Harnessing economic diplomacy


ONE guarantee of policy consistency is that everyone begins to speak the same language.
Policy consistency breeds a governance system where everyone from top to the grassroots begins to understand what needs to be done to achieve the ultimate goal.
The Central Province Investment Forum and Expo is a typical example of consistency in policy using Zambia’s economic diplomacy approach since the revision of the foreign policy document in 2014.
Other than this document, there are documents such as the Vision 2030, National Industrialisation Policy, National Trade Policy, Seventh National Development Plan and the 2019 national budget.
All these documents point to the direction of economic diplomacy as espoused in the Foreign Policy, giving a national direction for achieving Zambia’s socio-economic and political growth.
With industrialisation, diversification and job creation at the core of everything, Central Province offers much more than most regions in Zambia with so much agricultural, tourism, mining, health and education investment opportunities, among others. Any single major investment will give rise to other sectors, spurring socio-economic growth.
The Central Province Investment Forum and Expo which starts today, Monday, October 8, 2018 is a significant economic diplomacy step that reflects the national interest at hand.
Luapula Province had one in 2017. Other than the Zambia International Trade Fair and the Agricultural and Commercial Show, provincial expos should be replicated in all the 10 provinces of Zambia because not only do they target international investors but local ones as well.
Economic diplomacy is a tool that needs aggressive marketing of the investment opportunities in order to attract both local and foreign investors.
President Edgar Lungu is expected to open the Investment Forum and Expo, under the theme “Accelerating investment for inclusive and sustainable development”.
His message will be another clarion call to local and foreign investors to take advantage of the conducive business environment that Zambia offers.
Other than the comparative advantage that Zambia has over her neighbours, the government has accelerated its approach for Smart Zambia. President Lungu reiterated this approach during his address at the opening of the 12th Session of National Assembly and through the recently announced 2019 national budget.
The deliberate move towards economic diplomacy is expected to yield quick and positive results for Zambia, especially if investments are tangible, and the multiplier effects are long-term.
Domestic revenue mobilisation is more feasible through strengthening of the domestic production base which in turn supports other sectors of the economy.
This can have an effect even on how Government borrows because then, before looking at external borrowing, it has the option of domestic borrowing with lower interest rates due to a strong home economic base supported by industrialisation.
Government is and should be a key driver of industrialisation and economic diversification.
Being a region so connected to Lusaka, Central Province should be deliberately earmarked for major investment opportunities in order to economically decongest Lusaka.
Investors should be given pieces of land in Central Province, thereby equitably spreading production economic benefits.
What this entails is that the investor will require labour; thereby creating employment, transportation of goods to other parts of the country resulting in a local transporter being contracted and generally, such a move creates a vibrant service sector because of the need to supplement the main producing sector.
It is commendable that as a first step, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has engaged a contractor to construct a new textile factory in the Kabwe Multi-Facility Economic Zone.
This will create a supply-demand linkage between cotton producing regions and Central Province and in turn provide jobs that will effectively reduce socio-economic vulnerability.
With more than 50 international companies that have expressed interest to participate at the Investment Forum and Expo, the focus should be on getting both local and foreign investors express concrete interest of setting up a business in any of the potential lucrative sectors in the province.
The province already has two universities, addressing challenges of qualified labour and skills. Agriculture and tourism, including health, are some of the sectors investors can tap into.
Central as it is, the Investment Forum and Expo should help link the province through improved transport infrastructure, information and communications technology, improved service sector resulting from investments and one-off businesses.
Just like Lusaka, the province has the potential to be a hub of massive economic activities considering that it is a copper producing region and Lusaka is the economic hub for Zambia at the moment.
The author is a Master of International Relations and Development student at Mulungushi University.

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