By JAMES KUNDA
and CHILA NAMAIKO –
PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has called for improved interaction between the people of Zambia and Togo to enhance the existing bilateral relations between the two countries.
Mr Lungu said the two countries should cooperate to harness value addition to their natural resources, including copper and iron ore which they possessed in abundance.
The President said the two countries should have a greater influence on Africa and the world other than in the area of sport where they have produced two icons in Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia) and Emmanuel Adebayor (Togo).
He directed Mines Minister Christopher Yaluma, Dora Siliya for Agriculture and Margaret Mwanakatwe (Commerce, Trade and Industry) to collaborate with their Togolese counterparts and share best practices on value addition.
This, President Lungu said, should also be translated to other sectors like energy in which both countries were facing a deficit.
The Head of State said this at State House in Lusaka yesterday when he held official talks with his Togolese counterpart Faure Gnassingbe.
“I was surprised when somebody at the airport (prior to Mr Gnassingbe’s arrival) asked me if Togolese people were black like us (Zambians),” President Lungu jokingly said. “This shows that our people need to communicate and interact more if our two countries are to improve our bilateral relations”.
President Lungu said Mr Gnassingbe’s visit, which was the first recorded by a sitting Togolese leader to Zambia, was a milestone as the two countries shared common interest on social and economic development.
He bemoaned the fact that while Togo was a net producer of phosphate, the West African country still imported fertiliser, while Zambia was a net producer of copper but still imported finished copper products.
“It is the desire of both our countries to break out of this syndrome (imports) and out of this visit, we expect the birth of a broad framework to enhance social and economic cooperation,” President Lungu said.
The President applauded his counterpart on the score that Togo had achieved in food security in spite of its challenging climatic conditions.
He said Zambians and the Togolese should also visit each other more often beyond the level of heads of State to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
Mr Gnassingbé is in the country for a two-day State visit, aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.
Mr Gnassingbé flew into Lusaka on his presidential jet and was met at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) by President Lungu, Cabinet ministers, some diplomats and Patriotic Front (PF) members.
President Gnassingbé was accorded a 21-gun salute by the Zambia Army’s Infantry and inspected a guard of honour.