By Alice Chisanga
Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Mushuma Mulenga has assured importers and exporters from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) of a safe and conducive trade environment between the two countries.
Officially opening the Zambia-Democratic Republic of Congo Trade Mission at Hypnose Mall in Lubumbashi, Mr. Mulenga disclosed that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Government of Zambia will do everything possible to put in place policies aimed at creating a conducive trade environment by ensuring that the private sector conducts business in a safe and conducive environment.
Mr. Mulenga disclosed that the Zambian government and Congolese government had been holding series of bilateral talks to address the trade barriers between the two countries.
Saying the Democratic Republic Congo has remained Zambia’s number one destination market for Non-Traditional Exports with NTEs averaging over US$ 800 million annually.
Despite these seemingly high export volumes he said, the two countries have not yet fully reached their peak in trade relations.
This is evidenced by the many problems related to cross-border trade at Kasumbalesa Border such as limited operating hours resulting in fleet congestion.
In addressing these challenges, Mr. Mulenga said the two countries have continued to hold bilateral meetings aimed at resolving those challenges.
He mentioned some resolutions that came from the bilateral meeting between the Zambian and Congolese Trade Ministers as; increasing operating hours from 12 to 18 hours, simplifying the trade regime in order to facilitate cross-border trade, implementing the Bilateral Trade Agreement signed in 2015, creating special Economic Zones and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements between the two countries.
And Vice Governor of Haut Katanga Province Jean-Claude Kamfwa Kimimba paid a glowing tribute to President Hakainde Hichilema for considering DR Congo an important trade partner saying it would help the country in removing the trade barriers.
Mr. Kimimba advised Zambians to invest more in maize production saying the country could make more money from Agriculture than Mining, if it considered exporting maize meal to his country.
He said the price of mealie meal in DR. Congo was twice as much if compared to the price of the same commodity in Zambia.
Mr. Kimimba explained that DR Congo had a huge population of over 100 million people whose main food was nshima which is prepared from maize meal.
In his end remarks, he called on Consul General of the Zambian Consulate in Lubumbashi Felix Siame to be reaching out to his office regarding challenges faced by Zambians at the Kasumbalesa Border when travelling into DRC.
Meanwhile Zambia Development Agency (ZDA) Acting Director General Albert Halwampa disclosed that The aim of the trade mission is to secure market access for Zambian products in DR Congo.
He said the trade mission was part of the implementation of the N8 +1 Export Strategy to increase Zambia’s Non-Traditional Exports (NTE’s) in the region