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Mulenga: Putting Zambia on China’s investment programme in Africa

ONE cannot talk about China relations with the outside world without mentioning Zambia in the equation.
In fact, the China-Zambia partnership defines the Chinese government’s commitment to helping people in the area of education in Africa.
Mr Friday Mulenga is one of the testimonies of China’s generosity towards uplifting Zambia in the area of education.
When Mr Mulenga left the Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU) in 1983, he thought he would only be talking about this great institution which has modelled his life, in past tense only.
He told a gathering during the BJTU 120th anniversary held from September 9 to 12 this year that he still holds fond memories about his stay in China, and has remained connected to the country.
“My experience of studying in China moulded me into a Chinese person in character and this is exhibited by my good work ethics of honesty and hard work. My professional success is therefore attributed to my rich academic background acquired in China due to the high quality educational standards,” Mr Mulenga said.
His trip to BJTU started in 1979 when he was among the 10 successful candidates selected by the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communication to go to China under a Chinese government scholarship to pursue a degree course in transportation engineering at Northern Communications University in Beijing in October 1978.
Of course, his first year in China was not without challenges. He had first to study Chinese language at the Beijing Institute of Foreign Languages for six months.
He graduated in July 1979, after which he undertook a four-year degree course and also graduated and received his bachelor of engineering degree in transportation with merit achievement from BJTU in 1983.
“This degree has transformed my life because I have never looked back. Straight from this university, I joined the Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) under the Ministry of Transport and Communications in February 1984,” Mr Mulenga recalled.
He worked with TAZARA for 13 years in different portfolios, after which he rose to the position of passenger services manager until his retirement in December 1997.
“I later worked as inspector of machinery in the Mines Safety Department in the Ministry of Mines from 1998 to 2001. I later joined the aviation industry in 2001 as airport manager at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport in Ndola, the provincial capital of the Copperbelt Province. This is the second busiest airport in Zambia,” Mr Mulenga said.
Working at a regional airport gave Mr Mulenga experience to work for a bigger terminal and he moved to Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, formerly Lusaka International Airport, where he has been as airport manager since February 2006 to date.
“I manage to perform my duties – thanks to the education I received in the world’s second largest economy with rapid advancement in science and technology.
“This is by no means a very big achievement for a person like me from a very humble background from Chishamwamba village, Mporokoso district in Northern Province,” he said.
Apart from being airport manager in Lusaka, Mr Mulenga is a full member of the Engineering Institute of Zambia.
He is also a graduate member of the Institute of Risk and Safety Management – British Safety Council from the United Kingdom.
Besides holding a busy position at the country’s biggest and busiest airport, he is also involved in mobilising former students who trained in China.
“We have henceforth formed an alumni group called the Zambia China Old Students Association (ZACOSA),” Mr Mulenga said.
ZACOSA’s objectives, apart from bringing former Zambian students in China together, include but are not limited to promoting professional interests of Zambian Chinese graduate students, establish contact with all former Zambian Chinese graduate students throughout the world and provide guidance to students who want to study in China.
Other objectives are to promote and enhance cultural, social and educational exchange between Zambia and China, enhance bilateral relations and promote an economic platform between the two countries and to exchange ideas of interest among members.
Mr Mulenga described his recent return to China, and BJTU in particular, as a humbling experience. He participated in the 120th anniversary of the great university.
“It is also a great honour for me to be part of this great reunion with my former teachers and other alumni for the commemoration of the unforgettable past well spent here and witness the monumental changes that have taken place since we left as well as witness the outlook of the brilliant prospects of BJTU,” he said.
Mr Mulenga expressed gratitude to the BJTU management for facilitating his passage to China and back.
He said the university, which is a national key high learning institution under the direct administration of the Ministry of Education and now jointly supported by the ministry, the China Railway Corporation (formerly the Ministry of Railways) and Beijing Municipal Government, will forever be part of him.
He also thanked the BJTU management for according him the rare opportunity to share his experiences and thoughts with the audience.
Mr Mulenga promised to be available for further details about ZACOSA and how some people in China may get involved with the group or where to invest in Zambia.