KALONDE NYATI, Lusaka
IT IS a country one can enter from many points through Western and North-Western provinces, Angola, shares a land boundary of 1,110 kilometres (km) with Zambia, thus providing potential of multiple trading entry points.
At the same time, both countries are in need of each other’s resources and products yet Zambia, for instance, has to import oil from the Middle-East while Angola imports agro products, including poultry, from South America.
Yet, the two countries can supply each other, thereby, reducing on costs, distance and most importantly support regional trade, which remains key to stimulating Africa’s growth.
According to Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry permanent secretary Kayula Siame, trade volumes between Zambia and Angola remain insignificant with Zambia only exporting goods worth K20 million last year.
This represents a 0.1 percentage point share of Zambia’s exports to Angola compared with the rest of the world.
But, would wonder why trade between the two countries is still low despite both of them being members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Notable barriers hindering trade between the two countries are lack of proper road and rail infrastructure, which has affected connectivity, high visa fees for entering Angola and language problems.
A trader, Grace Njapau, who has been exporting maheu, biscuits and groundnuts, among other products, to Angola narrates how lack of a good road network has affected trade between the two countries.
“I have been going to Angola for four years now, but the bad road has been a challenge.
“The distance between Chavuma and Karipande (in Angola) is about 150 km but because of the poor state of the road, the journey takes long. It can even take days, so it is a challenge when you are carrying perishables such as tomatoes,” she says.
Ms Njapau said there is need to have language translators to facilitate trade between people from both countries.
High visa fees is a ‘thorn in the flesh’ of a small and medium scale entrepreneur (SME), who has to ‘cough out’ US$100 each time he or she wants to go to Angola.
As luck would have it, President Edgar Lungu and his Angolan counterpart Joao Lourenco are alive to the challenges and are committed to accelerate trade between the two neighbours.
To this effect, the two countries last week signed five bilateral agreements which, among other things, provide for visa exemption for ordinary passport holders from either country to enter the territory of the other.
Other agreements are on security and public order, reciprocal visa exemption on diplomatic and official passports, agreement on mutual cooperation and administrative assistance on customs matters and protocol of cooperation in the area of agriculture.
Under the visa agreement, citizens of either country, who hold valid ordinary passports will be allowed to enter the territory of Angola or Zambia for official or private business as well as transit without a visa.
The protocol of cooperation on agriculture is aimed at establishing and strengthening bilateral relations in the area of agriculture, specifically in agro-production, hydraulic and agro-research, processing technologies and farm block development.
The agreements were signed on the side-lines of Zambia-Angola Business Forum, which was organised under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry and the Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) and was aimed at strengthening trade and investment relations between the two countries.
President Lungu notes that with trade remaining low between the two countries, it is necessary to devise strategies that will increase the trade volumes.
“The cordial and bilateral relations between Zambia and Angola have grown from strength to strength… the forum is of special significance to the relations that exist between Zambia and Angola, and it is my desire that this platform will provide opportunities to consolidate our political ties.
“There is also need for initiatives to enable Zambian and Angolan entrepreneurs merge to create profitable and lasting linkages as the two countries aspire to accelerate trade and investment,” he said.
President Lungu said the forum was, therefore, necessary as it facilitated future business linkages for entrepreneurs and will further result in technological transfer and employment generation.
He said Government will continue to facilitate an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive.
President Lungu noted that despite trade volumes between
the countries being low, there has been an improvement compared to the past, with volumes standing at US$5.1 million as at the first quarter of this year.
Similarly, President Lourenco called for strengthening of relations between the two countries, saying the region needs to join efforts in harnessing the natural resources for the development of the region.
He commended Zambia for developing its agriculture sector, saying the development has positioned the country as a regional hub, although more needs to be done to accelerate the sector.
Mr Lourenco was also impressed with operations at Kafue Steel Plant.
“We commend Zambia for spearheading Africa’s industrialisation agenda, and the establishment of the steel plant, which has a 120,000 tonnes annual production capacity, indicates that Africa is on the right path to industrialisation,” he said.
While the two governments are making strides to improve trade, the private sector still feels that there is need to actualise the private-sector led oil pipeline project from Angola to Zambia, which could result in low fuel prices in the country.
On behalf of the private sector, Lusaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry immediate past president Chabuka Kawesha said there is need for the two governments through the Ministries of Education to promote exchange programmes to address the language barrier.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a step, it is therefore envisaged that with the steps taken, the two countries will accelerate long-lasting and profitable trade and investment relations.
KALONDE NYATI, Lusaka