By JOHN SAKALA
Newly appointed UK Trade Envoy to Zambia, Laurence Robertson MP, yesterday completed a successful and productive first visit to Zambia.
Conducted virtually, the visit included meetings with the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry, the Ministries of Finance and Mines and a range of UK and Zambian businesses.
The theme of the visit was to build stronger UK-Zambia trading partnerships, increase investment between the two countries and support Zambia in taking advantage of regional and global trading opportunities.
Appointed by the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson in December 2020, the Trade Envoy has responsibility for enhancing and building on Zambia and Britain’s investment and trading relationship.
UK-Zambia bilateral trade currently stands at over £150m, alongside significant UK investment into Zambia, with aspirations to increase this substantially in coming years through increased British business participation in Zambia’s economic recovery programme.
A particular focus of the visit was the mining industry and how UK partnerships can build more sustainability and increase wider economic benefits for Zambia.
Recent increases in global climate commitments have helped support resurgence in copper prices as well as demand for other metals such as cobalt and nickel which are critical to support clean energy development.
As part of the visit, the Trade Envoy was briefed by members of the UK Parliament All Party Parliamentary Group on Critical Minerals in terms of the role of copper and other metals and the opportunities to support Zambia make more of its mineral resources.
In the mining industry, the Trade Envoy met with representatives from First Quantum, Munali Nickel Mine, Weir Minerals, and Rio Tinto.
The Trade Envoy met with UK-funded organisations Prospero Zambia and ImpactCapitalAfrica who have been working with the Ministry of Mines and the mining industry to ensure more value from the mining industry is captured within Zambia, through investment, jobs and business growth.
Through a meeting with the British Chamber of Commerce, the Trade Envoy met companies including Prudential Life Assurance, PwC, Financial Sector Deepening Zambia, Union Gold and Langmead & Baker, where topics of discussion included Zambia’s strategic location, the importance of enhanced UK-Zambia flight connections and aspects of recent Zambian Government tax and policy changes.
In addition, the Trade Envoy offered his congratulations to the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry on Zambia’s ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and looked forward to swift progress on Phase II negotiations, and effective practical implementation of the AfCFTA so that the Zambian private sector can realise its benefits on the ground.
The Minister of Commerce set out his vision to make the most of the trading potential of Zambia’s strategic regional location in Southern Africa.
The Trade Envoy discussed the role of the UK in supporting this vision, including recent progress on Trademark East Africa’s (TMEA) work with ZRA to design upgrades to the Nakonde border crossing between Zambia and Tanzania, and the UK’s partnership with UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to support informal traders to resume their business safely during Covid19.
The Trade Envoy encouraged the Zambia-based private sector to strengthen regional trading links. He met with Zambia Sugar and 260Brands (Seba Foods) to talk about their ambitions in the food and agriculture sector, including how they can leverage facilities in Zambia to build a bigger and more valuable regional presence across Southern Africa. The Trade Envoy also discussed trade facilitation to help both companies increase their access to UK markets.
Given the depth and significance of the overall UK-Zambia relationship across UK business activity, the Trade Envoy discussed with the Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry the best framework for future engagements, including a physical visit to Zambia as soon as travel options were possible.
They proposed to ensure regular monitoring of key areas of UK-Zambia trading activity to ensure mutual objectives on investment targets, trade development and job creation were delivered successfully.
Concluding the visit, the UK Trade Envoy, Laurence Robertson MP, said:
“This has been a fascinating first visit to Zambia and it’s been a pleasure to meet with so many strong advocates and supporters of Zambia’s economic potential. Building increased connections with the UK across all areas of trade and economic development is clearly a significant opportunity and I look forward to working with the Government of Zambia to deliver on this in the coming years”
The British High Commissioner, host of the visit added:
“It has been a pleasure to host this first visit from our new British Trade Envoy to Zambia. Spreading across Zambia the shared economic gain of more Zambia-UK trade is central to our work here. We now look forward to building on these initial engagements and ensuring we maximise the benefits for both countries in our relationship.”