British High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet says it is disappointing that inequality has worsened in the country despite recording some economic growth.

And High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet says the UK will assist the Electoral Commission of Zambia in any potential electoral or constitutional reforms.

Speaking to news editors today, High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said it was sad that the gap between the rich and the poor kept widening.

“Coming back to Zambia, I have been quite struck that things have changed, things changed in the time I was away, there has been development and improvement for the upper sections of society, middle class and the elite but I find it disappointing that there hasn’t been more progress for 60 per cent who live in poverty and are in rural areas.
Since I have been here, I arrived in April and of course we very quickly went into the 2016 elections so an aspect of all of this which I have been quite preoccupied with has been the political tension and after elections and that has continued into 2017,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet.

“The UK and Zambia, we have a common aim of seeing a more prosperous Zambia, that of course is very good for Zambia and of course the UK. So the fewer the countries there are in the world where there are high levels of poverty, the better, that is better for moral humanitarian reasons but also it means that the more prosperity there is, the more options there are for trade investment and that is good for a global economy as a whole. I talked about the inequality aspect and you probably know that the coefficient for inequality in Zambia has actually got worse and Zambia is one of the least equal countries in the world. So we are working with the government over the Zambia Plus Economic Reform programme, you will be familiar of course with the five pillars of the plan and there is UK and other cooperating partners in each of those five.”

He said the UK believed an IMF package would be good for Zambia.

“We welcome the progress which has been made for example over rolling back subsidies, it just wasn’t sustainable for Zambia to continue to pay subsidies which were benefitting mainly the wealthy people in society and also the wealthier people in the commercial people as well. But there is still much that needs to be done and you all know that Zambia’s external debt is something which has come to the fore for example in the discussions with the IMF. And the UK’s position is we believe an IMF programme will be good for Zambia,” High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said.

And High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet said the UK would assist the ECZ in any potential reforms.

“Britain fully supports the initiative from the Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Scotland, for a dialogue process leading to a road map of reforms ahead of the 2021 elections. The recent visit to Lusaka by the Commonwealth Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Zambia, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, a highly respected diplomat and statesman, marked a significant step forward. The UK commends HE President Edgar Lungu and Mr Hakainde Hichilema for their commitment to engage in this dialogue process in the interests of the Zambian people,” he said.

“I encourage all stakeholders to engage in an open, consultative, respectful and forward-looking dialogue process, to foster political tolerance and reconciliation in the proud tradition of the Republic of Zambia’s ability to sustain harmony and peace over many decades. This process should be Zambian owned and led. The UK and other cooperating partners are considering ways we might support the process, for example the UK is looking at how it can assist the Electoral Commission of Zambia in any potential electoral and constitutional reforms.”

He also said the UK considered its relations with Zambia as mutually beneficial.

“Our relationship goes back a very long way and there are good aspects to that and some negative aspects. I have worked in a lot of Commonwealth countries and my first posting was in Nigeria so I understand that there is often a certain ambivalence in the relationship, there is warmth but also sometimes a bit of weariness sometimes and in the year I have been in Zambia, I have seen a number of times in publications and outlets that you represent amongst others mutterings about neo colonialism and this sort of thing which I find a bit frustrating because that is not how we see things from the UK perspective but I am also realistic and accept that that is just part of the background music.
We see this as a mutually beneficial relationship. We all want to see Zambia become more free and much progress has been made since 1991 but there is more to be done and of course crucially more prosperous and to see a reduction in poverty,” said High Commissioner Cochrane-Dyet.

Meanwhile, Development for International Development (DFID) Head of Office Richardson said among the things which the UK development approach was focused on was to help in prudent economic management.

“My early impressions are that there is potential here in terms of development, natural resources, water and in terms of the opportunities to diversify the economy and exploit the opportunities that Zambia has at the heart of Southern Africa, and to use the revenue that is generated from copper to deliver services to the poor people in Zambia. So there is a real sense of potential but as we all know, there are challenges too, challenges around the stubborn levels of poverty despite the strong growth that we have seen in the economy for the last 10 years. And lastly, the challenge of climate change, it is already impacting Zambia and it will change the way agriculture is done. So the UK development approach seeks to respond to both these opportunities, the potential and the challenge,” said Richardson.

“We are working on economic development, we are working with the private sector, with the government to help diversify the economy to help grow small and medium size enterprises and create jobs, to invest in agriculture and work with small holder farmers to improve their productivity. We are also working closely with government to improve its capacity to deliver services to the poor people and use the available resources that there are to deliver services in health, nutrition and other sectors. We are also working to improve economic management, supporting public financial management and improving capacity in central government as a key part of the programme. So we have a range of programmes across those areas in economic development, in human development and in government.”