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PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu with his Malawian counterpart, Lazarus Chakwera (left), at State House yesterday. PICTURE: MACKSON WASAMUNU

Consolidate Zambia-Malawi ties

Common challenges call for common solutions.  For Zambia and Malawi, collective efforts are virtually inevitable as the two countries’ shared similarities are just too close to ignore.
Zambia and Malawi have numerous social, economic and political similarities.  Apart from the common border on the eastern part of Zambia, there are cultural ties between some tribes such as the Chewa, Ngoni and Tumbuka which are found on either side of the divide.
Given the commonalities between the two countries, it is imperative that Zambia and Malawi continue to enjoy bilateral cooperation.
There is so much in terms of bilateral relations between Zambia and Malawi that must be explored. The visit to Zambia, the first by Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera since being voted into office, is therefore one that should rekindle consolidation of ties between the two countries.
Dr Chakwera was in the country yesterday for a one-day bilateral visit to Zambia during which he held talks with his counterpart, President Edgar Lungu.
Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are part of a growth triangle intended to leverage the economic potential of the three countries.
This concept has not materialised yet. There is the railway project intended to connect the three countries. Zambia and Malawi share significant trade volumes while trucks carrying goods are increasingly going through Mozambique.
Visiting Zambia under the new normal, President Chakwera’s visit could not have come at a better time than now when both countries are battling the headwinds caused by the novel coronavirus.
The COVID-19 crisis is affecting the entire world economy.  Zambia and Malawi have not been spared.  Common sectors adversely affected in the economies of these two countries are trade and tourism.
Both countries rely heavily on foreign ‘input’ to boost these two sectors considering that in trade most goods are imported and the best markets for local products are abroad.
Further, the best clients for tourism are foreign visitors.
With traffic of goods and people adversely affected by the impact of COVID-19, Zambia and Malawi need to look within for immediate solutions.
In fact, this could be an opportunity to find a permanent safety-net to keep respective economies afloat in the event of external factors shaking the Zambia Kwacha and the Malawi Kwacha.
Both leaders are alive to this need.
During the opening of Parliament last Friday, President Lungu spoke about the need to invest all efforts in economic recovery.
Yesterday, Dr Chakwera said African countries cannot continue relying on multilateral financial institutions to determine their growth trajectory.
He said Africa, Zambia and Malawi in particular, should instead find solutions among themselves.
This is indeed so.  Africa has the raw resources to start and sustain industries.  Africa has the skilled labour.  Africa has the market within for the goods produced.  Most importantly, Africa has the realisation that the solutions for its problems are not in foreign lands, but within.
While multilateral financial institutions might not be avoided entirely, African countries such as Zambia and Malawi can no longer wait for aid to develop their countries.
There is need for both countries to begin to share best practices in economic management for them to actualise their potential.
For instance, agriculture has been the mainstay of the Malawian economy after tourism.
Zambia is in the process of diversifying its economy away from its dependency on copper to agriculture, tourism and manufacturing.
Both countries have experts and researchers to get this job done.  Efforts are understandably already being made, but this should now be accelerated.
No hurdle should be too difficult to overcome.  Working together should be easier than to try to go solo on common challenges.  After all, Zambia and Malawi are like two different sides of the same coin.