature of voters in this constituency.
From what I can call Chilanga proper are people who are mostly civil servants and the working class, to the western part of the constituency are farmers and villagers.
Among these people are these various issues that may be at the heart of voters in Chilanga: poverty, farming, security and education.
It is this background that will help any of the four candidates to woo voters and win the seat.
In terms of the significance of the seat to the various political parties, if UPND’s Capt Moono wins, he will be getting back the seat he lost in 2006 and it will be his party’s only seat in the province at present.
If MMD’s Mukata carries the day, he will maintain a seat that his party has held tight since 2006. He will also ensure that the party maintains its five ‘rural’ seats in the entire province.
For NAREP’s Mukeleni, this is the first election the party is taking attempting since its inception early this year. She is likely to be the happiest of all looking at the possible historic significance of this seat to her party.
The country’s independence party UNIP is looking at Chilanga as the second seat they may have in the 150 seat Parliament of Zambia aside of Lundazi which is held by Home Affairs Minister Mkondo Lungu. The Chilanga seat will also help the almost forgotten and once ‘almighty’ party to rekindle its old glory.
As the people of Mpulungu and Chilanga cast their ballots on 30th August 2010 (if at all the date won’t be changed), their task will be to choose an MP who will listen to their cries for development.
Pundits, commentators and political observers like me will keep an eye on every twist and turn on the campaign trail till the end.
For now, I expect the candidates to campaign wisely with issues and not character assassinations, so that voters can vote wisely irrespective of their party affiliations.
By Paul Shalala
Friday, 24 September 2010
Zambia’s telecommunication industry has continued growing with massive investments being made by players. The latest firm to announce its investments strategy is ZAMTEL whose 75percent shares were taken over by Lap-Green of Libya.
Company Chief Commercial Officer Amon Jere says the firm has invested 125million US Dollars in the upgrading of its network in the next two years. He says the investments will see works on the 3G and a roll out of its landlines.
“The telecom firm is further looking at utilizing the optic fiber cable being laid to effectively provide internet services in the country,” says Mr. Jere.
He notes that with the rate at which investments are being made in Zambia, the country is destined to become a hub of telecom in the SADC region. Mr. Jere was speaking in an interview with Muvi TV Business News after the launch of the Real Deal, a bonus promotion campaign.
MTN REDUCES TARRIFFS
Meanwhile MTN Zambia Chief Executive Officer Farhad Khan says his firm is not shaken with entry of Bharti Airtel and Lap-Green in the country’s telecommunication sector. Mr. Khan says MTN Group is committed to furthering its investments in Zambia because of the available huge market.
He however notes that competition is good for business as it also helps in service delivery. Mr. Khan further states that the Zambia Communication Authority –ZICTA- has made a significant move of reducing cross network tariffs which will further stimulate competition.
Recently Zain Africa sold its 100percent shareholding to Bharti Airtel of India while Libya’s Lap-Green has bought 75percent shares in ZAMTEL, which was Zambia’s public owned telecom firm.
By Paul Shalala.