A SUSTAINED EFFORT

Zambia 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, on providing balanced growth for Zambia, encouraging an agricultural revolution, and the fight against corruption.

HE Edgar Chagwa Lungu,
BIOGRAPHY
HE Edgar Chagwa Lungu was born in November 1956 and is a lawyer by profession. His education was taken at the University of Zambia, and he had a distinguished career in the military before joining politics. As a member of the Patriotic Front (PF), he served as MP for the Chawama Constituency, Minister of Justice, Minister of Defence, and now President of the PF and the Republic of Zambia.

Your economic platform centers on job creation, industrialization, and capital market development. How do you strike the balance between boosting economic growth and providing support for all Zambian citizens?

The PF government has pro-poor policies and, therefore, we are aware of the urgent need to improve the living standards of our people, hence the unwavering commitment to forge an environment in which our people will be able to sustain themselves. We are therefore committed to achieving Vision 2030, which involves Zambia becoming a prosperous middle-income country by implementing programs that will address the poverty that many Zambians are facing. This will entail empowering them with the means to boost their productivity and to create wealth. We are already making efforts to improve the livelihoods of the Zambian people, especially the vulnerable, through various empowerment interventions such as social cash transfer, the farmer input support program, and the food security pack, including the school feeding program for our children. The government wants to see a vibrant economy for all. This is why our national development agenda, which is in line with the 7th National Development Plan, is skewed toward diversifying the economy away from mining to industrialization, agriculture, tourism, and energy, among other sectors. Once we attract investments to these sectors, there will be job creation for our people. As we build multi-facility economic zones across the country, massive investments are expected from both local and foreign investors, who will create thousands of jobs for our people. This has started happening and a classic example is the recently commissioned USD300 million Zambian Breweries Malting Plant in the Lusaka South Multi facility Zone creating jobs not only for small-scale farmer cooperatives but also commercial farmers who will be able to grow barley, which is a vital ingredient for beer brewing. Through the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), a number of companies have started responding positively to our policies of industrialization and job creation.

You have outlined your commitment to an approach that is inclusive, integrated, and holistic. What is the importance of synergistic governance, and how will this manifest in your economic policy?

Synergistic governance plays a significant role in our efforts to achieve national development. Everyone must rise to the challenge of creating wealth and jobs for our people. This is not only the responsibility of government alone but it calls for the combined efforts of private-sector players. My government has provided a conducive environment to ease the conducting of business. This is of course through an integrated, multi-sectoral approach that promotes synergies across sectors. It is for this reason that my government created the Ministry of Planning and National Development to effectively coordinate various sectors and consolidate linkages among government ministries to effectively and efficiently address developmental challenges collectively.

How pivotal is innovation for your envisaged green revolution in Zambia?

This simply entails changing the way we do things. Therefore, to achieve a green revolution in Zambia, it is critical to have massive innovation as this is the bedrock of development. You may wish to note that our people, since time immemorial, have used rudimentary tools in their farming activities and this has negatively impacted yields. In this regard, my government is changing the agriculture sector by making it more mechanized. We are focusing on mechanizing the sector to enhance production and this means that our small-scale farmers have to be empowered with agricultural implements and machinery. We will be partnering with the government of India in this regard. In addition, a company from Poland called Ursus has shown interest in setting up a USD100 million assembly plant for agriculture equipment in Zambia.

In addition to your introduction of radical legislation that stipulates all government officials must engage in at least one agro-based activity, how else does your government propose fostering agricultural innovation in Zambia?

There is a need for us to exploit seed varieties other than the white maize seed that our people have grown accustomed. You may also wish to note that we have already started implementing this. However, our diversification program with emphasis on agriculture requires us to enhance R&D to exploit other seed varieties. In addition, our country has, for a very long time, depended on rain for farming activities, but we are now taking a shift to promote irrigation and our target is to bring 5,000ha of land under irrigation annually. The Ministry of Agriculture through the Irrigation Development Support Programme has since started developing irrigation schemes across the country. Besides, we are changing the way our farmers perceive farming. We want them to begin to treat it as a lucrative business, hence under the Second National Agricultural Policy (SNAP), the main thrust of which is increased production and productivity, we are promoting commercialization of agriculture among various other measures. Most importantly we need a massive injection of funds into the sector and to make credit facilities easily accessible to farmers.

With increased global awareness of the importance of conscientious tourism, how do you plan to marry the momentous boosting of Zambia's status as a tourism hub in Africa with protecting the environment and mitigating the effects of climate change?

My government recognizes the importance of conscientious tourism, particularly as this relates to balancing between increasing its gains from tourism development and protecting the environment and mitigating the effects of climate change. As articulated in the Ministry of Tourism and Arts 2015 National Tourism Policy, the ministry is guided by the principles of sustainable development as it plans and develops tourism. To actualize these principles, my government, through the ministry, will continue to apply the strategies of low volume, high-quality tourism products in all pristine and ecologically sensitive areas including planned and controlled mass tourism developments with potential to accommodate this kind of use. The ministry values synergies, hence its focus on multi-stakeholder approaches to ensure that all social, economic, and environmental concerns are carefully captured and incorporated in plans before implementation and, where relevant, mitigation measures are devised, adopted, and implemented. Currently, the ministry is crafting the National Tourism Development Master Plan (NTDMP), as provided for in the policy, which will be used as the overall development guide once completed. The first phase of the NTDMP focuses on generating destination plans for specified areas with tourism development potential and this process will be rolled out to other areas across the country. In addition, the ministry is collaborating with cooperating partners at bilateral and multilateral levels on development initiatives aimed at conserving and sustaining trans-boundary ecosystems using tourism as an economic driver, such as the Kavongo-Zambezi (KAZA) Trans-frontier Conservation Area (TFCA) and the Malawi-Zambia TFCA. The Zambian government through the ministry has also signed agreements with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the protection, conservation, and management of World heritage sites such as the global wonder, the Victoria Falls. My government will continue to encourage key stakeholders in the tourism industry, especially the private sector, to switch from practices that generate adverse impacts on the environment to sustainable development practices such as the use of clean renewable energy (i.e. creating eco-lodges and hotels that will increasingly adopt and use solar powered lighting and cooking, solar motorcars for movement of clients on their premises), encouraging environmentally sound waste management, constructing appropriate paved or raised walkways or platforms to protect environmentally sensitive areas from negative impacts, purchasing organically produced vegetables and fruit from local farmers, and many more practices.

How will your efforts to eliminate corruption and your zero-tolerance stance forge the way for a more transparent and unified Zambia, and what will be the consequences of this?

I would like to state from the outset that corruption impedes any form of national development. If left unchecked, corruption can leave permanent scars that can be difficult to address. No country can achieve meaningful socio-economic and political development if its moral fabric is compromised. This vice must therefore be fought holistically, which means tackling related crimes such as bribery, money laundering, and drug trafficking, which siphons the country's collective wealth into individual pockets, thus depriving the Zambian people of quality education, health, infrastructure, and other vital basic needs. In order to be successful in this fight, concerted efforts must be employed and the fight against graft must be made at individual, community, and national levels. This fight is an onerous task that calls for concerted efforts. With the right attitude and unquestionable commitment, it is attainable. The fight against corruption is important to the promotion of good governance and integrity. To forge a more transparent and unified Zambia we need to promote a culture of maximum restraint anchored on national values and principles that are stipulated in the Constitution of Zambia. These principles and values include morality and ethics, patriotism, and national unity, including good governance and integrity. There is also urgent need for us to strengthen the Public Service Code of Ethics to address impropriety among our public service employees. This code of ethics espouses among other values honesty, excellence, integrity, accountability, loyalty, and selflessness. Similarly, it is imperative for the private sector to enhance corporate governance to govern the professional conduct of the corporate world. In case there are private sector organizations that do not currently subscribe to any code of ethics, it is imperative that they develop one and institutionalize it. As we fight corruption, it should be in our minds that “charity begins at home." If we are to win this fight, parents, guardians, teachers, the media, and traditional leaders including politicians must be involved in inculcating the principles of good morals and ethics among our children and youth by closely nurturing and monitoring their activities. This will result in us grooming responsible young women and men who will be able to manage the affairs of the nation with honesty, integrity, and respect inter alia. As a Christian nation, the church equally has a big role to play in ensuring that all of us move within the confines of the Christian values that we profess. Furthermore, my government's desire to embrace technology through the introduction of e-governance is also anticipated to give us results in our fight against corruption. With information, communication, and technology, the provision of services in public institutions will be automated, thereby minimizing corrupt activities.