9 November 2012

Zambia: Reduce Trade Barriers, Chikwanda Urges African States

FINANCE Minister Alexander Chikwanda has implored African countries to reduce trade barriers to unlock the continent's economic potential.

Mr Chikwanda also said Zambia had unexploited potential in agriculture that could improve the country's economic status.

The minister said this when he featured on CNBC Africa television channel of South Africa on the 'Political Exchange' programme which was aired on ZNBC Television on Wednesday evening.

He said as long as barriers in the movement of people persisted, Africa would continue to lag behind in terms of attaining meaningful development.

Mr Chikwanda called on African leaders to put in place timelines that were attainable in achieving targets, and cited the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional infrastructural integration which was set for 2014.

He said some of the timeframes did not reflect seriousness in pushing growth forward but merely slowed the pace of development.

"It is timeframes like these that do not reflect serious intent of Africa. We have a long way to go. We are still at a low pace of growth and we don't need these long timeframes," he said.

Mr Chikwanda said there was need to find a workable roadmap to forge development, and called for speedy integration of the continent.

He said the southern African region was interlinked through the road network and power grids, which should be used to foster speedy integration.

On Zambia's relations with China, the Finance Minister said the ties were cordial and had been so for a long time.

He advised Africa not to view ties with China from the Western perceptive but to have their independent judgment of the communist State.

He said the Government had put in place stringent measures to ensure all foreign investors, including those from China, complied with the existing labour laws.

Mr Chikwanda said the compliance levels had improved under the Patriotic Front administration unlike under their predecessors, the MMD.

"The MMD behaved like absentee landlords and allowed foreign investors to abrogate labour laws but it is different now. Investors have to comply with local labour laws.

"In Zambia we have our rules and foreign investors including those from China should comply; this is the same with other African countries, they have to set their rules. We should not view China relations from the Western perfect," Mr Chikwanda said.

He said Africa should be allowed to develop its own trade relations with other countries.

On Zambia's agricultural performance, Mr Chikwanda said the country had massive potential awaiting exploiting.

He said the sector was the engine of broad-based economic performance and that it was vital to forge ahead the frontiers of the sector and utilise its potential.

"We need as a country to create an economy which is broad-based and take the frontiers of agriculture to boost economic performance," he said.

Mr Chikwanda said countries like Kenya and Ethiopia had major exports of coffee but Zambia, which had almost similar climatic conditions, was not performing like the two countries in terms of exports.

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