While most Minnesotans may not be able to locate Zambia on a map, many have heard of the majestic Victoria Falls and all will likely have heard of copper and cobalt. The Republic of Zambia has all these.
A peaceful and stable democracy for more than 50 years, Zambia’s mineral sector has for many years been at the forefront of the nation’s expanding economy. Another prominent sector is agriculture, thanks to the country’s good soil and large tracts of fertile, arable land. Abundant hydropower resources can be found in its numerous lakes, dams and rivers.
Zambia has big plans for the diversification of its economy and it strives to lead the way in turning the African continent into an economic powerhouse.
Zambia’s Vision 2030 plan lays the groundwork to make the country a “prosperous middle-income nation by the year 2030.” The plan includes reduction of poverty, secure access to safe water and improved sanitation, education for all and equitable access to quality health care.
Zambia, ranked among the Top 10 most competitive countries in Africa, is working to diversify the economy away from mining by bolstering its manufacturing and tourism sectors.
Why should Minnesotans care about this? Zambia is a great investment destination and is eager to increase its business relationship with the U.S. In 2018, the U.S. exported $195 million worth of goods to Zambia, up significantly from the previous year. Exports included aircraft, machinery and vehicles. The U.S. imported $183 million in goods from Zambia in 2018, up significantly from 2017. Top imports included copper, precious metals, emeralds, iron and steel.
Minnesota exported $612,000 worth of goods in 2018 to Zambia, and imported only about $4,000. There is much opportunity for growth. Cargill has been operating in Zambia since 2006 when it opened a grain and oilseed trading office. It later acquired an integrated soybean crush, refinery and bottling business, enabling the company to provide market access to small-scale and commercial farmers.
Zambians want to do business with Americans and Minnesotans. Zambians want you to come to visit. Zambia wants business expertise from Minnesota and the U.S., along with tourists to visit Victoria Falls and a host of other beautiful spots. Zambia wants technical experts and consultants to assist in developing other industries in addition to copper mining. Opportunities abound particularly in energy, agriculture, construction and tourism. And Zambia wants the continued assistance of nonprofits like Minnesota-based Books For Africa and Partners in Food Solutions, which works to strengthen food security and was founded with the help of Cargill and General Mills.
NGO’s like Books For Africa are part of the solution for Zambia. For example, Books For Africa (BFA) has exported more than 500,000 books to Zambia over the past 30 years. BFA has partnered with Room to Read, Rotary clubs across the U.S., the United Nations, the U.S. Defense Department and the University of Zambia. And later this year, BFA is working with Thomson Reuters, which has offices in Eagan, to export books to Zambia, including a law library.
Books and the development of human capital are critical imports to a country such as Zambia. Like most of the rest of Africa, Zambia has a youthful population. Nearly two thirds of its 17.6 million people are under age 24. Educating those young people will ensure that youth will become a force for good and will contribute to Zambia’s economic development.
And an educated population helps develop the rule of law, which also is a major force in economic development and in attracting international business.
Jada Yuan, of the New York Times, visited Zambia last fall as part of her reporting from special places around the world. She described a scene in which she watched a herd of elephants 50 feet away that passed right in front of the vehicle she was in. She said:
“I was thrilled, a little scared and in utter awe that I was living that moment. It was light enough to see them, but just dark enough that taking pictures wasn’t an option. All I have are the memories, and I will have those forever.”
Zambia has that hold on people. We hope that more Americans and more Minnesotans can share it through visits and through working with Zambia in business, tourism and education.
His Excellency Ngosa Simbyakula is the Zambian ambassador to the United States. He visited the Twin Cities for a series of Books For Africa events May 30. Patrick Plonski is executive director of St. Paul-based Books For Africa.