6 June 2017

Madagascar Seeks to Strengthen Zambia Ties

Photo: Zambia Daily Mail
Zambian President Edgar Lungu welcomes Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Sustaining a positive and sustained international profile is critical to a sound socio-economy development of any developing country such as Zambia.

Currently, Zambia's international profile has continued to rise particularly after President Edgar Lungu's foreign trips and the hosting of other heads of state who have visited to cement cooperation with Zambia in various areas of the economy.

Hosting of high level dignitaries such as heads of state is one way Zambia has been strengthening bilateral relations with other countries to ensure cooperation in various sectors for the benefits of its citizens.

Since his ascendance to power in January 2015, President Lungu has made strides to raise the country's international profile further.

Some of the countries the President has visited have potential to bring investments to Zambia. Some of the countries have already started investing in Zambia.

In this month of June, Zambia is expected to host three heads of state who will visit the country at the invitation of President Edgar Lungu.

The three heads of state, Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Ghana's Nana Akufo-Addo will all visit the country in this month with the aim of strengthening bilateral and multilateral ties between their respective countries and Zambia.

President Rajaonarimampianina, who has led Madagascar since January, 2014, in an election seen as a major step towards restoring democracy, will undertake his first state visit to Zambia from today, June, 7, 2017 to June 8, 2017 this year.

He will meet his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu.

The Canadian-educated former Finance minister was backed in the elections by the country's former strongman Andry Rajoelina.

The African Union (AU) lifted its four-year suspension of Madagascar soon after Mr Rajaonarimampianina was sworn in.

Mr Rajaonarimampianina, who was age 55 at the time of taking office, called for national unity and reached out to political rivals to help return the country to its former glory.

He further emphasized that health, education and food security were among the most significant goals on his country's development agenda.

Thus, President Lungu and President Rajaonarimampianina will use the State visit to share and compare notes on a number of issues as both Zambia and Madagascar have comparative advantage in different fields: Zambia is a landlocked country but with huge natural resources while Madagascar is an island country with fertile land and tourism potential.

Cooperation between these two countries - with varying but important strengths - could spur economic development that could lead to poverty alleviation for citizens.

It is expected that during the visit, the establishment and inauguration of the Joint Commission of Cooperation (JCC) would be processed as earlier discussed by the two heads of state during the visit of President Lungu to Madagascar in October last year.

The two leaders conferred in Antananarivo in Madagascar on the sidelines of the 18th Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Summit which Madagascar hosted at Ivato Conference Centre.

During the meeting, President Lungu and his counterpart discussed a number of issues concerning the welfare of the two countries.

In the same meeting, President Rajaonarimampianina requested Zambia to provide teachers of English as Malagasy had adopted English in its schools alongside official languages of Malagasy and French.

It was in that same meeting that President Lungu invited his counterpart to visit his country as one way of strengthening the ties between Zambia and Madagascar.

Receiving letters of credence from Zambia's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Madagascar Emmanuel Mwamba earlier this year, President Rajaonarimampianina announced that he would undertake a state visit to Zambia.

He said he would use the opportunity as new regional economic bloc chairperson to visit COMESA headquarters in Lusaka.

The presentation and acceptance of the letter of credence of Zambia's envoy to Madagascar opened a new chapter of collaboration between Zambia and that country.

Mr Mwamba, who is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Zambia to Madagascar resident in Pretoria, South Africa, noted that the two countries could cooperate in various areas of the economic interest, especially in agriculture, which Madagascar is currently utilising well.

Mr Mwamba said this when he called on Madagascar's Minister of Foreign Affairs - Beatrice Attalah.

Mr Mwamba noted that despite Madagascar being an island country, there are a lot of things that a country like Zambia could learn hence the need to strengthen bilateral ties between the two countries.

He pointed out that Zambia is considering enhancing cooperation with Madagascar in the area of agriculture for purposes of diversifying the country's economy, with particular focus on the production of vanilla beans and rice, which are predominantly grown in Madagascar.

Madagascar is known for growing paddy rice in water logged areas.

This is one practice that Zambia could adopt and use in the Western and Luapula regions where there are wetlands.

Madagascar's Foreign Affairs Minister Beatrice Attalah said her country is ready to learn good practices from Zambia, especially that the latter plays host to the COMESA which is located in Lusaka.

She observed that President Lungu and President Mr Rajaonarimampianina are good friends who need to share notes on various matters that affect their respective countries.

She expressed gratitude that Zambia had finally sent a diplomat to Madagascar and hoped that Mr Mwamba, as ambassador, would help promote bilateral relations between the governments and the two peoples of Zambia and Madagascar which date back to 1972.

Zambia's last envoy to have presented credentials to Madagascar was Leslie Mbula in 2010.

Successive high commissioners, Bizwayo Nkunika and Mayeba Chikonde could not do so due to the civil and political unrest which characterized Madagascar.

Zambia's Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba recently confirmed to the media that during President Rajaonarimampianina's state visit to Zambia, possibilities of establishing a Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation between Zambia and Madagascar would be explored.

Mr Kalaba disclosed that the two heads of state will also deliberate on matters of regional importance as Zambia is interested in pursuing regional integration.

President Lungu might utilize the opportunity of hosting M. Rajaonarimampianina, who is COMESA chairperson, to discuss other matters that concern his country and the region.

According to Cabinet office, the visiting head of state will, on his first day, lay wreaths at the presidential memorial site at Embassy Park in Lusaka.

He will, later on, hold talks with President Lungu at State House before paying a courtesy call on Zambia's First Republican President Kenneth Kaunda.

Mr Rajaonarimampianina is expected to visit the COMESA Secretariat and Huntley Farm in Chisamba on his second day of the visit before returning to his country later in the afternoon.

Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world.

It is situated off the southeast coast of Africa.

The island nation is famed for its unique wildlife.

It is home to thousands of animal species like lemurs which are found nowhere else in the world.

Traditionally, the Malagasy economy has been based on the cultivation of paddy rice, coffee, vanilla beans and cloves.

The country's wealth is supported by natural resources and a tourism industry driven by its unique environment.

Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Madagascar - formerly known as Malagasy - has experienced repeated political instability, including coups, violent unrest and disputed elections.

The most recent coup in 2009 led to five years of political deadlock, international condemnation and economic sanctions thereby slowing down the country's economic growth.

The country has now seen the return to democracy with free and fair elections conducted in 2013 which ushered in President Rajaonarimampianina in 2014.


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