Editor's Comment

Choose friends carefully

LUNGU

MAINTAINING good bilateral relations with other countries has essentially been Zambia’s position. It is, however, Zambia’s choice to determine who its friends should be.
Zambia has been a non-aligned country for all of its almost 54 years as a sovereign state. In this time, Zambia is able to determine who is a friend and who is not. It is able to determine the levels of co-operation it can get, too.
These decisions started under first President Kenneth Kaunda and continued under Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda, Michael Sata and now Edgar Lungu. The common denominator among them is that they all embraced China as an all-weather friend, and for good reason.
China has been Zambia’s unconditional partner which genuinely seeks win-win solutions for common challenges.
This is in sharp contrast to some partnerships which look at Africa as a continent that should be shepherded at every turn and told what to do and what not to do.
Perhaps this explains the statement made by European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker in his State of the Union address last Wednesday.
He said: “Africa does not need charity, it needs true and fair partnership.”
Indeed this is what Africa, and Zambia in particular, need to develop and have meaningful improvement in the standards of living of all citizens.
Zambia has found true and fair partnership in China and it really is up to other partners to show that they, too, can do as much as China is doing, or even better.
As Juncker has said: “… Europeans need this partnership just as much. Today, we are proposing a new Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs between Europe and Africa. This Alliance, as we envision it, would help create up to 10 million jobs in Africa in the next 5 years alone. I believe we should develop the numerous EU-African trade agreements into a continent-to-continent free trade agreement, as an economic partnership between equals.”
Now, this is what Africa wants to hear, but more importantly it wants to see practical steps that do not squeeze the continent out of its resources without corresponding benefits.
China has evidently made its mark in Africa and the continent can only be glad to get even more support.
Unfortunately, there are some entities that are hurting that Zambia is on this development course. They are desperately trying to drive a wedge between Zambia and China as well as get citizens to object to any support from China.
Their desperation is driving them to making such absurd statements like Zambia is surrendering some of its assets to China to cover the costs of loans.
To start with, the same detractors had been saying that Zambia lags in development as seen in poor state of roads, inadequate schools and health centres as well as erratic supply of electricity.
A few years down the line, Government has rapidly changed the scenario. New roads are being built, schools and health centres are increasing rapidly and sooner than later, Zambia will be an exporter of electricity.
The critics choose to ignore the fact that Zambia cannot do all these things using its own financial resources hence the need to borrow, but borrow wisely.
The taxes Government collects are not enough to build airports, hospitals, power stations, roads, stadiums and houses, among others.
The question of being able to pay back the loans is important and what further assurance does one need that Zambia is able to do so, than the figures Government transparently releases regularly.
Against this background, why would one want to push China away? We are therefore glad that President Edgar Lungu has declared that he will not relent in deepening relations with China as the relationship is one that holds a common good for the people of both nations.
Opening the third session of the 12th National Assembly yesterday, President Lungu parried the falsehoods being peddled that Zambia will be colonised by China.
The insinuations are designed to malign and mischaracterise the economic co-operation between the two.
President Lungu reiterated that Zambia’s bilateral relations with China are mutual and no amount of reckless propaganda will deter the country from the common good of her people.
China has no record of colonialism adding that the bilateral and multilateral relations entered into are done with full conscious on the part of Government.
The innuendos being peddled are a strong indication of panic by those unhappy with China’s growing influence over Africa.
They cannot hope to win over Africa through lies and treating the continent as one that cannot determine its own direction or choose its friends.
Zambia will evidently continue its bilateral and multi-lateral ties with many other countries, but it will continue being wise on who to keep close and who to keep closer.
Zambia, as the rest of the continent, will keep an eye open to the EU’s proposal for a new ‘Africa – Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs’.
This looks promising and it could supplement what China is already doing.
It is not late to change and embrace Africa once again.

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