Opening remarks from Alessandro Mariani
Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Zambia and to COMESA
Honourable Minister of Finance,
Honourable Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry,
Honourable Minister of Development Planning,
Colleagues, Ambassadors of European Union Member States in Zambia,
Director General of the Zambian Development Agency,
Representatives of the Private Sector,
Representatives of the Media,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear colleagues and friends,
It is a privilege and an honour for me to welcome you today to the first conference organised by the EU-Zambia Business Club, following its official launch in June this year.
I wish first of all to thank the Honourable Ministers who replied positively to our invitation and are honouring us with their presence today. This shows the strong commitment of the Government to engage the private sector.
Before moving on to the topic of our discussions, I would just like to briefly introduce the EU-Zambia Business Club, for those of you who are joining us for the first time. The Club is an informal association of over 200 European companies active in Zambia, from 14 EU Member States, and which is being integrated by Zambian companies. Its overall objective is to facilitate trade and increase investment opportunities between the EU and Zambia. The EU-Zambia Business Club currently focuses on facilitating and conducting dialogue with the Zambian government on issues prioritised by the Club members, facilitating and conducting networking events amongst its Members (B2B events), facilitating the creation of strategic alliances between Zambian and EU companies and encouraging ethical business practices by all companies operating in Zambia. The Club is in the process of registering as a Society under the Societies Act and of establishing a formal structure.
Role of the private sector
Coming back to the topic before us today, we all know that the private sector, largely represented here today, is the backbone of the economy. The private sector is also expected to contribute to the development of Zambia through investments, creation of jobs and revenues among other things. In order for businesses to thrive and bring about the expected transformation of the economy, they are very much dependent on the existence of sound and predictable public policies as well as an adequate enabling environment. That is why dialogue between the public and private sectors is essential. As explained earlier, offering a platform for such a dialogue is one of the main objectives of the EU-Zambia Business Club and today's event is an excellent opportunity for this dialogue to take place.
Priorities of the government as presented in the President's speech
As outlined throughout the speech of His Excellency, Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, at the opening of the first session of the National Assembly the main objective of this Government is to achieve a resilient, diversified, smart and green economy and create more jobs and wealth for the people.
This is to be achieved by industrialising the economy, adding value locally to raw materials and turning them into intermediary or processed goods. Agriculture, together with livestock and fisheries, are highlighted as the main focus around which other sectors will be developed in an integrated manner.
Tourism, arts and culture are also highlighted as economic sectors where the potential is not being fully achieved. In this respect, increased investment in the hospitality industry is required. The President mentioned public-private partnerships as the way forward.
Of course industrialisation cannot be achieved without a reliable power supply. That is why energy is another sector that the government has committed to further develop in cooperation with the private sector, including through the support to the diversification of energy sources and the development of clean renewable energies.
Proper infrastructure is another key element supporting the development of any economic sectors. The President emphasised the importance of public private partnerships in view of the construction of the so-called "economic roads", roads that will help link productive sectors of the economy to the markets.
Other focal areas for the government over the next 5 years where the private sector has a central role to play include: human capital development, and in particular skills development and entrepreneurship amongst the youth, employment and productivity.
I am sure H.E. Minister Mutati will speak at length about the Zambia Economic Recovery Plan in his address.
Long-term planning, integrated multi-sectoral approach, resolute implementation of reforms, improvements in the macro-economic situation and in the business environment will give the right signal to potential investors in the growth sectors we just spoke about and will enable them to play their part in the development of the country.
I am sure H.E. Minister Mutati will speak at length about the Zambia Economic Recovery Plan in his address; that H.E. Minister Mwanakatwe will speak about the expected contributions from Trade and Industry and that H.E. Minister Mulusa will speak about the development planning and coordination efforts.
What is the EU doing and will be doing in this respect?
The EU's development relations with Zambia will be further strengthened. Focus will be on key growth sectors such as agriculture, energy and governance, with a strong engagement of the private sector. We are also considering developing a dedicated private sector development programme under the 11th European Development Fund.
Moreover; in the same vein of promoting European investment in Africa, the EU launched a new strategic initiative in September: the European External Investment Plan.
The EIP provides, for the first time, a coherent overall framework to improve investment in Africa, in order to promote sustainable investment. It will do so by leveraging funds from the EU, its Member States, European Investment Bank and EU MS Development Banks other donors, financial institutions and the private sector. Although grants remain essential, we need to go beyond classical development assistance and use innovative financial instruments to support investment, trade, domestic resource mobilisation and multiply the impact on the ground. The EIP will improve the way in which public funds are used and the way public authorities and private investors work together on investment projects.
By tackling the economic subjects from all sides, Zambian and European, public and private, I am sure we all will be able to make a meaningful contribution to Zambia's further development and growth.
On this note, I would like to thank you for your attention and leave the floor to our distinguished guests of honour, who will provide you with in-depth information on the Government's economic priorities for the years to come.