By JOHN SAKALA
Zambian Ambassador to Sweden Rose Salukatula has called for increased cooperation with Zambia’s partners in order to help Government achieve its developmental goals.
Ms Salukatula has pointed out that despite some challenges, Government was resilient and focused on ensuring that the economy of the country grew and contributed to bettering the lives of Zambians.
“We would like to urge our cooperating partners as well as our friendly countries to continue supporting us in the efforts we are implementing through various developmental programmes.”
Ms Salukatula was speaking in Stockholm on Friday during a colourful reception hosted for Zambian diplomats accredited to Sweden and various other stakeholders to commemorate Zambia’s 55th Independence anniversary which fell on 24th October.
The event was held at the Ambassador’s residence in Stockholm.
On Saturday, Ms Salukatula hosted a separate gathering of Zambians from across Sweden to celebrate the national day.
The well-attended event, which was also graced by Chola Lungu-Mtoni, granddaughter of freedom fighter, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe, was organised by Zambians resident in Sweden.
Ms Salukatula said the Zambian Government has shifted from strictly political to economic diplomacy in a bid to accelerate economic development through the country’s bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
She observed that diplomatic relations between Zambia and Sweden date back to 1965 and that it was, in this regard, Zambia’s desire to see that all forms of collaboration with Sweden become stronger.
“Let me take this opportunity through you, Guest of Honour, to assure the Swedish business community that Zambia still remains a very attractive investment destination, with the Zambia Development Agency continuing to receive higher investment pledges every year,” she said.
“I wish, through you, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, to invite the business community from your respective countries to come to Zambia and explore the abundant investment opportunities available, especially in the energy sector where we have been having serious challenges lately,” she said.
She told the audience that as a nation of 72 ethnic groups, Zambia prides itself in the peace it has continually enjoyed for decades, living in harmony as one people from different cultures, regions and beliefs.
She said Zambia is well known for its hospitality which has inspired many visitors from around the world.
“It is this belief in peace and unity that has allowed democracy to flourish and make Zambia a shining democracy on the continent. Since independence in 1964, Zambia has held democratic elections through which the country has had the privilege to be led by six different governments, with the losers giving in to the will of the people by gracefully conceding defeat.”
And in response, the Guest of Honour, Head of Trade in the Africa Department of Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bengt Carlsson noted that Sweden and Zambia have enjoyed strong and warm historic and long-standing relations since independence, and that the two countries also shared history in terms of Dag Hammarskjöld, whose work was still held in high regard in Zambia.
Ambassador Carlsson said development cooperation has been at the core of bilateral relations for many years, but that Sweden was now working to broaden these relations to include the field of trade and investment.
He disclosed that Business Sweden, an organisation jointly owned by the Government of Sweden and representatives from the Swedish business community, was keeping a watchful eye on the Zambian energy market through their Energy for Africa programme.
“In this endeavor, I particularly note the successful visit last year by a trade delegation to Zambia and Swedish companies which took part in the AgriTech Fair last year. We must ensure to keep the momentum going with follow-up activities next year.
He observed that Swedish bilateral development cooperation with Zambia amounted to approximately SEK450 million or US46.5 million every year, running between 2018 and 2022. This focuses on human rights, democracy, rule of law, gender equality, health, sexual and reproductive health & rights, nutrition, environment, climate, renewable & sustainable energy, and inclusive economic development and livelihoods.
Ambassador Carlsson noted that just like Sweden, Zambia shared concern over climate change, as highlighted by Zambia’s President His Excellency Dr. Edgar Lungu at the last United Nations General Conference in New York.
He said part of Sweden’s bilateral development cooperation included a focus on renewable energy and that in line with this, the 2019 UN Global Climate Action Award was conferred on Sweden for its project, ‘Beyond the Grid Fund for Zambia’. The project focuses on off-grid rural electrification solutions. “The programme has exceeded the goals set and is now being scaled up to additional countries in the region as a result,” Ambassador Carlsson said.
Addressing Zambians, Ambassador Salukatula called on the nationals to realise that peace was an important asset if Zambia was to continue attracting tourists as well as foreign investment in various sectors of the economy which the country needed in order to achieve sustainable development.
“Let us work towards maintaining the country’s brand as a beacon of peace. Let us emulate our founding fathers and mothers in being patriotic and to speak well of our country as any negative sentiments from any of us will not help anyone but just hurt the economy of the country.”
This is according to a media statement made available to The Independent Observer by Counsellor Nicky Shabolyo from the Zambian Embassy in Sweden.