YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
HE IS an expert in multilateral diplomacy. Albert Muchanga, a seasoned and devoted public service worker, is the newly elected African Union (AU) Commissioner for Trade and Industry.
â€œThe tension during the elections was very high and tricky because the permutations were very complicated. Even if you are unopposed, you still need to be subjected to a vote and if you get the magic number of 36 votes, then you are okay, if not, you are in trouble. Iâ€™m happy I polled 49 votes, the highest number during the elections,â€ he says.
Born on May 21, 1959, at Mbilu village in Macha area of Choma district in Southern Province, Ambassador Muchanga, a seasoned diplomat, did not understand until now why as a child, he constantly dreamt he was flying.
â€œDreams get fulfilled in various ways. When I was a child, I would always dream I am flying and I did not understand the significance of that until I joined the department of economic co-operation and found myself flying all over the world.
â€œThen at Linda Secondary School, our teacher of English, Mr Pugh, once asked each one of us what we wanted to be in Life. Some of my friends stated they wanted to be engineers, medical doctors, pilots and teachers. When it came to me, I said I wanted to be a tourist and everyone burst into laughter. For sure that dream has been fulfilled because I have travelled to so many countries around the world in my international relations,â€ he says.
The first-born in a family of three, Ambassador Muchanga lost his mother when he was only four years old and his family relocated to Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where his father worked at a company known as Super-Sonic.
Ambassador Muchanga, who was raised by his father, attended among other schools, Kabimba, Coillard, Livingstone Day and Monze Secondary School.
â€œI lost my brother, Abraham, in 1996, and my father, who died in Gaborone in 2002. My sister Masiwa is in the village with her kids as she also lost her husband.
â€œI do have a step-mum, sisters and brothers, we are in constant touch and support each other,â€ he says.
He later studied at the University of Zambia (UNZA) and obtained a Bachelor or Arts in Economics and Business Administration among other qualifications he possesses.
â€œSome of my colleagues that I was with at UNZA include the likes of Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Margaret Mwanakatwe, Governor of the Bank of Zambia Denny Kalyalya, chief executive officer at Zambia Railways Limited Christopher Musonda and Davidson Mendamenda, deputy Auditor General, administration and corporate services. These were some of my class-mates and others are out of active service,â€ he says.
Married for 35 years to Racheal, Ambassador Muchanga has three daughters, Charity, Munji and Muyembe.
The couple has also raised five other children, four of whom were orphaned after his brother and wife passed and one from his (Muchangaâ€™s) wifeâ€™s side.
He says he will forever remain indebted to his wife as she is loving and supportive of his career.
â€œWhen we got married, we made a vow that our marriage would be a permanent relationship, and it continues to be one. We are very happy together,â€ he says.
Ambassador Muchanga, who is the immediate past permanent secretary for Parliamentary Business Division, has an array of experience both home and abroad.
He was the first Zambian ambassador designate to Brazil and Ambassador to Ethiopia with extra-accreditation to Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan,Yemen, AU, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.
Ambassador Muchanga, who was also the first Zambian to serve at Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) as deputy Executive Secretary, was also the first Gender Desk officer, which was later transformed into a fully flagged ministry.
He was also a Senior Economist and Desk Officer on the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC); Preferential Trade Area for Eastern and Southern Africa States (PTA) and Brazil, National Commission for Development Planning.
Ambassador Muchanga also served on a number of Management Boards such as the Food Reserve Agency, Mukuba Hotel Limited, Zambia International Trade Fair, and Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
He was also among the committee of permanent secretaries appointed to prepare speeches and briefs for President Lungu between 2016-2017:
The Commissioner-elect also served as Director of Tourism at the Ministry of Tourismand Arts and Director Domestic Trade at the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry, among others.
Ambassador Muchanga is grateful to Government for the policy of placing Zambians in the international system.
He says the policy, which is being implemented at various levels, made it possible for his election to the AU.
Ambassador Muchanga is indebted to President Lungu and government in general for immensely supporting his campaign.
He acknowledges the financial commitment by government made it possible for the campaign team to travel.
Ambassador Muchanga has a passion working for the public service both home and abroad as he was trained at public expense and so feels indebted to work for the people.
HIS RESPONSIBILITIES AT THE AU
Ambassador Muchanga says he will work towards broadening and deepening the contribution of regional economic communities in the African economic integration agenda in the areas of trade and industry.
He says the effectiveness of the African Union Commission will ultimately be judged by the positive difference that it will make in the lives of ordinary Africans.
Ambassador Muchanga says one of his first tasks will be to ensure the vision of AU of coming up with the Continental Free Trade Area by October, this year, is realised.
He notes his portfolio is key in coming up with policy proposals on how to attain this important milestonein the development of Africa.
Ambassador Muchanga, whose hobbies include fitness training, chess, fly fishing, gardening, reading and golf, has also set industrialisation high on his agenda.
He says an aggressive policy on industrialisation is key to achieving social and economic development on the continent.
Ambassador Muchanga says he will fight to ensure there is harmony between both national and regional industrial policies as this will be the fastest route to achieve rapid industrialisation.
â€œWhen you look at Africa, itâ€™s currently the poorest region in the world. We have the largest number of least-developed countries,â€ he says.
He believes rapid industrialisation will open up opportunities for increased trade among African countries which currently stands between 10 and 12 percent.
Ambassador Muchanga observes there is a gradual realisation by African countries that by working together, the continent can achieve more.
The election of Ambassador Muchanga will benefit two more Zambians as he is entitled to two assistants.