Zambia: Nation Emerging as African Economic, Political Leader

Washington — Zambia is an increasingly important trade and investment partner for the United States and countries around the world thanks to its vast resources, political stability and fast-growing economy.

"Zambia is really an exceptional country in Africa," U.S. Ambassador to Zambia Mark C. Storella said during a call with more than 60 American business representatives May 31. "Since its independence in 1964, it has been entirely peaceful." Storella added that the country's natural resources, abundant fertile land and friendly and engaging people make Zambia an ideal destination for foreign investment.

Zambia is in its 12th consecutive year of positive economic growth, averaging about 6 percent growth in the past eight years. The ambassador noted that the country's trade with the United States doubled in 2011: "Not too many countries around the world can say that." Zambia's economy grew 7.6 percent in 2011 and is expected to grow by more than 7 percent in 2012.

Storella said the country has received high marks from the International Monetary Fund for its macroeconomic stability and fiscal management, and was declared by the World Bank in 2011 to be a middle-income country.

"That's quite an accomplishment," Storella said. "It showed that gross national income per capita is over $1,000." He explained that while rural poverty levels remain high, there is a growing urban middle class.

This growth has created an increased demand for high-quality consumer goods, and has led the country to focus on enhancing trade and investment ties with its neighbors as well as partners throughout the world.

In this effort, the Zambian government will send a delegation led by Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Robert Sichinga on a five-city trade mission to the United States in June, centered on the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum June 14-15 in Washington. In addition to Washington, the delegation will visit Cincinnati, Houston, Atlanta and Boston and will focus on energy, agriculture, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure.

In particular, Storella said, improving infrastructure is one of Zambia's key goals as well as a critical step toward improving trade with regional and global partners. To support infrastructure development, the U.S. government signed in May a $355 million compact through the Millennium Challenge Corporation to modernize capital city Lusaka's water drainage and sewage system. The Zambian government plans to issue a $700 million bond later this year to raise capital for further infrastructure development, including in energy and transportation.

The country is also blessed with abundant mineral resources. As the largest copper producer in Africa, the country exported 800,000 tons of copper in 2011. Storella said that in the next few years, the country is expected to export more than 1 million tons of copper.

Additionally, as a large, relatively sparsely populated country with significant water resources, Zambia has tremendous agricultural potential. With only 14 percent of arable land currently cultivated, only 2 percent of the land irrigated and just 1 percent under mechanized agriculture, Storella said, the country is welcoming investments by foreign companies to help grow the sector.

Tourism is another area with great potential, thanks to Victoria Falls and several well-known but unspoiled safari parks. Storella said that in 2013, Zambia and Zimbabwe will jointly host the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism Organization General Assembly.

The United States is committed to continuing to support Zambia as it emerges as a major economic and political entity in Africa, Storella said. One key to this support will be AGOA, the centerpiece of U.S. economic engagement with Africa.

Signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton in 2000, the pivotal economic development plan provides trade preferences to the 40 participating African countries by removing nearly all tariffs on exports. It also breaks down other trade and customs barriers in an effort to help stimulate economic growth, encourage economic integration and help bring sub-Saharan Africa into the global economy.

The 2012 AGOA Forum will focus on improving Africa's infrastructure to increase trade and development. It will bring together more than 600 participants, including senior U.S. and African government officials, members of the private sector and civil society representatives.

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