PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema has requested the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to consider converting Zambia’s debt to that country into a grant.

Speaking when a delegation from Saudi Arabia, led by Saudi Royal Court Advisor Ahmed Kattan, paid a courtesy call on him at State House, Thursday, President Hichilema said the country was going through a lot of stress as his government inherited a difficult economy.

“First and foremost, is to express how delighted we are to receive the special envoy and his team from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For that, we want to express our appreciation to the King and the Crown Prince and the people of Saudi Arabia for making it possible for us to have this interaction. We also want to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the support that they have rendered to our country over many years, in many spheres and more particularly to thank the King for his gift of the hospital that is being constructed in Lusaka, the town where we are in today. I went to visit the hospital, it is coming up very well, it is a beautiful asset. Please pass our appreciation to the King and the people of Saudi Arabia. We commit that we will put it to good use once it is completed,” he said.

“We also want to thank you for the support. On the financial side, we do have a facility, a loan facility with yourselves and we have expressed our desire to ask you to continue supporting us, given the stress we are going through, as we inherited a difficult economy. We would request through you the King and the people of Saudi Arabia to consider in our debt restructuring process to consider converting this into a grant. So we would make that request formal to yourselves, but please take that message out there.”

President Hichilema called for increased investment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia into Zambia.

“We also wish to confirm with happiness and continued support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for you to host the Expo 2030. We are very delighted that we supported you and if there are other processes required to consolidate that position, we will be delighted to provide that sort of support. We confirm in advance our attendance at the Expo, so that we can show areas of common interest, trade [and] investment. In addition, we want to indicate to you that we would like increased investment from the Saudi Kingdom and the government, businesses from Saudi investing in this country, but also people to people to enhance those relationships. We have special attention we are paying as a country to the kingdom, looking at the successes it has achieved given the years and years of consistent investment. We went through to your stand at the Dubai Expo, we were amazed to look at the vision, I think my colleagues who were with me can attest to the vision of the Saudi people through the King and Crown Prince and all of you there, it is really wonderful,” he said.

President Hichilema said the government also wanted to pursue the offer to source petroleum products and fertilizer from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“We have also keenly followed what you like to do in one corner of Saudi, I think tourism, very fantastic progress you are making there. The infrastructure, the modernization efforts of the kingdom’s facilities, it is really quite admirable. So hence we would like to learn from you in those areas, challenge ourselves to improve infrastructure, to grow the economy and that requires investments. To that extent, we also want to indicate our desire to pursue your earlier offer to us to source petroleum products, to source fertilizer from the Kingdom given what is happening in Ukraine, the war there which is increasing commodity prices, not just food but also petroleum products. So we would like to have conversations around that issue. I will ask my foreign affairs team, finance team to see if we can pursue those areas. I thought that I should make that indication. Otherwise, we will also drop you a note following your visit on other areas of cooperation which we think we can exploit together,” said President Hichilema

And Kattan thanked the Zambian government for its support towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s quest to host the 2030 Expo.

“It gives me great pleasure to visit your beautiful country and I would like to express how happy I am about it. I am hoping that this will lead to more visits between our high officials. I came to convey thanks from the government of Saudi Arabia for supporting our country to host Expo 2030,” said Kattan.