President Lungu targets Transport Sector for GDP growth, Job Creation and Poverty reduction
President Edgar Lungu wants to create more jobs and slash poverty levels through a deliberate creation of an efficient communication network that reduces the cost of doing regional business especially in the railway sector said Mr Amos Chanda, the Presidential Spokesman.
Mr Chanda was speaking when he met in his office, a delegation of influential business from Sweden targeting the railway sector for fresh investment that could open Zambia to ‘new’ western money markets and broaden its business reach in the sub-region as a key ‘land-linked’ country player.
Zambia’s Charge d’ Affaires to Sweden Mr Anthony Mukwita who brought a high-powered delegation of TEAM SWEDEN for a series of consultative meetings in Lusaka with Finance Minister hon. Felix Mutati last week, among others, revealed this in an interview after a scheduled meeting in Mr Chanda in his office.
“President Lungu strongly feels that improving the communication sector (transport, airline etc) as much as possible would in the long run boost Zambia’s economic growth, create jobs and reduce poverty,” said Mr Chanda.
The presidential spokesman said President Lungu would henceforth ensure business interest groups from as diverse backgrounds—such as Sweden—as possible get involved in achieving his greater poverty reduction and job creation aspiration as possible.
Mr Chanda said President Lungu is fully aware of TEAM SWEDEN plans to ‘actively’ participate in the development of the railway network in Zambia that increases Zambia’s ‘inter-linkedness’ in the region as a crucial member of SADC and COMESA.
“He (President Lungu) is aware of the need to allow companies such as Bombardier from Sweden and others from Asia to achieve a greater goal of efficient transport communication,” said Mr Chanda.
Mr Chanda said, “the President is fully cognisant of the fact that the countries that have improved the most in history globally have done so riding on an efficient and cost-effective transport network.”
TEAM SWEDEN, supported by the embassy of Sweden in Zambia was represented at the State House meeting by Mr Christian Bengtsson, Bombardier Head of Swedish Rail Export Programme and Mr Johan Oldhoff, Head of Bombardier Bids.
Charge d’ Affaires Mukwita represented the Zambian embassy in Stockholm.
Prior to the meeting with Mr Chanda at State House, TEAM SWEDEN had progressive discussions with the Minister of Finance hon. Felix Mutati and Permanent Secretary Mukuba Chikuli according to the diplomat.
Mr Mukwita described discussions with Minister Mutati and TEAM SWEDEN as “optimistic and progressive” for Zambia’s railway sector and, “hon. Mutati’s desire to diversify financing even more heart-warming.”
The Zambian diplomat said because Bombardier is the ‘world’s number one railway company’ means less worries for Zambia as business discussions progress.
“Their tested global record of executing crucial jobs at reduced costs but achieving world class results is one thing that makes their proposal attractive for railway job engagement in Zambia.”
He said the Bombardier team now awaits advice from Finance Minister Felix Mutati on ‘a progressive way forward’ for the finance package.
The decision would have to be made on whether Zambia continues or discontinues discussions with the world’s number one railway company.
“The great thing in my view of opening up a business line with Sweden is that as a leader in the Scandinavian world,” said Mr Mukwita, “when you are in bed with Sweden you open doors for greater and diversified business with Norway, Denmark, Finland etc and many more in that part of the world.”
Mr Mukwita adds that, “their AAA corporate governance records (Scandinavian countries ratings) simply helps Zambia globally hurts it in no way.”
Mr Mukwita said Minister Mutati had shown a greater commitment to diversify infrastructure development financing to safe guard Zambia from any danger of an economic bubble burst in one region of the economy.
The Zambian diplomat said as the nation pushes its economic development agenda, engaging the Swedish company for the railway assignment could mean greater job creation, poverty reduction and an increased economic activity in the transport sector.
“That is what we know President Lungu wants,” Mr Mukwita said, “a vibrant job market and an efficiently linked Zambia that plays a leading economic role in both SADC and COMESA while benefitting the local community.”
The Presidents spokesman Mr Chanda assured TEAM SWEDEN that President Lungu would hear of all concerns they have as the continue to discuss participation in Zambia’s railway sector.
Mr Chanda said President Lungu is determined to ensure as many few trucks used the roads to also cut down on loss of lives as possible by diverting traffic onto the railway lines.
Mr Mukwita and his delegation have since returned to Sweden awaiting progress from the Zambian side.
Others that attended meetings with Hon. Mutati and PS Mukuli include: Swedish Embassy deputy head of mission Karin Sveken, Trade and Communication Officer Anna Dloski, Ruth Phiri from Business Sweden, Johan Oldhoff and Christian Bengtsson both from Bombardier.
Mr Mukwita described the talks as fruitful adding, “the ball is now in the court of hon Mutati and his Permanent Secretary Mr Chikuba Mukuli.”