The Zambian High Commissioner to India, Judith Kapijimpanga, who has extra accreditation to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Nepal, Myanmar, and Maldives, paid a visit to Dhaka from July 3-8. During her visit, in an exclusive interview with the Dhaka Tribune’s Shariful Islam, the high commissioner said her country wants to revive relations with Bangladesh to boost economic affairs and reach out to the Bangladeshi business community
As an African country, Zambia, unlike most of its neighbours, has managed to avoid war and earned a reputation for political stability. What’s the current political situation there?
Zambia has maintained political stability since its independence from Britain. We have changed presidents with no political turmoil and no fear, through fair elections. Despite there being 73 ethnic groups with 73 different languages, we have lived in relative harmony and ensured that democracy stands strong in our country.
Is democracy growing with the multi-party practices there?
Yes. Zambia has practiced multi-party democracy from 1991. After our independence in 1964, we were a one party state, but from 1991 onwards, we have been practicing multi-party democracy.
What about the law and order situation in Zambia?
The first asset that we have as a country is that we have never been in a civil war. Zambians are very peaceful and law-abiding people. We have legislations in place to manage how the people ought to live, and people abide by them.
Tell us about the strategies President Lungu and the Zambian government have adopted to attain a bright economic future?
Over the years, our economy has grown by a 2% GDP increase almost every year. This is due to good policies the government has put in place. For example, potential investors coming into our country are given rebates on machinery imports – especially those who are coming to take part in the agriculture and energy sector, they are given some incentives.
How well are foreign investors protected in Zambia?
Foreign investors are completely protected in Zambia. When an investor comes to Zambia, a certain amount of money comes in with him, and legislation is placed to protect the potential investor. There are also laws and regulations that an investor is required to adhere to and abide. An investor is made accountable to contribute to the community near his business, and also pays the minimum wages set by the ministry of labour.
We also have the most liberal foreign exchange regulations. In Zambia, when one invests, they can externalize the profits without any problems. The environment is conducive and most investors decide to re-invest.
We know that Zambia is a landlocked country and your economy is mainly dependent on copper production. What about other sectors?
Zambia is the fourth largest copper producer in the world, but we have diversified and gone into agriculture. We have been exporting a lot of things such as flowers, cassava, cotton, and timber.
As a part of this diversification, new policies have been prepared to encourage copper mines by adding value. We are trying to add value by bringing in investments to convert raw copper into finished products such as copper rods, copper platelets, etc.
What about the bilateral relations between your country and Bangladesh?
We have many Bangladeshi nationals living in Zambia. Of our population of 15 million, 1.5 million is made up of Asians. Some of these are Bangladeshis, and they live peacefully amongst our people. In Zambia, there is no racism.
Zambia was the first African country to recognize Bangladesh as a sovereign country.
What are your objectives as the Zambian high commissioner to India, especially with regard to Bangladesh?
I have come to Bangladesh because Zambia wants to revive relations with this country in order to champion economic diplomacy. Zambia wanted a Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) with Bangladesh to critically examine areas of mutual cooperation. We are particularly interested in the textile industry flourishing in Bangladesh.
Zambia is ripe for investment because of political stability as well as its currency, as inflation is always under control, so we are here to reach out to the business community in Bangladesh.
What are the prospects for Bangladeshis investing in your country?
I want to enhance relations by ensuring that we have interactions through trade and tourism. There is a lot of land in Zambia, so farmers who have the capability and interest to invest are welcome to do so. We are also rich in minerals and emeralds, so, there is a lot on offer for Bangladeshi investors.
Do you have the official number for Zambians living in Bangladesh?
There are no Zambians in Bangladesh.
Is there anything more you would like to add?
Yes, you talked about Zambia being landlocked, but we are no longer landlocked. Rather, we are land-linked, because we have a very harmonious brotherhood with our eight neighbours, and these countries are all linked by road and rail.