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Friday, 27 June 2008

More money more embassies, revisit'd (Guest Blog)

It is unfortunate that the Zambian government has found it necessary to establish additional diplomatic missions at a time when so many of our fellow citizens are wallowing in abject poverty. What is prompting us to make such irresponsible decisions? How can this be when the basic needs of education, public health, agriculture, road works and bridges, public safety and security, civil servants and civil service retirees, and orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC)?

If we have surplus funds in public coffers, let us use them in addressing these needs first. We should not forget that meaningful levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), tourism, and all the other benefits we seek through trade and political relations with other countries will not be realized if we fail to address these needs. For example, failure to address the rampant incidence of crime and corruption will fan away investors and tourists, as well as prompt governments worldwide to warn their citizens against coming to our country.

We, therefore, need to get our national priorities right, and we need to do so now rather than later! After all, of what value is a government if it is not perpetually responsive to the basic needs and aspirations of the masses, and of what use is leadership if it cannot be a means to the serving of one’s fellow citizens?

What we actually need now is to reduce the number of our beloved country’s embassies in order to save some money for allocation to poverty reduction. Governments worldwide that have a genuine desire to develop mutually beneficial relations with us will understand our reason for doing so. Suggestively, let us reduce the 29 or so existing Zambian diplomatic missions abroad by half by creating foreign missions that would serve groups of countries rather than single countries.

This, of course, is not to slight the role of Zambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in our quest for sustained and heightened socio-economic development. It is certainly essential for us to work hand in hand with other peace-loving nations worldwide in creating a more democratic, more peaceful, more affluent, and more egalitarian global community. Particularly, we need to maintain amicable relations with all the countries which have already proved to be Zambia’s reliable and passionate friends. And, among other functions, MoFA needs to:

1. Strive to educate other countries about our beautiful country and its lovely and peace-loving people. If we fail in this endeavor, other countries will not readily engage in political, cultural and economic relations with us.

2. Maintain up-to-date profiles of foreign countries in order to continually fine-tune Zambia’s relations with the rest of the world, and to furnish Zambian travelers with useful information about foreign countries to enhance their safety and/or business pursuits abroad.

3. Redress travelers’ frustrations caused by inadequacies in the processing of passports and visas by streamlining bureaucratic procedures and occasionally re-training consular personnel.

4. Encourage each and every Zambian traveler to foreign countries to consider themselves as dependable ambassadors of our Motherland, and to conduct themselves in a civilized and lawful manner.

5. Grant special Zambian residency to foreign nationals who would be adjudged to have made exemplary contributions to the promotion—in their own countries and/or beyond—of peace, freedom, justice, democracy, prosperity, philanthropy / altruism, poverty reduction, and other noble causes and endeavors. And to make it possible for such foreign nationals and/or their immediate or bereaved families to visit Zambia whenever they feel like and enjoy the beauty, warmth, friendliness, and rich cultures and traditions of our beloved country and its people.

A provisional list of such people and/or their families would need to include the following: Mr. Kofi Annan, U2’s Bono, Mr. Jimmy Carter, Mr. Jimmy Cliff, Mr. Bill Clinton, the late Mr. Mahatma Gandhi, the late Dr. John Garang, Mr. Mikael Gorbachov, Ms. Angeli-na Jolie, Senator Edward Kennedy, the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the late Mother Teresa, the late Mr. Samora Machel, Mr. Nelson Mandela, Mr. Mahathir Mohamad, the late Mr. Joshua Nkomo, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Ms. Oprah Winfrey, Mrs. Anita Roddick, and Ms. Clare Short.

The idea of having diplomatic missions in countries which meet the following suggested criteria is a noble one: major trading partners, have more than average of Zambian diaspora living there, large contributors of aid (or development partners), and/or HQs of important international organizations. Along this line of thinking, I have suggested below the reduction of Zambian foreign missions from the current 29 to 22. The countries in parenthesis represent the locations of Zambian missions for regions / clusters of nations.

1. THE AFRICAN UNION:

Western Africa:
Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, [Nigeria], Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

Northern Africa:
Algeria, Egypt, [Libya], Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara.

Southern Africa:
Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, [South Africa], Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

Central Africa:
Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Eastern Africa:
Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, [Tanzania], and Uganda.

2. THE AMERICAS:

Central America:
Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.

North America:
[Canada—CIDA], Mexico and [United States—USAID].

South America:
Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

3. ASIA:
Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, [China + Taiwan], Cyprus, Georgia, [India], Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, [Japan], Jordan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, West Bengal, and Yemen.

4. THE CARIBBEAN:
Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, [Cuba], Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Virgin Islands.

5. EUROPE:
Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, [Denmark], Estonia, [Finland], France, Georgia, [Germany], Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, [Netherlands], [Norway], Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, [Sweden—SIDA], Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, [United Kingdom—DFID], and Vatican City.

6. OCEANIA:

Australasia:
[Australia], Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, New Zealand, and Norfolk Island.

Melanesia:
East Timor (Timor-Leste), Fiji, Maluku Islands, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

Micronesia:
Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau.

Polynesia:
American Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Pitcairn, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna, and Western Samoa.

7. THE UN AND EU:

New York, USA: Permanent Mission to the UN.

Geneva, Switzerland: Permanent Mission to the UN.

Brussels, Belgium: European Union (EU) Headquarters.


Henry Kyambalesa
Agenda for Change
(Guest Blogger)

8 comments:

  1. Europe and Asia each gets one for the whole continent and then Oceania gets 6 and the caraibean or central america get one each ?

    Cho was right, major trade partner, major tourism client, major donor, basically whoever is often in direct contact with Zambia should be prioritized. Oceania, though ?

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  2. Random African,

    Take time and go through the listing more carefully: Oceania gets only 1 Zambian mission--Australia; Asia gets 3 missions, while Europe gets 7 + 1 at the UN in Geneva.

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  3. i didn't see the quotes, my apologies

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  4. You are welcome.

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  5. Kyambalesa,

    We are in agreement on the general thrust, but I had some questions in terms of regional choices.

    1. Why Libya and not Egypt? Is it the pan-African element?
    2. DRC is chosen in Central Africa. It is Zambia’s third largest trade partners, but is proximity not a factor here? I mean they are basically next door. Do we really need an embassy there when we can just shout across?
    3. Eastern Africa – I would have gone for Kenya for strategic reasons. That is the emerging economy in that region.
    4. South America – I am concerned that there’s no representation there. Even Venezuela would not be a bad idea.
    5. Asia – I assume the China – Taiwan combination is purely for political neutrality?
    6. Caribbean – I would not have representation there. What exactly do we benefit from a relationship with Cuba?

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  6. Kyambalesa,

    As always I am pleased to read your views and to admire your forthright willingness to embrace and advocate new ideas and policies. While I find myself quite persuaded as to the relative importance of overseas offices given the criteria you have cited, I find myself curious as to the role of such institutions in expediting and fostering the increase of remittance flows into the country.

    If in fact such government offices are at the current time giving no time or attention to the importance of such capital transfers, it may help to explain why the data we here have been able to gather on the subject tend to indicate that Zambia lags behind its continental and development-level peers in this regard. It might also explain why the rates paid by Zambian remitters tend to be higher than those paid by their counterparts from neighboring countries.

    While it may be understandable that this issue has taken a backseat to issues such as tourism and FDI promotion in the past, the data for this decade as well as the trend line show that remittances are rapidly surpassing both in volume and consistency. I would therefore humbly suggest that the primary mission of Zambian government offices overseas should be to serve the needs of the Zambian nationals working in the region, with the priorities of tourists and would-be investors second.

    I must admit I had to go through your list and count in order to tell whether you were listing the current 29 offices or your proposed 22. Since I count 22 I am assuming that this is your proposed reduced list of offices, which of course begs the question (and I'd rather not have to hunt up the answer myself since I'm assuming its readily available) of which 7 offices are slated for removal under this plan?

    For example, if there is one anywhere in South America, Central America, or the Caribbean besides Cuba, why keep Cuba as opposed to someplace which might be easier for Zambian nationals to get to from another country in the region? As it is, someone in Buenos Aires is better off trying to get to Lusaka directly than trying to reach the nearest consulate in Havana or Lagos.

    Secondarily in South America, it might well behoove Zambia to move forcefully to strengthen ties with other major copper exporting countries, and there is none more significant than Chile. If any one nation is capable of dictating or defying a worldwide copper price, it is them.

    How much money are we talking about being saved by eliminating these missions? How does that amount compare to proposed expenditures on "education, public health, agriculture, road works and bridges, public safety and security, civil servants and civil service retirees [ed note: presumably excluding those in the foreign service], and orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC)?" I suspect if this number could be expressed in terms of children untaught or patients untreated, kilometers of road unimproved etc, it might be more tractable and salient as an example of prioratization in allocation of funds. How much is for personnel, how much for facilities? Is it feasible to establish shared or even jointly administrated facilities with other SADC and/or COMESA entities?

    (btw Cho I think COMESA explains why Libya over Egypt, though if there is an existing mission in both I would agree in questioning why one would choose Tripoli over Cairo)

    Thanks for taking the time to read my questions!

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  7. Cho and Yakima,

    Thanks for the observations.

    1. Libya was chosen as a potential source of oil.

    2. Apart from trade, we should be able to solve potential immigration problems with DRC through the embassy. May be that is the main reason why we currently have 2 Zambian missions there--in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi.

    3. Tanzania provides major export / import facilities for Zambia. Think about ZAMTAN railway line and TAZAMA, for example!

    4. South and Central American countries are to be represented by Canada and the United States under extra-accreditation.

    5. Take out Taiwan from the China + Taiwan mix.

    6. Cuba has helped Zambia a lot over the years, particularly with respect to medical doctors.

    I initially had a reduction of Zambian missions by half before I thought of using Cho's scheme of locating foreign missions. That is why you find Europe with so many Zambian missions; each of the countries cited is an important development partner. Canada, too, was under extra-accreditation, but became important due to CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency).

    There is really no reason why we cannot still think about reducing Zambian missions by at least half in order to meet the basic needs of education, public health, agriculture, road works and bridges, public safety and security, civil servants and civil service retirees, and orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC), inter alia.

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  8. really good writing.thanks for your information.:)-


    www.bathmateus.com

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