THE French Government has started downsizing some of its embassies around the world including Zambia where the consular services and visa applications to France will now be handled by the Embassy of Sweden.
Outgoing French Ambassador to Zambia and Malawi Marie-Annick Bourdin said the Embassy in Lusaka was not closing but that the French Government was narrowing down the priorities of its mission in Zambia including re-organising the consular services.
She said the changes were necessitated by the impact of the debt and budgetary pressure that is currently constraining the margins of action of the French Government.
"Our Embassy in Lusaka, as well as 12 others in the world, will undergo downsizing in the coming year. I would like to stress very clearly here that we are not closing the Embassy. "Faced with a further diminution of our human and financial resources, my successor will have to narrow down the priorities of our mission to Zambia and as per instructions, reorganise in particular the consular services," she said.
Ms Bourdin, who is also the outgoing French special representative to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), said the bilateral relations between Zambia and France were at their strongest.
She cited the long-awaited domestication of the Investment Protection Promotion Agreement in March and the reinstatement of the fiscal agreement, pending re-negotiation as some of the positive mutually reinforcing developments in the relations of the two countries.
Among other projects with French interest is the rehabilitation of the Great East Road and the Itezhi-Tezhi -Lusaka electricity line being co-financed by the African Development Bank, the European Union and the EIB at a cost of more than US100 million.
The outgoing ambassador said apart from the French companies based in Zambia for a number of years with investments in new equipment and new technologies, new investors were also coming on board including Limagrain.
Quoting the 'all one, strong and free' line from the Zambian National Anthem, Ms Bourdin said Zambia was a shining example among African countries as an oasis of peace and stability in her fifty years of independence.