By Abigail Chaponda in London, United Kingdom
United Kingdom Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister of State at the Department for International Development Harriett Baldwin has said the UK is a steadfast friend of Zambia.
During a meeting when Minister Baldwin hosted Zambia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom His Excellency Mr. Muyeba Chikonde at her office on Tuesday, the Minister restated the UK’s commitment to continue partnering with Zambia to strengthen their historical relations.
The Minister said there was a lot of potential in the energy sector in Zambia and the UK partnering with Zambia will support to deliver a more secure and sustainable energy future that will help uplift Zambians and drive economic development.
In July this year Minister Baldwin and Energy Minister Matthew Nkhuwa signed the Energy Africa Compact, a partnership between the UK and Zambian governments and the private sector to support the growth of the sustainable energy sector. While in Zambia, Minister Baldwin also announced £22m of new UK aid funding which will support the development of innovative energy solutions and help millions of Zambians access reliable, affordable off-grid solar energy.
“We are steadfast friends of Zambia and we want to reaffirm our commitment to our bilateral cooperation with Zambia,” she said.
Minister Baldwin told the High Commissioner that Zambia holds a key strategic position as a landlocked country centrally located in Southern Africa region and is pivotal to regional trade and cooperation with other countries.
Minister Baldwin further announced available partnership opportunities with Zambia and neighboring countries in the de-mining near the border areas in order to open-up the space for trade, a program which she said the UK government would support.
The Minister informed the High commissioner that that the UK was passionate about ameliorating the plastic pollution of the Oceans and although Zambia was a Landlocked Country, she was aware that the country was home to large water bodies and a source of water for the region and the UK could assist in dealing with the problem of plastics.
The Minister also acknowledged Zambia’s efforts in the fight against Forced and Early Child Marriages and applauded President Edgar Lungu for Zambia’s leading role in the fight against the scourge.
During the 72nd United Nations (UN) General Assembly last year, British Prime Minister Theresa May commended President Lungu for leading a robust campaign against human trafficking, forced labour and early child marriage.
The British Prime Minister also pledged the United Kingdom’s support to Zambia to help the country’s efforts in eradicating modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking.
And Minister Baldwin hoped that Zambia will send a High-Level government and strong business delegation to the UK-Africa Investment Summit that will be held in the United Kingdom in the Summer next year in order to attract UK based companies and forge partnerships that will help accelerate economic growth and alleviate poverty in Africa and Zambia in particular.
The Minister informed High Commissioner Chikonde that during the Prime Minister, Theresa May’s visit to Africa, she stated that the UK was looking to forge new partnerships with countries around the world in view of Brexit and the Prime Minister wanted the UK to be the number one G7 investor in Africa by 2022.
And in response High Commissioner Chikonde said the Zambian government is committed to enhancing its bilateral cooperation with the UK government through various partnerships and new areas of cooperation beyond Development Assistance.
The High Commissioner added that the UK was one of Zambia’s major sources of FDI and that CDC has already investments in companies like Zambeef but emphasized that there was much more scope for UK investment into Zambia.
High Commissioner Chikonde also said President Lungu was passionate about the Girl Child and he was committed to lead the campaign to protect women and the girl child.
He added that Zambia will continue to lead the campaign both at Regional, Continental and global and he welcomed the Prime Minister’s support to ending modern slavery.
The High Commissioner also stated that that Illegal Wildlife Trade was transnational in nature and made sense to have regional strategies and therefore the need for collaboration with neighbouring countries such as Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
Minister Baldwin responded that the UK stands ready to partner with Zambia to help fight illegal wildlife saying the UK would be willing to support regional initiatives that would help bring illegal Wildlife activities under control.
Zambia and the United Kingdom reaffirmed their commitment to their bilateral cooperation and both countries are looking forward to the expeditious conclusion of the forensic audit in the Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Education.