Opening address to EU-Zambia Economic Forum, Lusaka

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Your excellency President Hichilema, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour to join you today, here in Lusaka.

And it is my great pleasure to be here in Zambia.

I would like to thank you for your kind hospitality. I look forward to seeing more of your country and meeting more of your people in the coming days.

Importance of EU-Zambia partnership

As you all know, the EU Zambia Economic Forum is a highly important initiative.

Our strong relationship is now more critical than ever, as significant challenges lie ahead for both Zambia and Europe.

Just when the global economy was starting to emerge from the COVID pandemic, Russia brought war back to Europe. This unprovoked aggression has far-reaching consequences, including for you here in

Disrupted supply chains and a steep rise in commodity prices such as energy, fertilizers, and agricultural products are making it difficult to continue with business as usual.

The agri-food sector, and small farms in particular, can play a critical role in our recovery, by generating sustainable green growth and creating jobs. In turn, this will translate into greater economic resilience, poverty eradication, and shared prosperity.

These ambitions are in line with the African Union’s agricultural priorities, as set out in the African Agenda 2063 and the Malabo

And these priorities are similarly reflected in the joint Rural Transformation Agenda of the European Union and the African Union, and echoed in the ambitions of the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork strategy.

Under the Green Deal, the European Union has set ambitious climate change targets for 2030.

At the same time, we are also committed to achieving ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2030, as enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

I am convinced that a strong partnership between Zambia and the European Union is essential, if we are to meet both of these ambitious, but indispensable goals.

We have several ways to reinforce our partnership.

Trade & investments

For example, we can advance agri-food trading relations and ensure that they are mutually beneficial.

In this respect, our Economic Partnership Agreement is a great tool.

The Agreement removes trade barriers, encouraging healthy competition and lower prices for consumers.

It can benefit both Zambia and Europe by helping our two regions to sustainably invest in each other and trade with each other, for improved food security and sustainability.

Another significant step forward in this direction is the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which we fully support.

The Free Trade Agreement addresses a fundamental lesson we in Europe have learned through our historical experience: removing (some) tariffs alone does not guarantee the improved flow of trade. The trading partners must also harmonise their regulatory environment, allowing businesses to invest and trade across borders with a sense of legal certainty.

I am convinced that we can create a continent-to-continent free trade area between the European Union and Africa in the long-term, opening new perspectives for competitive businesses and healthy economies in both continents.

Alongside trade, the way we invest will guide the agricultural sector over the coming years.

We are all aware that farming remains largely a private sector activity, with high public importance. Therefore, public-private partnerships must be at the core of our joint initiatives.

Research & Innovation

As we seek to prepare our agri-food systems for the challenges ahead, investing in research and innovation will also be crucial.

Therefore, both the EU Comprehensive Strategy for Africa and our Green Deal initiatives have a strong innovation component.

Agro-ecological practices and profitable green business ventures are amongst the most exciting, yet largely untapped areas of opportunity for growth in the agri-food sector.

Finally, we must also capitalise on digital solutions in agriculture.

These solutions can help us to combat disease, prevent food loss, and overall make agricultural production more efficient and sustainable.

Agriculture is one of the oldest and most traditional sectors of the human economy, but it is now being caught in the winds of technological change. We must not resist this change, but instead harness it for the sustainable transformation of agriculture and the achievement of global food security.

Conclusion

To conclude, let me say that Zambia can count on the European Union as a partner.

Zambia is a country with a vast agricultural sector, a wide array of natural resources, and a young & ambitious population. I believe it is a country with a huge untapped potential.

We must work together and allow this potential to flourish.

In this spirit, I wish you successful and fruitful discussions over the next two days. I hope that our exchanges here will provide valuable input for our shared work.

As we look to meet common challenges and take advantage of coming opportunities, it is clear that much more can be achieved if we follow a common path.

I believe there is a Zambian proverb, which says: “When you run alone, you run fast. But when you run together, you run far.”

So let us run together, and let us go far.

Thank you.

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