DESH BANDHU BASNET : Building Economic Diplomacy Between Nepal and Zambia

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DESH BANDHU BASNET : Building Economic Diplomacy Between Nepal and Zambia

Basnet shares that Nepal and Zambia can develop economic diplomacy through agro, tourism, and hydropower business.

In 1970, the then King of Nepal, Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah, visited the African nation to attend the third Non-Aligned Movement summit. It is the first bilateral affair between Nepal and Zambia. However, the countries formally established diplomatic relations on 10th September 1986. Since then, the countries have been maintaining peaceful cooperation, sharing a mutual interest.

Desh Bandhu Basnet, Honorary Consul, the Republic of Zambia in Nepal, shares that the two-nation today share more than three-decade-long diplomatic relations, forging a strong relationship based on common views on many agendas of global development cooperation and partnership. Nepal and Zambia are similar in many ways, both are land-locked, and least developed, and both are rich in water resources.

Currently, I am working hard to translate this friendly relationship into economic cooperation and increase bilateral trade between the two countries, he shares. Despite more than three-decade-long diplomatic relations and both the countries being members of the World Trade Organization, the bilateral trade between the two countries is negligible. Basnet thinks the major reason behind the low volume of trade between the two countries is the distance.

“We are located on two different continents, and both are land-locked. Similarly, the lack of awareness among the business communities of both countries about the tradable commodities is another reason behind minimal trade exchanges. As the Honorary Consul of Zambia in Nepal, I am dedicated to bridging this gap so that the trade between the two countries increases,” he adds.

Zambia is blessed with rich copper reserves and has achieved most of its growth through mining and copper exports and has been receiving foreign investment in it. The nation is dominantly a mining economy with decades of experience in mining-related activities.

Though Nepal and Zambia are detached in terms of economic activities, Basnet has identified many major possible areas of economic cooperation between the two countries. He counts mining, agriculture, tourism, hydropower and technology as the key economic sector where the two nations can collaborate. Additionally, he shares that education exchanges can bring youths of the two nations closer. Agriculture has been an important sector for both the countries as it comprises a significant portion of the GDP of both the countries. While the sector contributes more than 25 % of Nepal’s GDP, it accounts for 20 % of Zambia’s. The climatic difference between the two countries is suitable for agro-trade.

While there are many areas where both countries can collaborate for collective growth, he believes that agriculture and the hydropower sector are the key sectors we should focus on. He shares that Nepal can import crops like coffee and avocado from the African nation and it can export fruits and vegetables. However, for that to materialize, he adds that Nepal needs to increase its agro productivity, making its products globally competitive. Electricity is also a major key product of both nations, Zambia is already exporting electricity to neighbouring countries. He adds Hydropower is a key area that can be explored by both nations that are rich in water resources.

Like Nepal, the African nation also has huge hydropower potential with two large rivers--Zambezi and Kafue that have the potential to generate thousands of megawatts of clean energy. We should explore possibilities to attract Zambian FDI to harness the huge hydropower potential of Nepal, he shares. In recent times, Nepal has done a tremendous job in transitioning into an electricity surplus nation from a deficit one. But, still, Zambia is well ahead of Nepal in terms of the installed capacity of hydropower plants.

He shares that Nepal can learn from the African nation to expedite the construction of power plants to harness its hydropower potential. Since the early 2000s, metalliferous ores and scrap have been Zambia’s most important export. The minerals include cobalt, gold, and silver, all of which occur in association with copper, the mineral with the highest reserve in Zambia. Apart, the country has iron ore, lead, and zinc with gemstones deemed one with the highest value, of which Zambian emeralds hold the prime value as second best in the entire world. Zambia’s emerald deposits are among the world’s largest and the gem is mined, cut, and polished locally. Amethyst, aquamarine, and tourmaline are among other gems mined there, shares Basnet.

Besides, Basnet shares that Nepal has a high potential to be the educational hub not only for Zambia but also for African students. As there are already 19 Kathmandu University graduates working in the different sectors in Zambia.

Blessed with awe-inspiring natural wonders, an abundance of wildlife, huge water, bodies, and vast open spaces, Zambia is the perfect place for people seeking to explore the real Africa. According to Basnet, although tourism in Zambia mostly centres on Victoria Falls; a world-recognized heritage site, the country has much more to offer.

I firmly believe that tourism is another sector to connect two countries. Zambia, like Nepal, relies on tourism services to earn foreign currency. The African Nation is home to vast natural resources, heritage sites, and several national parks with a diverse range of wilderness and wildlife with scenic beauty. In 2020, even during the pandemic, more than half-a-million tourists visited Zambia. Nepal can learn a lot from the African nation to market its tourism products, he adds.

After he was appointed the Honorary Consul General of Zambia in Nepal, Basnet’s focus has been to strengthen the bilateral ties between the two countries through different activities. While one aspect is to strengthen government-to-government ties with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, another is to strengthen business-to-business ties via apex business bodies like the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Basnet is one of the new members of the Honorary Consular Corps of Nepal (HCC-N), formed in 2007 to work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other diplomatic missions in Nepal. HCC-N which comprises consul general’s representing 52 countries is working closely with different government bodies to organize different events to showcase Nepal as a very important investment destination.

I think the government has given very high priority to economic diplomacy. The Foreign Ministry is regularly interacting with consul generals of every country in Nepal. They are planning to create an investment board-like authority in every embassy to channel investment in Nepal. Therefore, both government and businesspersons representing different countries as honorary consuls have joined hands to promote Nepal as an investment destination, he adds.

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