By MARTIN NYIRENDA
IT was Woodrow Wilson, the 28th United States (US) president from 1913 to 1921, who once said: “Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together”.
The words of Wilson even become more relevant in the wake of the current protests over racial inequalities, extreme partisanship, economic decline and disease sweeping through America.
This situation offers lessons to Zambia which needs strong partnerships in times of crisis like the coronavirus pandemic which has taken a significant toll on the national and the global economy.
After assuming office, President Edgar Lungu’s administration has ushered in a period of unprecedented development initiatives, inclusive growth at the back of diversifying the economy to ensure the country prospers.
President Lungu has put in place socio-economic policies that have culminated in infrastructure development, massive investment in energy projects such as wind, solar and hydropower and enhanced efficiency in production, transportation and communication.
The global slowdown has compounded some of the challenges facing the national economy, including adverse weather conditions and a slump in copper prices – Zambia’s main export – as well as dampening energy and agricultural output.
In trying to help the country, policies have been put in place to revamp and industrialize the agriculture sector, with the financing of the construction of a tractor manufacturing plant in Zambia.
Through the head of AFTRADE DMCC, Alexander Zingman, the Belarusian who is the official representative of that country’s manufacturers in Africa, the company is financing construction of the tractor manufacturing plant in Zambia.
“The tractor manufacturing plant in Zambia will accelerate mechanized agriculture and create more than 100 jobs.
“The development will also boost revenue through the export of tractors to neighbouring Malawi, Mozambique and other countries in the region,” Mr Zingman said in a summary on the backdrop of a meeting with a Zambian delegation led by Finance Minister Bwalya Ng’andu early this year in Belarus.
Belarusian companies have expertise in agriculture, mining machinery, road construction, passenger transport and freight.
Most importantly, Belarus provides foreign buyers with project financing on favourable terms from the Development Bank of Belarus, the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and the Eastern and Southern African Trade and Development Bank (TDB).
The project is expected to provide industrialization for the Zambian economy, good service support, spare parts and training as well as the transfer of know-how and technology from Belarus.
The landmark deal was facilitated by Mr Zingman, who frequently visits Zambia and meets with many corporate and political leaders, including President Lungu.
“Zambia and Belarus are natural partners,” Mr Zingman recently said, adding that relations between the two countries are based on reliability and trust.
The Belarusian, who is the Honourary Consul to to Zimbabwe, has helped bring in investment to Zambia’s southern African neighbour.
“Belarus has provided Zimbabwe with a $120 million export credit line for the supply of machinery for agriculture, dam construction and mining.
“The two countries have signed deals worth $350 million for the construction of a power plant, for transport and the development of agricultural projects,” Mr Zingman said.
In March, this year, the Belarusian government helped Zimbabwe identify prime horticultural land for farming.
It is investing in agro-processing, crop and livestock production, input supply and local manufacturing of farm mechanisation and irrigation equipment in Zimbabwe.
Apart from engaging in farming, the Belarusians will also enter into joint ventures with local farmers to enable them to export their produce globally.
This is a game-changer for the Zimbabwean farmers and all those involved in the agricultural industry in the country, which is currently considered one of the most food insecure nations, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
Most of the beneficiaries of this and the many other deals signed between the two countries and Belarus have proved to be a ‘true friend to Africa’.
Now, the Belarusian envoy is bringing his expertise and trade partnerships to Zambia.
Belarus has reinforced its commitment to investments and collaboration with Zambia, pledging continued support.
In the tractor deal, all products will be produced in Zambia, with Belarus ready to share its advanced technology.
“We are living in a cynical, skeptical and increasingly isolationist world marked by fake news, partisanship and trade wars,” Mr Zingman said.
Reliability and trust are sadly traits that have become rare.
Based on this foundation, it is a timely and welcome partnership that Zambians can count on as the Belarusian envoy, Mr Zingman states: “I am a humble, gracious business executive, who diligently brokers trade deals that aid and help the lives of our hard-working people”.