Friday, April 12, 2013

Sata promises to protect Zambians' interests
By Joan Chirwa-Ngoma in Beijing
Fri 12 Apr. 2013, 14:01 CAT

PRESIDENT Michael Sata has promised to protect the interests of Zambians in his pursuit for increased investments in the country.

And President Sata has asked China not to colonise its neighbours such as Taiwan but treat them as equal partners in development.

Meanwhile, President Sata charmed a packed auditorium of prospective investors, Zambian government officials and senior executives of China Nonferrous Metals Corporation (CNMC) Group when he constantly passed jokes and insisted on pronouncing certain words and names in Chinese.

During an interactive session at the China-Zambia Economic and Trade Forum organised by CNMC and the Zambian Embassy in China in partnership with Zambia Development Agency and Zambia Tourism Board, President Sata said the government would protect the interests of the Zambians in sourcing for investments from foreign countries.

During his meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior government officials, President Sata talked about how passionate his government was to attract valuable investments in a quest to reduce massive unemployment among the youth.

Yesterday, he continued his call for massive Chinese investments in Zambia's key economic sectors considering the country's potential for growth owing to several factors such as vast land, abundant water and mineral resources and conducive weather conditions.

But when one prospective Chinese investor who did not mention his name asked if the Zambian government would allow the use of Chinese currency, the Yuan, in transactions conducted by investors from China, President Sata said despite China and Zambia having more or less the same policies, his government would ensure the interests of Zambians came first.

"China comes first to China, other things come second. So Zambia also has to protect what it has. But that doesn't mean it should make you stop doing business in our country," he assured, adding that the Zambian government would protect Chinese investments in the country.

President Sata said Zambia had the most liberal foreign exchange policies in Africa which should excite the Chinese investors to invest in the country's economic sectors.

"You can take away your money at any time if it is acquired in a proper way. If not, I am afraid you will have to ask Chairman Mao Zedong to come and help you," he cautioned in a joking manner. "Zambia remains one of the most liberalised economies of Africa despite steps being taken to put measures to regulate the flow of money (through the amendment of the Bank of Zambia Act)."

President Sata said the Zambian government does not discriminate against investors but looked at the ideas being brought to Zambia.
"The Zambian government will only look at your ideas; it will not look at your colour or your eyes. Zambians have no ill feelings against foreigners, so the best way forward for any serious investor is to visit the intended destination for investments," he said. "Come and see Zambia for yourselves."

President Sata also asked China to help Zambia resuscitate Zambia Airways, a national carrier that was liquidated in the early 1990s.
"If you help us bring back Zambia Airways, we will bring China, Hong Kong, Taiwan together, but don't colonise them. Treat them as equal; we don't want you to colonise them," he said. "And once Zambia Airways starts, its first stop will be Beijing."

President Sata also jokingly told the Chinese to invest in Zambia's agriculture sector to help feed many of their relatives who had nothing to eat.

"We are exporting a small percentage of products out of Zambia. Come to Zambia and help feed people here in China. I saw your relatives in the mountains who have nothing to eat," he joked as the auditorium was sent into laughter. "Come and taste our fresh beef; it's not like here where you get milk even from ceramic tiles… If you are too slow, everybody else will be coming to Zambia and your position will be taken. The Indians are also coming to Zambia to invest."

And earlier, President Sata refused to deliver his speech while seated at the high table but opted to stand at a common podium, saying he was strong.

President Sata wound up his state visit to China yesterday and is expected in Zambia today.

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