Mayor of London to visit Zambia

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ONE word sums up the aim of my three-day trip to Zambia this week: partnership. As an ambassador for London’s ‘City’ – the term we use for the financial centre of the United Kingdom (UK) – I want to strengthen the economic ties between our two countries.
As Lord Mayor, I represent this ‘City’ for one year in office. It is a packed year during which I tour the globe, visiting developing and developed nations and cementing the partnerships of international trade.
I will arrive in Zambia having just spent a few days in Angola, accompanied by a delegation of influential UK businesses, and we will all be keen to offer our support to the Zambian economy in any way we can. Zambia and the UK are natural partners of choice for commerce and trade.
I will reiterate this point when I meet the Minister of Finance, Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry and Central Bank Governor in the coming days.
The development of the financial sector in Zambia, investment and infrastructure opportunities, capital markets development, challenges in the energy sector and public private partnership (PPP) projects will all be on the table for discussion, and the UK is ready to assist Zambia in all of these areas.
My assessment is that Zambia is a very attractive proposition for foreign investors. The country has strong growth and a liberal economy with no price or foreign exchange controls.
This informed last year’s successful and productive trade and investment forum, held in London, which attracted over 20 fantastic speakers and provided useful information to businesses interested in Zambia. I am sure that this forum laid the foundations for some extremely fruitful business deals in the future.
But there is still work to do. The Zambian government is well aware that it needs a diversified economy to compete on the global stage, especially reducing its reliance on copper production where the global price, like those of most commodities, can be incredibly volatile.
In the UK, we are faced with a very similar set of issues. Having fought through the global depression and emerged from the other side, we have worked hard to reduce our dependency on financial services and strengthen the offer of our regional cities outside – in other words, cities other than London.
This has already had a positive impact, and recent research shows that two-thirds of the UK’s financial services professionals are now based outside London.
Cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and many others all offer terrific services and remarkable expertise. As contracts go to tender for new buildings, new ports, new railways and other developments in Zambia, firms from all over the UK are poised to help with services from legal services to project management and from security to funding. Many of these services are represented in the wide ranging business delegation that accompanies me in Zambia.
While in Lusaka, I’m looking forward to seeing the concept of education, training and qualifications in the area of financial services in action when I attend a meeting between the Securities and Exchange Commission of Zambia and the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).
Promoting professionalism and professional standards is crucial when developing capital markets and building human capital and the confidence in markets as premier investment destinations.
Bilateral trade between our two countries stood at over £110 million in 2014. That is a good figure but I believe strongly that it could and should be higher. A new UK Trade and Investment office opened in Lusaka in September 2014, followed a few months later by the launching of the British Chamber of Commerce; both of these new resources should help to create more precious business links.
Leading UK companies like Barclays, Standard Chartered and Jaguar Land Rover already have an established presence in Zambia. But there exist so many more opportunities for the UK to explore, in sectors like renewables, agriculture, health care and education, training and qualifications.
On this last point, I am pleased to bring with me representatives from this sector in the form of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries and Thomson Reuters. We all recognise that qualifications are the world’s global passport to success and I want to encourage links between our two countries in this field.
Underpinning these opportunities is the financial and associated services industry, which is central to any country’s sustainable prosperity. Banking, insurance and legal services sustain the wider economy by providing easier access to capital as well as valuable advice about how a business can thrive at home and abroad.
Stock exchanges also play a big role in encouraging growth, by allowing business to efficiently raise capital and expand their operations. One of my first big engagements in Zambia will be to go to the Lusaka Stock Exchange and talk on this important topic.
Financial and professional services also support successful infrastructure projects. During my meetings with ministers, I will offer the UK’s support in getting public private partnership (PPP) projects off the ground. PPP is a way of financing expensive capital expenditure that harnesses both the ambition of the public sector and the innovation of the private sector.
In the UK, PPP financing has been invaluable to projects like the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were delivered on time and under budget, as well as current work on Crossrail, which is the largest suburban rail project in the world. We have world-beating firms able to deliver the large-scale infrastructure projects that Zambia is looking to undertake.
I hope my visit achieves three things. First, that the government and business leaders see that the UK is open for business. Second, that our own firms, across all sectors, see in return just how open Zambia is open to inward investment and commercial opportunities.
And third, I hope everybody comes to appreciate the manner in which free trade between our two nations benefits both our countries and helps to encourage economic prosperity.
The author is Alderman Mountevans, the Lord Mayor of the City of London.

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