Bordering eight countries and being a member of many regional and international groupings, Zambia is a strategic country both in its location and abundance of natural resources. It is a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, which is currently a customs union, and the Southern Africa Development Communities’ Free Trade Areas. Zambia is also in the forefront in pushing for the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area composed of the organisations mentioned above and the East Africa Community. “In addition to being a member of the World Trade Organization, the country is implementing a number of bilateral trade agreements such as the ones with China, Canada and Japan”, John Paton the CEO of the British Chamber of Commerce in Zambia explains.
European Times: What is the level of UK business involvement in Zambia?
John Paton: Britain accounts for the highest level of foreign direct investment in Zambia, and British companies are today active in most sectors of the economy, from mining to manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, health, education, financial services, ICT and renewable energies. Tullow Oil recently announced it would be investing US$69 million for exploring hydrocarbons in the north of Zambia. With some 40% of the region’s water supply, good agricultural land and an abundance of minerals, Zambia remains a country of opportunity. Doing business has improved in recent years, and successive governments have put in place the necessary policy instruments to make life easier for domestic and foreign investors alike, even if the implementation of these policies still presents a challenge at times. The UK accounts for some one percent of Zambia’s exports and approximately 2.5% of imports, so there is room for growth.
European Times: When was your organisation established?
John Paton: The British business community has met informally with the British High Commissioner and his staff, together with representatives of the Department for International Development and the UK Trade and Investment, for many years. These meetings were formalised with the incorporation of the British Chamber of Commerce in late 2014 and its formal launch in February 2015. Today its members include major UK companies such as Standard Chartered Bank, Unilever, Zambia Sugar, accounting and audit firms such as KPMG and BDO, the Intercontinental Hotel and Prudential Insurance, a recent investor.
European Times: How would you access the political stability of the country as a factor contributing to its economic growth?
John Paton: The country is one of Africa’s most peaceful, tolerant and democratic states with exceptional safety and political stability since attaining independence in 1964. The Zambian Westminster-style government and sound governance structures are based on the rule of law and respect for private property, while its independent judiciary functions through established court systems with separate commercial courts. Therefore, it is safe to say that the political system is conducive to the support of Zambia’s economic success story.