CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe
APART from Muchinga, Central Province is another region in Zambia held in high esteem with regard to Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA).
The 1,860km railway, which is shared by Zambia and Tanzania and runs from Kapiri Mposhi to Dar es Salaam, speaks of decades of bilateral relations between Zambia and China.
At the centre of the Uhuru railway, which joins the Zambia Railways Limited network in Kapiri Mposhi, is China’s founding father chairman Mao Zedong, and Zambia’s first President Kenneth Kaunda and his Tanzanian counterpart Julius Nyerere.
Relations between Zambia and China have grown stronger to an extent that provinces in the two countries are now being twinned.
Central Province has been paired with Henan Province, Copperbelt with Fujian, Eastern with Shandong, Luapula with Zhejanga and Lusaka with Sichuan.
Muchinga Province will be twinned with Jainggxi, North- Western with Hebei, Northern with Liaoning, Western with Jiangsu and Southern with Guanxi Zhuang.
This means that the monumental Tazara railway will not be the only infrastructure in Central Province pointing to relations between Zambia and China.
The twinning of Central Province with Henan Province, which has high spectacular highways, high speed railway and vibrant air transportation systems, offers opportunities for increased investments from China.
The two provinces have been paired on the basis of their similar comparative advantages, especially in terms of their geographic location.
“We are nearly the same in our respective countries [because] we are situated in the centre of our respective countries.
“This geographic location provides us with good opportunities to develop our transportation sectors,” vice-governor of Henan Province Dai Bohua says.
Giving a rich profile of Henan Province when Central Province Minister Sydney Mushanga hosted him and his delegation in Kabwe, Dai Bohua said the two provinces need to further their co-operation in economic areas such as trade, agriculture, mining, tourism, infrastructure and transportation.
Mr Dai says with a population of over 98 million people, Henan accounts for one tenth of China’s population.
Other than being the most populous province in China, Henan has a sound developed industrial base and is a major agricultural hub.
“Output accounts for a tenth of our national total and during our journey to Central Province, we saw that you also grow wheat,” Mr Dai shared with heads of Government departments in Central Province.
“The wheat output of Henan Province accounts for a quarter of the national output.”
This production has positioned companies in Henan to be involved in the food-processing industry resulting in a well-developed and sound food industry.
As an economic hub, Henan Province has conglomerates which the Zambian government hopes will extend their investments to Central Province.
“For example, the world’s largest bus manufacturer is based in Henan and we also have large mining equipment manufacturers,” Mr Dai says.
Henan also has a cement equipment manufacturing company, a largest heavy machinery manufacturer, and largest tractor and agriculture machinery companies.
In view of the twining programme, Mr Dai says, it is important for the two provinces to further their co-operation on economy and trade, housing, agriculture, mining, tourism, infrastructure and transportation.
On the other hand, Central Province, with a population of 1,307,111, is underdeveloped but rich in raw materials and investment opportunities.
The province offers investment opportunities in agriculture, agro-processing, livestock, tourism, fisheries, mining forestry and health.
Mr Mushanga, the Minister for Central Province, however, cites the agriculture sector as the mainstay of economic activity in the region.
Through production of maize, the province contributes significantly to national food security, employment creation, manufacturing and export.
“The vast raw materials in agriculture offers opportunities for value addition through forward linkages to manufacturing and agro-processing and increased production and exportation of non-traditional exports to domestic and international markets,” Mr Mushanga says.
Mr Mushanga says Zambia and China have enjoyed many years of bilateral relations, therefore the twinning of the two provinces is a positive development.
The benefits of the twinning programme are expected to contribute towards the attainment of objectives of the Seventh National Development Plan, enhancing of development and building political relations between the two provinces.
The twinning of Central Province and Henan Province, a major birth place of the Chinese nation and Chinese civilisation, will, therefore, enhance political, economic, cultural, tourism, trade and investment co-operation.
Central Province permanent secretary Chanda Kabwe says the twinning of the two provinces is one of the avenues that will facilitate investments from China to the central region of Zambia.
Mr Kabwe says Government anticipates that big companies in Henan Province will expand their businesses to Central Province, taking advantage of the raw materials and geographic location.
“So as we twin with your province, our co-operation is expected to reach our districts,” Mr Kabwe says.
Under the twinning programme, Zambia is expected to learn from China the best practices in implementing the decentralisation programme, which has been well executed in China.
And Kabwe Mayor Prince Chileshe says the twinning is a milestone that will help to facilitate investment in Central Province.
“China is the best model in transforming a society,” Mr Chileshe says.
Mr Chileshe adds that local authorities in the province are ready to learn from Henan Province to improve their operations.
Mr Dai says China is eager to strengthen governmental exchanges and co-operation to realise the two country’s common prosperity and development for the benefit of peoples in the two countries.
“In terms of characteristics and advantages of Central Province and we think that our two provinces share a lot in common in our geographic location and our co-operation in various industries may have very broad and bright prospects,” Mr Dai said.
Increased investments in Central Province by large companies from Henan will facilitate value addition to raw materials, transfer of technology and expertise which may end up unlocking industrial potential and promote employment creation.
Expectations are many but the twinning programme will only materialise when provincial administrations in the two provinces sign a memorandum of understanding.
CHAMBO NG’UNI, Kabwe