ANGELA CHISHIMBA, Kinshasa
ZAMBIA wants to grow its export portfolio to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is a strategic partner in the promotion of trade. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Stanley Kakubo said it is strange that there are some countries in the region that do not share a border line with DRC but do more business with that country. “We are looking at supplying DRC commodities made in Zambia using what we call forward contracts. We are talking wheat, we are not keen on exporting maize, we want to process it into maize meal and export mealie meal,” Mr Kakubo said. “Our current exports to DRC include cement, electricity and sulphuric acid which we supply to the mining sector here. But we want to grow that portfolio to ensure that for instance, we know that the DRC gets its beef from the USA and we think we could cut their costs and increase our trade by bringing our beef here. Mr Kakubo accompanied President Hakainde Hichilema to the DRC Africa Business Forum which opened yesterday. The theme of the business forum is “Fostering the development of a battery, electric vehicle and renewable energy industry value chain and market in Africa”. Mr Kakubo said the issue of electric vehicles is an interesting prospect for Zambia. He said the country needs to position itself to benefit from the battery, electric vehicle and renewable energy value chain. “To look into some of these things, you need interventions at the highest level. That is why the two presidents [President Hichilema and his DRC counterpart Felix Tshisekedi] need to speak. We are looking at possibilities of closer cooperation with the DRC in terms of pushing for business that supports the two countries,” Mr Kakubo said. “When it comes to electric vehicles, both countries have cobalt. Zambia has comparative advantage for ease of distribution across the region and also into Europe and then Congo has its own strategic competitive advantage as well. So if we put them together, we have a huge block of potential. If we have companies in Europe, Sweden, where Audi is being made, they can set up a manufacturing plant for some of the components in Zambia.” Mr Kakubo said Zambia is positioning itself to support its own internal mining sector. “In our first budget as the new dawn government, we have put in place strategies to stabilise and increase more investment in the sector by making the mineral royalty tax deductable. It was non-deductible before. We are the only country in the world that made mineral royalty tax not deductible so this reduced investments. So we expect that the next two to three years will be interesting in terms of the mining sector,” he said. Mr Kakubo said President Hichilema is calling for stability in the sector, increase investment and then the value chains will be born from there because Government is not keen to export minerals such as copper without processing it. Because of economic diplomacy President Hichilema has defined for the country as its form of foreign policy, Government is looking at trade first within the region before the United States of America and Europe. “Take for instance the DRC, there is a lot of potential for Zambia in this country. In this country, there are about 130 million people. 30 million people live on the southern part of the country closer to Zambia and they buy all their food from Zambia. So we need to formalise that trade, manage our borders better, and put in proper infrastructure such as the road network between the two countries,” Mr Kakubo said.