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October 17, 2012

Zambia Government Seeks Foreign Investors

by Peter Clottey

Zambia’s Commerce, Trade and Industry minister says the government has stepped up efforts to attract international investors to the country.

Robert Sichinga said President Michael Sata’s government is implementing policies to create, encourage and protect a better environment for business investment.

Sichinga recently visited the United States to meet business leaders as part of his country’s efforts to attract new investment to the Southern African country.

“The main thrust of our visit here has been to bring to the attention of the business community here in the United States that there are tremendous business opportunities out in Africa,” Sichinga said during the U.S. visit.

“We haven’t come for aid. We’ve come to ask for business,” he said.

Sichinga said the government recently launched a series of promotional tours in the United States, including stops in Washington, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and Houston as part of their efforts to attract investors.

“We are establishing industrial clusters where we expect that small scale business people would be able to come and make investments,” he said. “Then there are also multi-facility economic zones, which are bigger places, where infrastructure is provided for the investors to come and invest,” he said.

In the past, investors have complained about the difficulty of dealing with the government bureaucracy in Zambia. But, Sichinga said the government is working to resolve those concerns.

“The reason why we have established the Zambia Development Agency, which is an investment arm of government and is operating as a semi-autonomous institution, is to do just that,” Sichinga said. “It’s to cut through the red tape; it’s to make sure that they coordinate between the private sector investor and the government.”

Opposition groups have accused the government of using the investment promotion as a pretext to award contracts to political allies – charges Sichinga rejects.

“As we talk to investors, we can’t choose anybody,” said Sichinga. “We advertise publicly and our missions here invite potential investors. So I have no way of knowing in advance who would be invited to meetings and we would certainly not be able to dictate what kinds of investors come. And that kind of investor would not be interested in which government is in place within our own country,” he said.

He also said that his government is ready to work with American businesses to take advantage of the country’s business opportunities.
Clottey intv with Robert Sichinga, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry