A KNACK FOR NEGOTIATION

Zambia 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hon. Harry Kalaba, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on strengthening the country's foreign service, advocating for peace, and cementing new strategic ties.

Hon. Harry Kalaba
BIOGRAPHY
Hon. Harry Kalaba has been Zambia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2014. Prior to that, he served as Minister of Lands, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection, as well as in the Vice President’s office. He has a degree in philosophy from Urbaniana University in Rome, and a diploma in public administration from the Uganda Management Institute.

How do the ministry's initiatives seek to underpin the country's role as a focal point for regional activities?

Zambia is landlocked, surrounded by eight countries, and we view these eight countries as an opportunity for us to push our agenda in terms of foreign economic policy. As a strong member of COMESA and SADC, we consider ourselves as having an audience of about 850 million people within these regional groupings, which gives us a platform to be the focal point in the region in terms of foreign diplomacy. We look at a whole range of issues to strengthen our foreign economic policy. We seek to develop our Foreign Service Bureau, which aims to ensure Zambia realizes its priorities in its interactions with the international community. We also want to utilize the Foreign Service Bureau to attract professionals to work in order to adequately and sufficiently represent Zambia's requirements. What is more, Zambia is a member of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, a platform we take full advantage of in order to promote the values of pacifism and diplomacy throughout the African continent and indeed beyond. Our history as a country speaks volumes about our determination to advocate peace. We know that unless the region or the continent is peaceful, it is difficult for Africa to actualize its potential and fully develop, economically speaking.

What are the pillars of the government's foreign policy to attract FDI to the country?

We give precedence to regional and international cooperation. It is crucial to represent ourselves as a country that is open and conducive for investment in order to attract foreign interest. Peace and stability are a core part of this; we are one of the eight countries in Africa that has never experienced any form of civil strife. However, we also promote our national identity, our wealth of resources, and our people. The good investment planning that has been put forward by the government also speaks to potential investors in all sectors, for example in agriculture. Zambia is ready to receive FDI, and we will continue to open up various avenues to ensure that investment does indeed flow into our country.

What were the fruits of the fourth African-Arab Summit held this year in Equatorial Guinea and what do such gatherings mean for Zambia's relationship with the Arab world moving forward?

The African-Arab summit was paramount. In the past, Zambia as a country did not take the time to develop the corridor with the Arab world. Now, however, we have truly turned our attentions to opening up mutual relations with the Middle East. At this summit, the action plan for 2017 and 2019 was developed, and this in turn will help channel avenues of investment into Zambia. We have cooperated with the Arab world in the past, though our relationship has always been through bilateral aid, via institutions such as the Saudi Fund, the Kuwait Fund, and the Abu Dhabi Fund. Through these, we have been able to see areas such as agriculture, health, and tourism open up for Zambia. To be more specific, we will receive funding for the Sicomo Collabo Road in Western Zambia, a strategic road that could greatly enhance Zambia's connectivity with the rest of the world. In 2017, there are several meetings planned with our Arab brothers and sisters. I will travel to the Gulf in 2017 on a trip to cement relations between the Arab world and our country.

With which other parts of the world is Zambia forging strong ties?

We continue to strengthen our relationship with China. The historical ties between the nations go back many years: Zambia has supported and continues to support the One China policy, while China was instrumental in establishing TAZARA, which was a lifeline for the country in terms of imports and exports in the 1970s. Our relations with China were fostered under the umbrella organization the Forum for China and Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Zambia also enjoys strong ties with many countries, such as the US, Germany, and Japan, and each is a unique relationship.