Zambia: We're the Best - Sata

Tokyo — THE Zambian Government is determined to enhance the expansion and diversification of the economy by promoting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as continued and strengthened cooperation in the area of diplomacy, finance, trade and technology, President Michael Sata has said.

Mr Sata said Zambia was committed to restructuring the economy by diversifying into other sectors such as agriculture, tourism, energy, manufacturing and infrastructure development, away from mining.

President Sata, who was accompanied by members of his delegation, was speaking here yesterday when he addressed several Japanese business executives in the Keidanren Kaikan Conference room.

About 40 Japanese business executives from different business associations and companies attended the meeting.

Representatives of a committee on sub-Saharan Africa, Sojitz Corporation, Nippon Koei Company Limited, Hitachi Construction Machinery Company Limited, JX Nippon Oil and Gas, JGC Corporation, Japan Airlines, Japan Ship Exporters Association, Japan Tobacco, Japan External Trade Organisation, Shimizu Corporation, Kubota Corporation, Toyota Tsusho Corporation and Toshiba Corporation were some of the business enterprises that had representation at the meeting.

Mr Sata said the Government had also been proactive in reducing the cost of doing business and streamlining the investment climate through the elimination of unnecessary and cumbersome licensing procedures.

"In addition, the Government of Zambia has implemented prudent fiscal reforms such as broadening the tax base, increased spending on priority sectors aimed at minimising unplanned outlays while ensuring fiscal discipline.

"I now leave it to you Japanese investors to explore more investment opportunities in Zambia as you interact with our private sector and various Government departments," he said.

He said Zambia boasted a friendly and stable macroeconomic environment to local and foreign investors in addition to the nation's strategic regional geographical location.

"We have recorded a real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of about six per cent over the last six five years while our inflation rate has been sustained downwards in single digit levels.

"We also have a stable and flexible exchange rate regime without exchange controls. Zambia is also a democratic and stable country with no ethnic divisions and these are some of the reasons for investors to invest in our country," he said.

Mr Sata said Zambia was the hub of the Southern African sub-continent as it was strategically positioned to provide prospective business people and investors access to large regional markets.

He said Zambia was at crossroads of two major regional markets namely, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) with a combined population of more than 600 million people and a shared GDP of over US$900 billion.

The country also boasts of other market opportunities through agreements and membership to the European Union (EU) and American Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiative as well as market access initiatives with Canada.

"We are also working towards achieving similar market access initiatives across the globe including some with countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations region," Mr Sata said.

And representatives of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as well as Hitachi Construction Machinery Limited and Association of African Economy and Development in Japan (AFRECO) yesterday paid courtesy calls on President Sata at New Otani Hotel.

During the courtesy calls, Mr Sata invited the various Japanese companies and associations to visit Zambia and engage the Government on their business interests.

He said Zambia was a better investment destination to the Japanese and other investors as their market was not limited to the country but to others in the region.

Hitachi Construction Machinery Company Limited board chairperson, Michijiro Kikawa said its plant constructed in Zambia would be a hub in the region by supplying products to surrounding countries.

AFRECO president Tetsuro Yano said his firm looked forward to working closely with the Zambian Government to facilitate the construction of a permanent bridge at Kazungula border post.

JICA president Akihiko Tanaka said the Agency considered Zambia as one of the best partners in Africa and was hopeful the construction of Kazungula Bridge would improve transportation within Zambia and in nearby countries.

And President Sata's Special Assistant for Press and Public Relation, George Chellah said the President had asked JICA to explore other sectors of the economy such as agriculture and tourism which had the potential for growth.

In an interview, he said Mr Sata had also asked JICA to consider assisting in tobacco growing in Zambia as the crop had a ready market in China and Japan.

Meanwhile, Mr Sata and First Lady Christine Kaseba yesterday held a closed-door meeting with Japanese Emperor Akihito and the Empress for about 25 minutes.

The two arrived at the Emperor's residence at 11:05 hours Japanese time (about 04:05 am Zambian time) and left the palace around 11:25 hours Japanese time (about 04:25 am Zambian time).

They were driven to the palace and taken back to New Otani Hotel in an attractive Imperial car.

The palace is surrounded by beautiful plants and a green environment.

His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Akihito has been on the Chrysanthemum throne since his father Emperor Hirohito died in 1989

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