Speech by Minister Paavo Väyrynen at Zambia-Finland Business Forum, Lusaka, 5th of March
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Your Excellency Minister Mutati
Honourable guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to address this Zambia - Finland Business Forum. I want to express on behalf of my delegation and myself our gratitude to you, Mr. Minister, for being here with us today. I also want to thank Zambia Development Agency, UN Global Compact, Finpro and Finnish Embassy for organizing this Forum.
It is a great pleasure for me personally to visit Zambia again after 24 years. I visited Zambia as a Foreign Minister in 1985 and I had a great honour to meet for exampel your president at that time, Mr. Kenneth Kaunda.
During that visit I had also a business delegation accompanying me and as an excellent example of the continuity of our countries relations some of those companies are also present today. I believe that this seminar opens up the possibility for interaction and helps to find ways to expand trade and investment between Finnish and Zambian companies. I also hope that the results of the seminar will contribute to even deeper cooperation between authorities and organizations and more networking between individuals.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The importance of trade for development and growth has become more visible. There is an ample evidence that eradication of poverty is most successful in those countries which open their economies and integrate themselves to the world economy.
Zambia's economic development has been significant during the recent years. Now that the global economy is quickly moving towards a downturn, a decline in global demand will certainly bring challenges for both economies. Although both Zambia and Finland are greatly exposed to external factors, we can intensify the commercial relations between our countries and thereby help our economies to return to the growth track.
When promoting economic relations at the governmental level, we should keep in mind that business is done between companies, not states. Governments’ role is to provide such a regulatory and enabling environment for the private sector and commercial relations as is conducive to growth and investment.
Essentially, a favourable business environment means well-maintained infrastructure, functioning market institutions, healthy business competition and good governance. In a good business environment, goods and people move freely, state authorities are reliable and accountable and companies are able to produce those products that are wanted by the market. Production, sales and distribution create employment and revenues. If one part of this equation fails, the entire process will fail.
Our challenge is to use development cooperation to enhance trade and economic cooperation and ultimately thus reduce poverty. One of the main parts in Finland's Development Policy Programme that was adopted in 2007, is the focus on private sector and economical growth as key elements in poverty reduction. Private sector, not the public sector is essential in creating economical activity and prosperity.
Finland has been a strong supporter of the Aid for Trade agenda which is ultimately about strengthening the productive capacities of developing countries. We launched the idea to draft an EU Aid for Trade Strategy in 2006 when holding the rotating EU Presidency. The strategy is now guiding the actions of each EU member states and the Commission in this area of development policy.
Our own Aid for Trade Action Plan 2008-2011 was launched in September 2008 and it was regionally launched here in Lusaka last December. Main focus areas in the Action Plan are agriculture, forestry and sustainable energy. We also emphasise private sector development and the role of ICT in development across all sectors. All development must, in addition, be ecologically sustainable.
One of the three core sectors of Finnish development cooperation in Zambia is Private Sector Development. We support the national Private Sector Development Reform Programme, the Enhanced Integrated Framework process and various business development programmes. We work closely with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Investments, the Zambia Development Agency and of course the private sector itself. We also support the Zambian National Farmers Union and last year we joined the United Nations Global Compact which has a Local Network also in Zambia. Our colleagues are finalizing an Aid for Trade capacity building programme with the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO), and even some business partnerships have already been funded from our Finnpartnership instrument.
Finland is also about to start a regional Energy and Environment Partnerships (EEP) - a Public Private Partnership programme aiming at promoting the use of renewable energy sources and clean technologies in Southern Africa and making energy services more accessible particularly in rural areas. This Partnership has proved very successful already in Central America and we are now replicating it.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When leading a business delegation I should perhaps market our country by boasting over our achievements, abilities and potential to the maximum. However, this would be against my nature. In this sense I am a typical modest Finn. So instead of telling you how good we are I will try to explain why Finland has been able to reach a high international standard in certain areas of social and economic development and what kind of challenges there are.
Finland has always understood the importance of open economy and liberal trade. We have had to strive to use our natural resources and other productive assets to our best knowledge to be competitive in the world. This is where the strong Finnish know-how comes from. Our geographical location up in the North and the consequent cold climate, long distances and development of energy-intensive industry, has increased our energy needs. At the same time, Finland's own energy resources - hydropower, wood and peat - are scarce. About 70 percent of the energy consumed in Finland is imported.
In response to these needs, developing an efficient energy system and technology has been a high priority for us for decades. Investments on research and development and continuous modernisation of energy systems have brought Finnish energy technology up to a world class standard. It has been noted internationally that the Finnish energy policy is well implemented and simultaneously supporting economic growth, meeting environmental challenges through the extensive use of renewable energy sources and securing the country's energy supply.
Finland is often being called the world's telecommunications test laboratory. We are often asked how it was possible for Finland to become a technology-intensive, knowledge-based economy in such a short time in the late 1990s and the early years of the new century. The background lies in the need to connect people. As a sparsely populated non-talkative nation, we needed a new channel of communication. Our friends and relatives live often far away, because distances are long in our country. So, there has been a need to connect people by means of telecommunications.
Access to information, use and application of knowledge and innovativeness have become decisive factors when it comes to competitiveness. Information and communications technology is an important vehicle for increasing productivity, efficiency and even prosivion of public services. Especially mobile communications and e-commerce give a boost towards greater investment in innovative new technology, generate new creative business models and open untapped markets.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The main conclusion is that the volume of trade between Finland and Zambia is not at the level today what it could be. I believe that this Business Forum opens up a possibility for expanding commercial relations between Finland and Zambia. I strongly encourage Zambian and Finnish delegates to utilise this valuable opportunity to network and to explore partnership opportunities in an open and innovative manner.
I would like to wish you all success in your business endeavours. I hope that today's forum will provide you all with fruitful contacts and strengthen the relationship between our two countries.
Thank you for your attention.