Saturday, June 09, 2012
By Mwala Kalaluka in Geneva, Switzerland
Sat 09 June 2012, 12:59 CAT
PRESIDENT Michael Sata says foreign investors wanting to invest in Africa should possess traceable investment credentials in their home countries before they put money into the continent's business sector.
And Swiss-Africa Business Community president Anthony Travis says President Sata is a very business-friendly leader who has created an opportunity for continued business-related interactions between the private sector-driven organisation and Zambia.
Meanwhile, Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia president Joyce Nonde-Simukoko says the country's labour was currently enjoying a good-working relationship with the government compared to the difficulties it had with the previous MMD government.
During a meeting with members of the Swiss-Africa Business Community held at the InterContinental Hotel in Geneva yesterday, President Sata urged foreign investors to know the areas where they wanted to invest in well.
"Unless you know the area where you want to invest well, your investment becomes safe," President Sata said. "What you need first of all…people need to invest in their own countries, once they invest in their own country, then that becomes a springboard."
President Sata said Zambians would question every investment that comes into the country from outside and that foreigner investors that do not have traceable investment credentials in their countries of origin would be lost once they are exposed to this scrutiny.
President Sata assured the business plethora that Zambia had lots of investment advantages as the government would ensure that it guarantees the exportation of any honest investor's dividends.
"This is not common in many countries," said President Sata in a discussion that was punctuated by light moments where he even spoke Swahili with some SABC members from Burundi and Tanzania.
"Commerce used to be very attractive. It is no longer that attractive. You have capital investments. Now a place like Switzerland, I expected to find Credit Suisse, they are not here."
President Sata said following discussions with a team from Credit Suisse, the bank was intent on extending its operations to Zambia.
"The people who used to come and hide money here Switzerland they are no more. With the fight against corruption, there is very little money that is being hidden here," President Sata said.
President Sata said with Zambia's land mass, foreign investors could invest in anything and that this could ultimately address the problem of unemployment.
"At the moment Africans, not Europeans, are suffering from very high unemployment," President Sata said.
"We are working very hard. I have managed to reduce our inflation."
President Sata said failure to reactivate business in Africa would make it hard for governments to create employment.
President Sata told agriculture minister Emmanuel Chenda that the Swiss-Africa Business Community were not interested in statistics about Africa because they had plenty of that but that they were keen to know if they would be received once they venture into Zambia.
"You come to Zambia, you will never walk alone," said Chenda as the whole meeting burst into laughter.
President Sata also told information, labour and broadcasting minister Fackson Shamenda to say something on the concerns on wild strikes in Africa.
Shamenda said the government and the labour sector were enjoying cordial relations.
"Where there are usually strikes, it is because of lack of dialogue," Shamenda said.
"We will provide the environment in which labour and capital dialogue. The labour market as far as Zambia is concerned, there is no problem."
Foreign affairs and tourism minister Given Lubinda said time to invest in Zambia was now, more so that a bigger chunk of the country's tourist sites remains unexplored.
And when called upon by the President to make some comments during the meeting, Nonde-Simukoko, who is also Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers, said there had been no recorded strike in the banking sector in the past 10 years.
"We have improved dialogue," Nonde-Simukoko said. "We have very good relations with government, especially the PF government. We had difficulties with the MMD government I must say."
But Nonde-Simukoko said the country's labour movement does not believe in the exploitation of its members, who she described as very friendly and obedient workers.
However, when told by President Sata that some of the business people in the room were scared about the spread of Chinese investment on the continent, Nonde-Simukoko said there were some social barrier issues relating to Chinese investment that required to be addressed.
"Chinese are good people, can you tell them about the Chinese?" President Sata asked Nonde-Simukoko.
"Language has been a problem," she said. "We have complained to our government that this must be addressed…we have observed that they are hardworking. It is the issue of social dialogue which we have found to be very difficult for us."
Zambia Federation of Employers ZFE executive director Harrington Chibanda also confirmed that the labour movement and the government were enjoying a cordial working relationship, creating a safe investment ambience.
On the issue of the Chinese, President Sata said Chinese investors despite being slightly expensive than some other contractors were now under control by being subjected to strict rules and that they were reliable in terms of undertaking projects in the outlying areas.
"We can't do without them," President Sata said. "When you come to Zambia, bring trade delegations so that you win the war by spying not by guns."
President Sata called on the business group to partner with the government and establish a national airline.
"You can't have a country like Zambia without an airline," said President Sata.
And Travis said the meeting with President Sata was very positive and that the President was a business-friendly leader who specified out the issues on Zambia's investment potential to the business community.
Travis, who will be leading a business delegation to Kenya next week, said his group had an unbiased approach to investing on the African continent but that the meeting with President Sata had removed Zambia from being one of the 54 countries with a question mark, paving an avenue for continued investment dialogue.