ZAMBIA and Zimbabwe have agreed to explore both countries' untapped investment potential, especially in agriculture, tourism and power generation to boost economic benefits for the two neighbours.
President Michael Sata and President Robert Mugabe share the opinion that their countries needed each other to explore their potential and foster a new partnership that would greatly boost investment benefits for both countries.
Mr Mugabe is in the country on a three-day visit during which he will officially open the 86th Agricultural and Commercial Show today, among other programmes lined up for him.
The two leaders said this during a State banquet held in honour of Mr Mugabe and his wife, Grace at State House on Thursday evening in Lusaka.
Mr Sata in his toast message at the function, said Zimbabwe was a strategic partner to share a common platform for development through trade partnerships in key economic areas.
In his usual jovial mood, Mr Sata mesmerised guests with occasional jokes that punctuated his address ahead of his counterpart's delivery of a toast message which was also characterised by laughter.
The two, however, still maintained seriousness in stressing the need for strengthened bilateral ties.
"Your Excellency President Mugabe, on behalf of my people, I wish to thank you for accepting this invitation to officially open the 86th Agricultural and Commercial Show. This reflects the strong historical ties existing between Zambia and Zimbabwe. We share ties characterised by cultural heritage and regional bodies in Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA)," he said.
Mr Sata said agricultural investment was critical for economic growth for Zambia and Zimbabwe, increasing food stability and fighting poverty.
He said it was gratifying to note that trade had continued to increase steadily between the southern neighbouring countries with Zambia exporting among others, maize, tobacco and sugar while importing also among others, agricultural imports such as soya-beans and fruits from Zimbabwe.
He implored the business community in the two countries, to utilise the existing friendly ties and expand trade partnerships which were fundamental for economic growth.
He commended President Mugabe's determination to resolve political differences in that country through the SADC Troika on Politics Defence, and Security and the Global Political Agreements (GPA).
He said the two countries would share the spotlight as they prepared to co-host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) summit in August next year.
He commended Zimbabwe for the successful hosting of the Joint Permanent Commissions of Corporation which saw the signing of various agreements of understanding to improve trade between the two nations.
On the other hand, Mr Mugabe said Zambia was instrumental in his country's liberation struggle and that the support between the two countries was important as they embarked on taking full control of their respective economies.
He said the ties had translated into increased trade but this was just a fraction of the unexploited cooperation which if properly harnessed could lead to further benefits.
He said the Batoka Gorge power project was important as the power deficits continued to persist even at a regional level.
He said the cordial relations placed Zimbabwe and Zambia at a greater advantage of exploring other spheres that would help improve their relations.
Mr Mugabe said tourism potential was still vast and required more investment ahead of hosting next year's UNWTO summit.
He urged the private sector to be aggressive in marketing the tourism potential for the two nations.
"Strong cooperation will create large markets and large markets will create large investments from within and outside and to achieve this, we need political, economic and social stability," he said.
President Mugabe hailed regional groupings such as SADC, COMESA and the AU for various interventions in political upheavals occurring in countries such as Madagascar, Mali and Guinea Bissau.
The State banquet was also attended by First Ladies for the two countries, Dr Christine Kaseba Sata and Grace Mugabe, Vice-President Guy Scott and Patriotic Front Secretary General Wynter Kabimba and several other guests including members of the diplomatic corps.