ECONOMIC diplomacy is an engine that any developing country should employ to drive its economy.
Economic diplomacy has become the centre stage of Zambia’s affairs and by this move; the country is expected to grow drastically in the next 10 years.
It can be further stated that taking an economic front and keeping it low on political affairs will help the country advance its economic interests.
On the other hand, the image of a country is the key to investments and special efforts need to be made to portray a positive image of Zambia. Rwanda has laid a very good example for Zambia and the rest of Africa by ensuring that it portrays cleanliness and environmental regard. This has been enhanced further by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s move to start marketing Rwanda by partnering with the English Premier League club Arsenal football Club so that the team jersey is branded ‘Visit Rwanda’ on the sleeves.
Zambia can equally take some initiatives such as advertising in the media. This goes with a cost benefit analysis. African countries such as South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Rwanda, among others, have gone ahead to market themselves on CNN, BBC and Aljazeera. This can be done as well with a proper marketing and investment promotion campaign. The idea is to promote the Zambian Brand abroad to attract investments and also promote tourism. Consequently, tourism could result in investments, as some tourists may turn into investors.
From July 25 and 26, 2019, Zambia will host the National Economic Summit under the theme ‘The Future of Economic Diplomacy: Supporting inclusive growth and sustainable development in Africa’, organised by the Economic Association of Zambia (EAZ).
This will be an attempt to provide an analysis of Zambia’s position in both regional and global economic affairs using economic diplomacy.
Whilst this will be done, how the country is marketed to achieve certain economic objectives matters a lot.
The summit is one of the marketing tools. It should be brought to the fore that there is need to have a focused investment promotion campaign which should be launched and should include conducting general investment seminars on investment and conducting industry or sector specific information seminars.
Another tool is participation in trade fairs both abroad and at home. This seems to be working at home, with the introduction of provincial expos but there is need to extend it further so that Government and the private sector can participate in international trade fairs and expos, and market the country.
Zambia is and has always been pursuing economic diplomacy and recognises its importance.
The national economic summit is a good starting point for identifying economic challenges and developing strategies that will help market Zambia as a good destination for foreign direct investment and trade.
It would be of best interest if the summit can also look at ways of developing an economic diplomacy strategy that specifically looks at which sectors need urgent attention in order to spur growth in a diversified manner.
Kenya is a good African example to tap knowledge from regarding how it has embraced economic diplomacy. It is good that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will be present at this summit.
Based on the World Bank Report of 2015, remittance flows to developing countries rose to US$440 billion, of which sub-Saharan Africa was projected to receive US$33 billion, representing a growth percentage of 0.9 percent in 2015. Zambia received US$74 million. This demonstrates the role that the diaspora can play in national development. Therefore, there is an intrinsic linkage between the diaspora and economic diplomacy.
The ideal situation would be to now consider setting up a ‘Directorate of Diaspora’ in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would also help in strengthening the missions to follow-up and register members of the Diaspora Community in their perspective countries. The Government, Ambassadors, High Commissioners, diplomats and Chamber of Commerce would have to consider implementing the policy by working together with the diaspora to promote the home country’s economic policy and agenda.
Furthermore and by all means, there is a rising need for Zambia to expand its manufacturing industry in order to raise its economic profile in the region. In this case, Zambia ought to be on the forefront in improving and increasing its manufactured products and improve the quality of its products that circulate in Southern Africa.
The involvement of other stakeholders in Zambia’s pursuance of economic diplomacy is an effective strategy adopted by the government in promoting its economic diplomacy. Economic diplomacy in itself cannot be conducted by government alone. For its full effectiveness, involving third parties ensures that the country is achieving its full potential in the regional and global market. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry are working hard, and need to work even harder, in coordinating with the private sector to enhance strong economic relations in the region.
Finally, it is necessary to generate greater awareness about Zambia’s economic diplomacy. Certain essential steps, therefore, need to be taken to make economic diplomacy more result-oriented, in terms of policies, programmes, promotion, performance and personnel.
The author is a Master of International Relations and Development student at Mulungushi University.