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Czechia and Zambia – Partners Who Make a Good Match

It was a quick and simple decision. When I was to choose which countries to visit during my first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa, it was immediately clear to me that Zambia, a priority country for Czech foreign development cooperation, must be among them.

Czechia and Zambia are natural partners. We are both medium-sized landlocked countries committed to promoting democracy and the rule of law.  Zambia's commitment to these values is evident from the democratic way the power was transferred to the opposition following its victory in the last elections.

In the recent months, I have spent much of my time working on our support for Ukraine, a country only 400 kilometres away from Czechia. We are confronted with Moscow's relentless effort to seize Ukraine's territory, with missile strikes targeting civilians, with destruction of hospitals, schools and vital infrastructure. This simply means that Czechia must lend a helping hand. Amid these pressing concerns, I am happy to visit Zambia.

Relations between Czechia and Zambia have a long tradition dating back to the time when Zambia was a newly independent country and Czechia was still part of Czechoslovakia. Even then, we were a strong voice for the freedom and independence of African countries, including Zambia – just as we now support Ukraine's freedom and independence. 

Czechoslovakia had considerable business presence in Zambia, and Czechoslovak universities welcomed a considerable number of Zambian students. Our relations have gathered momentum especially over the last decade. Czechia included Zambia among its priority countries for development cooperation as early as in 2010. In 2018, we adopted a bilateral development cooperation programme, which moved our cooperation to a higher strategic level. To realize the full potential of our relations, Czechia reopened its embassy in Lusaka in 2017, a step that clearly shows how important the cooperation is to Czechs.  

Our development cooperation targets the majority of Zambia's rural population: smallholder farmers, mostly in the Western and Southern Provinces. We promote efficient farming methods to strengthen the capacities of farmers and help them increase their production. Czech experts and their Zambian partners explore ways to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Development cooperation is our flagship activity in Zambia. However, we also wish to bolster  our trade and economic ties – an area where we have yet to unlock the full potential.  Here, Czechia and Zambia have much more to offer to each other.

So far, Czech businesses in Zambia have engaged mainly in the agriculture and health sectors. Czech exhibitors have attended Chisamba's AgriTech Expo in recent years.

Last year in May, we organized in Prague the first Czechia-Africa Health Forum, attended by Zambia's Minister of Health. Our cooperation in the health sector is deepening every year. Czechia helped Zambia tackle Covid-19 by supplying medical equipment, training healthcare  staff and donating vaccines. Our companies offer their Zambian partners comprehensive solutions for health services to Zambians. Czechia has donated state-of-the-art medical technology and equipment to Zambian hospitals. Zambia has joined the Czech MEDEVAC programme, and our leading surgeons operate on seriously ill Zambians free of charge.

One of the main purposes of my visit is to promote a comprehensive and modern economic partnership. I am accompanied by a delegation of businesspeople from different sectors, for example agriculture, food processing, engineering, health, transport, and consultancy services. They are looking for customers, suppliers and investment opportunities in Zambia.

Czechia is keen on promoting education and knowledge transfer as a way to tap the  transformative potential of young people. We provide government scholarships to Zambian students every year, and we support direct university cooperation.

Czechia is aware of the grave global repercussions of Russia's aggression against Ukraine.  Sadly, it is Africa who bears the brunt. The war contributes to food and energy shortages and rising prices in Africa as well as in Europe, including Czechia. Russia weaponizes the grain trade and impedes Ukraine’s grain exports.   

I am aware that, in the spirit of the Non-Aligned Movement, African countries tend to favour neutrality. That is why we so greatly appreciate Zambia's principled position.  I have not come to Africa to impose my views on our partners. As Foreign Minister of a country that lived through decades of the Kremlin's political domination and military occupation, I want to offer you our perspective and to share our experience of Russian imperialism and neo-colonialism. Czechia, along with the entire European Union, wishes to work hand in hand with Zambia, as a team striving for a better future for Africa. I am convinced that Czechia and Zambia can work together towards lasting peace and prosperity for the benefit of our people.

Author: Jan Lipavský, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic