South Africa and Zambia have held the inaugural session of their Joint Commission for Co-operation (JCC) to further strengthen relations between the two countries.

The session, which was chaired by International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Zambian Foreign Minister Harry Kalaba here Wednesday, iis seen as a platform to address the implementation of signed agreements, associated challenges and possible solutions.

It will also translate agreements into tangible mutual bilateral programmes which will strengthen relations between the two countries, which were established in 1990.

The inaugural session was held ahead of a State visit to South Africa by Zambian President Edgar Lungu, who arrives here Thursday.

Nkoana-Mashabane said relations between the two southern African republics had given rise to co-operation in many fields in the past. The JCC, therefore, is an important milestone that beckons South Africa and Zambia bilaterally in the right direction, she added.

“This inauguration of the JCC presents us with immense opportunities to consolidate and strengthen exchanges in trade and investment between our two countries and also to enhance bilateral relations for the mutual benefit of our people,” she said.

This view was echoed by Kalaba, who was keen to “explore and expand further in more areas of cooperation so as to create value for our people while addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality”.

To date, 21 agreements and memoranda of understanding in various fields have been signed between two countries. However, Nkoana-Mashabane said there might be a need to review some of these pacts to ensure that they are still relevant and give impetus to bilateral relations.

“It is essential that mutually beneficial economic ties and investment flows continue to grow between our two countries, as these are the foundations for mutual benefit and regional integration,” she said.

This is imperative as both economies are currently under tremendous pressure due to difficult economic dynamics brought about by external factors such as global commodity prices, fluctuating currencies, shrinking GDP growth and natural disasters such as the El Nino drought phenomenon, which has affected the entire Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

“It remains an inevitable move to realign our national development plans, to embark on targeted joint efforts in order to collectively alleviate the ensuing external negative economic impacts,” she added.

Zambia played a key role in the liberation of the sub-region. It hosted liberation movements and was the country of residence for South Africa’s then future leaders such as President Thabo Mbeki, President Jacob Zuma, former Deputy President and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, among others.

Economic relations between South Africa and Zambia also continue to grow, with the 2015 two-way trade statistics indicating that Zambia is one of South Africa’s top trading partners on the continent. Zambia is also ranked as among South Africa’s top 10 import sources in the world.

The two countries cooperate in a variety of areas including trade and investment, science and technology, defence, agriculture, environment, energy, as well as health related matters. There are more than 120 South African companies doing business in Zambia in various sectors, including telecommunications, aviation, tourism, banking, property, retail, entertainment and fast food.


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