Tuesday, August 07, 2007

'Zambia, Botswana have big challenge'

'Zambia, Botswana have big challenge'
By Joan Chirwa
Tuesday August 07, 2007 [04:01]

Botswana’s President Festus Mogae, who graced this year’s 81st agricultural and commercial show which ended yesterday, said Zambia and Botswana had the biggest challenge of turning their vast natural resources into wealth. And Zambia Agricultural and Commercial Show Society president William Saunders has said the implementation of the recently enacted Citizens’ Economic Empowerment (CEE) Act was the most difficult task for the government.

During his official address to the show, President Mogae said the immediate challenge of the two countries was the fight against poverty and under-development.

“For countries that are richly endowed with natural resources such as Zambia and Botswana, the challenge is also how to turn that blessing of abundant natural resources in to tangible benefits for our people,” President Mogae said. “I therefore find the show’s theme of ‘Economic Empowerment’ to be most appropriate.”

President Mogae further indicated that his country has joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) that seeks to promote transparency among countries rich in natural resources such as minerals.

Zambia is yet to join the EITI, an institution that seeks to resolve one of the most striking paradoxes of the African continent where countries with vast natural wealth are among the poorest in the world.

“We have nothing to hide. That is why our countries have readily submitted to rigorous checks as under the Kimberly Process with respect to the sale of diamonds. Botswana has also joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to assure the world that its resources are for development and the economic empowerment of its citizens,” Mogae said.

He further said Botswana and Zambia should be proud of the successful eradication of tsetse flies along the border areas.
“Our 2006 aerial spraying on Botswana side also covered a small portion of about 200 square kilometers of Western Zambia. We are of course fully aware that the destructive tsetse flies do not respect political boundaries. Botswana stands ready to co-operate further with Zambia in its eradication efforts,” said Mogae.

The Agricultural and Commercial Show is an annual event that sums up activities of the district and provincial agricultural shows held usually after each harvest period across the country.

There has been an enormous growth recorded in the agriculture sector over the past few years, with the industry generating between 18 to 20 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

And Saunders in his address to the just ended 81st Agricultural and Commercial Show themed ‘Economic Empowerment’, noted that the legislation of the CEE Act was not as tasking as the implementation of the legal document.

“Legislation of the empowerment Act was the easy part, the hard part is ensuring that empowerment truly empowers the grass roots of our society and this requires a commitment from us all. But it must be workable in a natural way-that is to say all successful development occurs because it is easy to embrace by us all, it is not forced upon any of the participants at any stage,” Saunders said.

‘This is a challenge to us all. I am extremely honoured that the President of Botswana is gracing us with his presence to officially open the show. Since independence in 1966, Botswana has transformed from a near-subsistence economy into one of the wealthiest and fastest growing countries in Africa.”

Saunders further said the discovery of mineral resources and the growing livestock sector accounted the large portion of Botswana’s exports.

“Although the agriculture sector now accounts for less than five per cent of your total exports, it is an important source of employment in your country. All these achievements made by Botswana cannot come on a silver plate, but are a result of sound economic management by the people of that country,” Saunders said.

“I have no doubt you (President Mogae) have a deep understanding about the economic turmoil Zambia has gone through but also that you would recognise the benefits are ultimately greater than pain.”

Zambia’s President Levy Mwanawasa who also attended the show said: “I hope that this show will contribute to the regional economic integration especially that the number of foreign exhibitors has increased. The show will help boost business opportunities and thereby contributing to regional economic integration.”

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