By Nawa Mutumweno – This year, apart from being a momentous one as Zambia celebrates its Golden Jubilee of independence, also marks 50 years of Sino-Zambia diplomatic ties.
On the second day of her independence, October 5, 1964, Zambia established diplomatic relations with China, becoming the first country in southern Africa to do so.
This strong bond, which springs from the older generation of the two countries: Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and President Kenneth Kaunda, has blossomed to higher heights over the years.
The most visible symbol of China’s cooperation with Zambia is the 1 860 km Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) rail line, also dubbed ‘’the road of friendship’’ and ‘’the Uhuru Railway’’ which has enhanced the socio-economic life of the country and its eastern neighbour, Tanzania.
China is the second largest destination of export for Zambia. Their trade volume reached $3.8 billion in 2013 of which a $3.1 billion worth of exports came from Zambia to China.
The oriental country is also Zambia’s third largest source of investment. As of 2013, the accumulated amount of investment from China to Zambia reached $2.6 billion.
According to Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao who visited the country recently, by 2020, Sino-Zambia’s annual bilateral trade volume will exceed $7 billion while China’s accumulated direct investment in Zambia will reach $6 billion.
‘’We hope that the two sides will expand mutually beneficial cooperation. We will step up collaboration in areas like agriculture, mining, infrastructure building, and make the Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone a success,’’ he elaborated.
The China-Zambia Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone managed by China Nonferrrous Metals Mining Group is the first of its kind set up in Africa by China.
In the seven years since its inception, already 29 enterprises have made their establishment in this park, creating over 7 000 job opportunities for Zambia. This development underscores the all-weather friendship between the two countries.
During Dr. Li’s visit, the two countries signed eight agreements on Chinese loans and grants on bilateral and economic relations on June 18, 2014. The agreements include an economic and technical cooperation accord for a grant of $32 million and an economic and technical cooperation of $32 million of interest-free loan.
Another agreement is for a concessional loan for the upgrade of the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) project. Other agreements were on adjustment to Mpika urban roads in northern Zambia, the borehole drilling project and vocational training supplies; and on wildlife protection supplies and mass callisthenic technical cooperation project.
There are 1 020 Zambian students studying in China now and the classes teaching Chinese language and culture established by the Confucius Institute with the University of Zambia have reached all the 10 provinces in Zambia.
The Chinese government plans to train a total of 3 600 professionals in various disciplines to enhance Zambia’s human capital resource.
In terms of sports facilities, China has built stadiums in Ndola (Levy Mwanawasa Stadium) and Lusaka (National Heroes Stadium) which now charts the way forward for Zambia to host big international sporting events such as the African Cup of Nations in the near future. Table tennis coaches have also been dispatched to train the Zambia national tennis team.
About 500 Chinese companies are operating in Zambia cutting across various sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, retail trade, construction health, ICT and mining. Over 100 000 Chinese national live in Zambia, according to official statistics.
A few worth of note are as follows: NFC Africa Mining (mines), China Jiangxi (road construction), Sino Hydro (power) and Higer (manufacture of buses).
China is also adding value to Zambia’s health sector, with the dispatch of 460 medical staff in 17 batches. Chinese doctors and nurses have brought health and smiles to many people in Zambia due to their dedication and medical expertise.
In a bid to cement the relations, in April 2013, Zambian President Michael Sata paid a state visit to China and reached a series of important agreements with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping.
As Chinese Veep quips, the two countries should continue to ‘’grow the evergreen tree of China-Zambia friendship’’.