UK Minister for Africa James Duddridge visited Zambia this week to discuss British support to boost trade across Southern Africa and between Zambia and East Africa. He held talks with Zambian Finance Minister Dr Bwalya Ng’andu as well as with trade bodies and businesses.
“From farmers selling their crops at regional markets, to growing African businesses exporting to global markets, traders across Southern Africa are an important and growing driver of regional business, investment and prosperity,” said Duddridge. “UK support to help both formal and informal traders to move their goods quickly and safely will help Southern African trade to not just survive the economic consequences of Covid-19, but thrive in the future.”
Regarding Southern Africa, the British Minister announced that the UK was partnering with the United Nations International Organisation for Migration to supply training and advice to governments, border agencies and traders, to ensure that key border posts in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia and elsewhere could be open and safe, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, and allow especially informal traders to safely and legally resume their business. It has been calculated that informal trade was responsible for between 30% and 40% of Southern Africa’s regional trade. Up to 70% of these informal traders were women.
“This support is designed to keep cross-border trade in Southern Africa flowing, despite all the disruption Covid has brought,” explained British High Commissioner to South Africa Nigel Casey. “This is a vital source of income for many vulnerable small traders both here in South Africa and across the region. This is a further way in which we’re supporting South Africa’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Concerning trade between Zambia and East Africa, Duddridge also announced that Britain was supporting a new partnership between the Southern African country and trade promotion group TradeMark East Africa (TMEA). The purpose of this partnership was to improve trade flows at the Nakonde border post between Zambia and Tanzania.
Some 135 000 trucks passed through the Nakonde border post every year. Under the partnership, work to set up a ‘Safe Trade Zone’ at Nakonde would start immediately. This would ensure the safety of both border staff and informal traders during the current pandemic. Further, the Zambian government and TMEA would start designing improved infrastructure for the border post, to improve its resiliency and appreciably accelerate transit times.
These improvements would not only benefit bilateral Zambian-Tanzanian trade, but facilitate access to other East African markets, especially Kenya, not only for Zambia but for its neighbouring States. It would further facilitate access to the wider world for Zambia and its neighbours, through the Port of Dar es Salaam.
“The government of Zambia is grateful for TMEA’s support,” stated Dr Ng’andu. “It will promote our country’s trade competitiveness and build the efficiency of its trade systems, whilst promoting safe trade during this Covid-19 period.”
“This announcement by the UK government marks the start of a long-term partnership between TradeMark East Africa and the government of Zambia to promote Zambia’s trade competitiveness,” highlighted TMEA CEO Frank Matsaert. “The Safe Trade Emergency Facility in Zambia aims at making the Nakonde border facility safe to trade, protecting [against] job losses and making Zambia resilient to future crisis.”
While in Lusaka, Duddridge also held talks with Common Market for East and Southern Africa (Comesa) CEO Chileshe Kapepwe. Comesa embraces 21 member countries with a total population of some 560-million. They discussed British support for the promotion of African regional and global trade, to stimulate economic development across the continent. During the meeting, it was announced that the British High Commissioner in Lusaka, Nicholas Woolley, would soon also be accredited as the UK’s Special Representative to Comesa, to strengthen Britain’s partnership with the regional bloc.