Alessandro Mariani, Ambassador of the European Union
Launch of the EU-Zambia Business Club
8 June 2016
Honourable Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry
Colleagues, Ambassadors of European Union Member States in Zambia
Honorary Consuls of European Union Member States in Zambia
Representatives of the Private Sector
Representatives of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is for me a privilege and an honour to welcome you today to the official launching of the EU-Zambia Business Club.
I wish to thank the Honourable Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry who has been very supportive of this initiative ever since it was just an idea, six-seven months ago. Your presence here today Hon. Minister, despite the ongoing electoral campaign, shows your personal commitment and the one of your Ministry towards the private sector and to the EU-Zambia Business Club in particular.
I also wish to thank my colleagues, the Ambassadors of the EU Member States present in Zambia who have been great engines for this initiative. All of them have invested lots of time and energies collaborating in the conceptualisation and design of the EU-Zambia Business Club. To make things crystal clear we would not be here today without their continuous support. I also wish to pay tribute to the Honorary Consuls of EU Member States in Zambia who have embraced the initiative since the beginning and have worked hard, in between their professional activities, to promote the EU-Zambia Business Club within their respective "constituencies".
The rationale for the creation of the EU-Zambia Business Club is that together, we can do more and better to: (i) contribute towards further improving the business environment in Zambia; (ii) promote our business values, ethics and common interests; (iii) promote Zambia as an investment destination with a view to increase Foreign Direct Investment in the country; and ultimately (iv) do more business, which is in everybody's interest.
This initiative is not unique to Zambia. It is one example of how the European Union (EU and EU MS) intends to widen their economic diplomacy around the world. In Africa similar initiatives have been already at work in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Benin and Ghana. Therefore, the EU-Zambia Business Club can be also seen as part of a growing network with opportunities for cross fertilization.
In my view, this initiative is very timely in spite of the headwinds the Zambian economy is currently facing. This is the time when the attention of everyone in Zambia goes towards diversification of the economy, possibly more than ever before (diversification amongst sectors; diversification within each economic sector). And the diversification efforts are of great interest to European companies/investors who have much to offer in terms of technology, products, organisational and management abilities (e.g.: agro-processing; renewable energies; engineering; logistics; etc).
Private investment is essential for the economic growth, job creation and reduction of inequalities, and may well complement the development cooperation efforts. There are important synergies that can be fostered between trade and investment, on the one hand, and development, on the other hand.
With the risk of sounding a bit boring, I will reiterate the basic preconditions for investment in a country, as we can never be too adamant in this respect:
Zambia complies with most of these preconditions and we recognise the efforts made in setting up a more conducive business environment. We still believe that more can be done and we stand ready to maintain and deepen our dialogue with the Government in this respect. This is to the benefit of Zambian companies and, at the same time, to the benefit of foreign companies. The EUZBC aspires to be a frank and reliable partner to engage on all the issues of interest to its members.
How did we work to set it up?
I would now like to recap the steps followed for the set-up of the Business Club:
I wish to thank Elaine, Damien, Michail, Johannes and Cristina wholeheartedly and also guide you to them for any questions, comments and suggestions you may have today or in the future.
Please be aware that the Steering Committee is open and keen to welcome more volunteers.
What is the mandate? What can the Business Club do for you?
In a first phase the EU-Zambia Business Club will focus on:
Once its structure is more established and above all once its members feel the time is ready the EU-Zambia Business Club could endeavour to
The speed at which to work will be decided by you in order for the Club to be relevant to you as well as its specific activities and their frequency.
I wish for the time being to make a proposal for the first activity – after the election – where we would like to organise a meeting between the Club members and the economic ministers of the newly formed Cabinet. The activities to follow will be suggested by yourselves, so I truly encourage you to get involved and make recommendations to the ad-hoc Steering Committee with subjects of interest to you. This Business Club has to be and will be demand driven. This is key for its success as well as its level of cooperation with other complementary experiences such as the Zambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ZACCI), the British Chamber of Commerce, and the Southern Africa German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
We have adopted an informal setting, a Club, so that it offers the flexibility needed at the beginning. This informal structure may evolve the way you want and consider the most appropriate. Also, the more we will have the opportunity to look into issues affecting one or the other business sectors, one could also think about creating specific working groups. But again, these are all subjects open for discussion, starting from today's panel and today's Q&A session and for the Business Club to decide in the weeks and months to come.
Let me conclude by saying that this initiative is dynamic and only your participation and active involvement can take it further in the manner which you prefer. We are at the beginning of one, new, chapter in the relations between Zambia and the European investors, which we hope and trust will deliver to the best of your expectations.
I thank you for your attention; Zikomo Kwambiri, and give the floor to the Honourable Minister for her key-note speech.