PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has reiterated the need for Zambians to remain peaceful as the country heads towards the August general elections.

And President Lungu says 3,800 artistes have benefited from the K30 million arts development and empowerment scheme.

Addressing the nation on the eve of the African Freedom Day which was held under the theme “arts, culture and heritage: levers for building the Africa we want”, Monday evening, President Lungu urged citizens to remain peaceful and united before, during and after the elections.

“As we commemorate Africa Freedom Day, let us be guided by our heritage of peace and love for one another. This is important, especially as we head towards the August, 2021 general elections. Let us remain peaceful and united before, during and after the elections. As a nation, we are recognised as peaceful, united and hospitable. This should be a source of our pride. This is the identity we should promote and uphold. Zambia’s richest heritage is its people. We must all safeguard the health of everyone. As we observe Africa Freedom Day, let us also observe the Covid-19 health guidelines, including masking, and avoiding crowded places. Let us celebrate Africa Freedom Day responsibly,” he said.

President Lungu further said investment in arts was important for the diversification of the country’s economy.

“In our quest to diversify the economy, government will continue to accelerate investment in arts, culture and heritage. Recognising that arts, culture and heritage offer numerous opportunities for job creation and income generation, we must harness these resources to realise optimal benefits. Our rich and diverse endowment in arts, culture and heritage, gives us a competitive edge. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to be more aggressive, innovative and daring in packaging and marketing Zambia as a destination of choice in Africa for foreign investment and tourists. Government is also implementing programmes aimed at preserving and promoting our cultural heritage sites. To this effect, we are facilitating access to these sites by constructing and upgrading infrastructure such as roads and communication towers,” President Lungu said.

“We are also providing electricity and facilitating the construction of camping sites and lodging facilities. In addition, we are promoting community-based natural resource management to effectively conserve our natural environment and improve the livelihoods of our people. My government is implementing a number of initiatives to promote the arts industry. For instance, last year we launched a K30 million arts development and empowerment scheme, targeting artists countrywide. The scheme aims to cushion artists from the devastating effects of COVID-19 and stimulate the creation of employment opportunities for the youth. “

And President Lungu said 3,800 artistes have since benefited from the K30 million arts and development and empowerment scheme.

“So far, 152 projects, translating into 3,800 artistes, have benefitted from this intervention, which is a revolving fund. As a result of this intervention, 1,500 businesses in arts have been formalised as cooperatives and companies. I urge artists to take advantage of this fund, which will ultimately contribute to the advancement of arts and culture in the country,” said President Lungu.

“Government is also using the K18 million tourism development fund to preserve, protect and improve infrastructure at heritage sites such as the Zambezi source in Mwinilunga, David Livingstone memorial site in Chitambo, Moto Moto museum in Mbala and Nsingo Museum in Chipata. Other heritage sites benefitting from the fund are Lumangwe waterfalls, Kabwelume waterfalls and Ntumbachushi waterfalls. I call upon citizens and business houses to invest in the cultural and creative industries. I further call upon each one of us to care for and protect our historic, natural and cultural heritage so that they remain a valuable resource for present and future generations.”