French Ambassador to Zambia Jean-Paul Monchau yesterday disclosed that his government will increase its assistance to development in Africa by 50 percent in the next five years.
Speaking at the launch of Global Compact Zambia in Lusaka yesterday, Ambassador Monchau said Africa's benefits from liberalisation of trade at multilateral level were marginal.
"It is elusive to expect a significant contribution to poverty reduction in Africa through only multinational trade liberalisation," he said.
Ambassador Monchau said in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, French President Jacques Chirac had announced a sub-Saharan African initiative to be submitted to European Union and G8 countries.
He explained that the initiative sought to reverse the trend of trade marginalisation of Africa as it was the only continent where the number of people living in extreme poverty had continued to rise.
Ambassador Monchau called for preferential trade treatment for sub-Saharan African countries, taking into account the continent's immediate difficulties of prices of raw materials.
He also called for guaranteed preferential access of African products to developed countries' markets for a period long enough to influence positive investment decisions of the private sector.
"A clear, simplified, stable, sound and preferential system is a way of enhancing investment in Africa, which is one of the priorities under NEPAD," he said.
Ambassador Monchau noted that preferential treatment for Africa would protect African countries against fluctuations of prices of essential products and raw materials.
"This would include a better adjustment of aid flow to price variations of raw materials, insurance policies with private companies as a hedge against the volatility of prices," he said.
Ambassador Monchau said France wanted to see a movement towards democracy in Africa and that leaders must be democratically elected and fully respect democratic rules.
He said France would continue to advocate for development assistance in favour of Africa in all international fora.
"There can never be support for Africa without support for development, there cannot be an African policy without a development policy," said Ambassador Monchau.
Global Compact is a voluntary network of companies seeking to provide a global framework to promote sustainable growth and global good citizenship through committed and creative corporate leadership.
And launching the concept, finance minister Emmanuel Kasonde, in a speech read by his deputy Felix Mutati, said the private sector remained the engine of economic development.
He said whatever programmes were created needed to take into account special needs of Zambians. "Unless the private sector grows, we can't achieve meaningful poverty reduction," he said.
Kasonde said in order for business to succeed, there was need to create a stable macroeconomic environment and also reflect on good governance.
He urged corporations that have not yet joined the Global Compact to join in order to make a difference for Zambians.
Speaking earlier, UNDP resident representative Olubanke King-Akerele said the Global Compact sought to make globalisation more equitable and more sustainable by establishing a partnership between the private sector and civil society organisations.
She said through the power of collective action, the concept sought to advance responsible corporate citizenship to enable businesses to be part of the solution to the challenges of globalisation.
"In this way, the private sector in partnership with other social actors can help realise UN Secretary General Koffi Anan's vision of a more sustainable and inclusive global economy," she said.
The Global Compact is guided by nine principles falling under human rights, labour standards and environment issues.
King-Akerele said corporations under the Global Compact were expected to support and respect human rights.
"In relation to the environment, companies should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges, promote greater environmental responsibility and encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies," said King-Akerele.
Outlining private sector expectations in responding to environmental challenges, tourism and environment minister Patrick Kalifungwa said the private sector had a role to play in ensuring successful environmental protection.
He said integration of environmental concerns in development was not easy in the country.
Kalifungwa said both local and international companies need to assume responsibility for environmental impact of their business activities.
He noted that major industries like Chilanga Cement and Zambia Sugar had already started putting in place pollution monitoring programmes to reduce emissions.
Kalifungwa said accumulation of solid waste was a big problem in Zambia.
Moving a vote of thanks, Global Compact advisory board member Patrick Chisanga said there was no practical support for small businesses in Zambia.
He said businesses would not grow if there was no support from government.
About 61 Zambian based companies and institutions, both private and public have signed up for the Global Compact network.
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