STEVEN MVULA, NANCY SIAME, Kafue, Lusaka
TOGOLESE President Faure Gnassingbe has urged President Lungu to ignore critics of progress and instead concentrate on building Zambia into an industrial hub to increase trade and enhance integration within Africa.
Mr Gnassingbe says President Lungu’s vision for industrialisation will benefit future generations as it will transform the country into a prosperous nation which will compete favourably with other African countries.
He said the path of industrialisation President Lungu has taken is not an easy one but worthwhile as it is a solution for employment and wealth creation.
“I am proud that Zambia has opted for a difficult path of industrialisation but an important avenue for a prosperous Zambia and Africa. I pay homage to my brother Edgar Lungu for his visionary leadership,” Mr Gnassingbe said.
He was speaking in Kafue yesterday shortly after touring Kafue Steel, a company owned by Universal Mining and Chemical Industries (UMCIL), a subsidiary of Trade Kings Limited.
Mr Gnassingbe said creation of employment remains the number one issue in Africa and there is therefore need to look beyond the traditional sectors that create jobs.
“Agriculture employs a lot of people in Africa, but it cannot cater for everyone and cannot sustain most countries’ Gross Domestic Products. It is thus important to look to other avenues, like the steel industry for job creation,” he said.
Mr Gnassingbe said West Africa has huge deposits of iron-ore which Kafue Steel can put to use.
He said Zambia is a beacon of hope to the rest of Africa and that despite industrialisation not being easy, it can be achieved.
“Zambia is showing us that nothing will be easy for Africa, especially in the heat of competition from countries like China, but Zambia is also showing us that nothing is impossible for Africa,” Mr Gnassingbe said.
Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Margaret Mwanakatwe, who led Mr Gnassingbe on the tour of the steel plant, said Kafue town has been envisaged to become a hub of excellence in research and development of engineering in Zambia and beyond.
Ms Mwanakatwe said Government has taken a deliberate approach of encouraging industrialisation as a way of creating jobs and wealth.
“This government is determined to change the face of Zambia by taking industrialisation as a key driver of development, and such investments are what we are encouraging,” she said.
UMCIL executive technical director Julius Kaoma said the company is a home-grown one with 1,000 employees.
Dr Kaoma said 75 percent of the firm’s products are sold locally but it also exports to other countries such as Burundi, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.
He said there are also prospects of getting into the Angolan and Namibian markets.
Meanwhile, Mr Gnassingbe has called for more exchange programmes between Zambia and Togo to strengthen trade ties.
He was speaking during a State banquet hosted for him by President Lungu on Monday night.
“We need to enhance co-operation and make follow-ups to deliver the much needed development which our people are yearning for,” he said.
Mr Gnassingbe also underscored the need for the two countries to work together to build a world of peace and stability.
He commended Zambians for being peaceful and living in unity under the ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ motto.
Mr Gnassingbe said the motto has remained a unifying factor for Zambia, which is the envy of other countries.
“Zambia is a great nation and a model of peace. Previous leaders demonstrated good leadership and put the interest of the people first and theirs last,” he said.
Earlier, President Lungu re-affirmed his commitment to strengthening bilateral ties with Togo.
“The spirit of co-operation will make us rise above our challenges and find ways of addressing them,” he said.
And President Lungu urged politicians to emulate footballers who accept losing and embrace their opponents after a match.
“They [footballers] know that there can only be one winner and even after losing, they still embrace their opponents knowing that there will be a next time,” he said.
And Mr Gnassingbe left Zambia for his country yesterday. He was seen off by President Lungu, ministers and other senior government officials.