The Scoop Editorial: June 22, 2022

WE have keenly followed a ruckus over President Hakainde Hichilema’s trips within and outside Africa of economic benefit to Zambia and their purported drain on our national coffers.

Without apologising to anyone, we would like to state that for as long as these trips are bearing fruits and raking in the much-needed investment through fostering confidence to prospective Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) that Zambia is an investment destination of choice, we have no problem with it.

The only problem we have in this country is that we lack logical discourse on anything and most of us shamelessly talk about things we do not understand and because we are a people who have no interest in reading and researching, we find ourselves parroting about things whose facts we are at sea with.

Just to give a few examples; President Hichilema went to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) not long ago for a two-day working visit and held a series of meetings with his counterpart, Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, before the later came to Zambia.

After the last meeting, the two countries signed a historical cooperation agreement to facilitate the development of value chain in electric battery and clean energy sector, among others. Do you know why? The two leaders are forward thinking. They are looking forward to the era of electric vehicles and how the two countries can benefit.

For starters, Zambia and the DRC have up to 80 percent of minerals required for production of electric car batteries and instead of shipping these minerals abroad in their raw form thereby exporting employment opportunities and foreign exchange, they want to do it themselves and export the finished product. Value addition!

That was no all. Few weeks after, and as a result of these engagements, the revenue authorities and all border agencies of both countries agreed to put in place procedures to allow for 24-hour border operations at Kasumbalesa, Sakanya, Mukambo, and Kipushi.

They agreed that in the interim, from 06:00 to 20:00 be dedicated towards entry and exit of trucks and measures should be made at a target of a minimum of 800 trucks to be cleared to exit the Republic of Zambia into the Democratic Republic of Congo. Is this a mean achievement? Can these benefits be compared to expenses for that trip to DRC? Hell no!

Recently, President Hichilema went to Eswatini. During the visit, Zambia and the Kingdom of Eswatini signed two Memoranda of Understanding in the areas of tourism and politics. The first MoU establishes a comprehensive consultative mechanism where the two countries will share information on various issues which maybe political, economic, or cultural in nature.

And for the uninitiated, in Southern Africa, Eswatini was ranked third in tourism in 2020 and generated around US $7.30 million in the tourism sector alone. Most of its tourism inflows come from South Africa and we all know that South Africa is among the best tourism destinations on the continent. Isn’t Eswatini a country worth engaging with on that score?

A few days ago, President Hichilema and his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, facilitated the signing of six Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) toward scaling up the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

These are in the areas of veterinary and animal health, international relations studies and research, promotion of cooperatives and the MoU between the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) and the Tourism Council Zambia (TCZ), the Kenya Utalii College and the Zambia Institute for Tourism and Hospitality Studies cooperation, and cooperation in the field of information, communication, and technology.

In terms of technology, Kenya is regarded as the second-best innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa. Tech start-ups thrive in Kenya, due in part to the ready availability of credit lines and other forms of financing. 2019 was the ninth consecutive year Kenya exceeded the innovation relative to GDP figures expected from middle-income nations.

On the other hand, the World Bank biennial report for 2019 ranked Kenya as the second best country in Africa for providing an enabling environment for agribusiness. So, why should a normal person raffle feathers when their Head of State seeks engagement with such a country? The problem with us in Zambia is that we are used to mediocrity.

Previous trips to Eswatini for example by some Head of State who went with a bloated delegation of a battalion of his friends and chola boys ended at taking pictures with bare-breasted girls clad in animal skins. Nothing else. Years back, we were lied to that free milk and rice was coming from India. To date, we have never seen or tested that milk and rice.

In May 2015, we were again lied to that the Saudi Arabian Government, through the Saudi Fund for National Development, had offered a US $ 20 million revolving fund to supply cheaper oil to Zambia and reduce domestic fuel prices for the next five years. This became a chorus after some Head of State visited Saudi Arabia a few days later. That fuel has never been delivered to this country. It was all lies.

So, as long as President Hichilema continues registering progress in all his travels, he has our backing. As long as he continues moving with a streamlined delegation, the costs will be minimal compared to someone who was moving with his kadansas who had no role in these international engagements.

When and if President Hichilema fails to deliver over these trips, we will be the first ones to remind him that he wasted the tax-payers’ money but so far, so good. And by the way, President Hichilema is our first Republican President to be invited to address the European Union (EU) Parliament.

The EU Parliament is not a kangaroo organisation that can be addressed by anyone. As much as it is a rare privilege for HH to address them, they also look at the calibre of a person addressing them and what value such an undertaking brings to them.

Again, no mean achievement unless you are not privy to the Sixth European Union – African Union Summit of February 2022 as a Joint Vision for 2030.



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