3 December 2010
South Africa and Zambia have increased their scope of cooperation by signing new agreements in environmental management and natural resources.
President Jacob Zuma said in Pretoria on Thursday that the agreements would not only benefit the two countries, but Africa as a whole, as they would assist in the eradication of poverty.
Zuma was speaking during a state banquet in honour of Zambian President Rupiah Banda, who is in the country for a two-day state visit aimed at discussing economic cooperation.
South Africa is Zambia’s largest exporter, and Zuma acknowledged the importance of increasing trade and bilateral relations: “Such warm historical ties must translate into stronger economic, social and developmental relations between our two countries,” he said.
Addressing trade decline
Despite South Africa being the largest exporter to Zambia, the trade balance shows a steady decline in South African exports, which were valued at R11.2-billion and R7-billion in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
The same decline applies to imports, as the statistics show R1.6-billion in 2009 and R1.4-billion in 2010.
The situation led to Banda making a call for action to be taken to redress the decline: “It’s something that concerns us, but we have agreed that there are ways that things can be done to address the problem,” Banda said.
Zuma and Banda further resolved to ensure that trade relations between the two countries were managed in a manner that benefited both sides.
Last year alone, the two countries signed six agreements on energy, agriculture, health, trade, mining and diplomatic consultations, and Zuma said this was a good foundation on which to work together to fight poverty and ensure economic growth and development in both countries.
“Our historic relations, which were cemented during the difficult days of our liberation struggles against colonialism and apartheid, continue to inspire us to do more to address developmental challenges facing our respective countries,” Zuma said.
He said the meeting in Pretoria noted with satisfaction the progress made in many areas of cooperation since a South African delegation visit to Lusaka last year.
“We both welcome the progress being made to implement the agreement in the field of energy . We are happy that our energy utilities Eskom and Zesco are working well together to the extent that they are negotiating an agreement, which we hope will be signed soon,” said Zuma.
The success of the cooperation will be measured by the extent and vigor with which the implementation of the agreement is carried out, he added.
Zuma and Banda also called for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be dropped.
The European Union, United States, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand have refused to lift visa and financial sanctions against Mugabe and his top officials, imposed eight years ago as punishment for allegedly stealing elections, human rights violations and failure to uphold the rule of law.
The two leaders, who are at the fore of regional efforts to end Zimbabwe’s long running political crisis, said the sanctions were an obstacle to finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
Zuma is the Southern African Development Community (SADC) official mediator in talks between Zimbabwe’s three ruling political parties, while Banda chairs the region’s special organ on security that oversees the mediation effort.
A SADC troika is due to meet to discuss Zimbabwe in January.