Zambian Official: Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, President of the Republic of Zambia; Honorable Madam Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States of America; cabinet ministers present from both countries; members of the press; distinguished invited guests; ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to the press conference being held here at State House this afternoon.
And to begin the process, I now have the singular honor and privilege to call upon the President of the Republic of Zambia to deliver his remarks.
Mr. President, sir.
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: Thank you very much. My duty really is simple this afternoon: to warmly welcome Vice President Harris to State House, of course her delegation to State House, to Zambia. And for many of us Zambians, it is receiving somewhat a daughter of our own country, someone who spent time here in her early years.
So, welcome. Truly welcome, Vice President Harris —
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you.
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: — and your team.
We have covered a couple of things inside there. And I will not take too much time, but simply to indicate how strong and how proud we feel about our relationship, the U.S.-Zambia relationship, anchored on a number of common values, beliefs: constitutionalism; rule of law; protection of human beings, our own citizens, global citizens, so they can feel safe as they go about doing their normal business in their homes, in their workplaces, and elsewhere. We value that.
We also value the bilateral relationship that we have. The first part I indicated is more global, democratic family — global democratic family. But our bilateral relations going very well. Long history of friendship since our independence.
And obviously, if I return to the democratic values, Vice President Harris, on behalf of the people of Zambia, I want to express how delighted we are to have been chosen to co-chair the second Summit for Democracy. It closed yesterday. And we want to say thank you to President Biden, yourself, the American government, and these people.
I know that South Korea feels the same. The Netherlands feel the same. Costa Rica feels the same. So thank you for that opportunity, and I believe we utilized that opportunity well during the summit.
Zambia has a clear focus on what we want to do. We were elected on a platform of delivering a functioning economy. Reconstructing the economy is our critical agenda. Because we know when we do that, we’ll be able to take care of the needs of our people: education for the young, health and stability for our people; looking aft- — looking after the old, looking after those that live with disabilities. The list goes on.
So priority for us, Vice President Harris, as a country, now is to rebuild our economy. (Inaudible), the environment that will allow us to support increased investment, trade, and the like.
What is keeping us down for now, Vice President, is the debt overhang. We carry a debt burden that really is making it difficult for us to continue with our restructuring process of the economy. And it’s actually beginning to negate on the gains we’ve already made, such as in the foreign exchange market. And the earlier we resolve this matter, the better. And we ask for your support, as always, and the support of others to deal with that.
And we know when we unlock the debt, more investments will come. We know that when more investments come, we’ll create jobs for our young people. As an African country, a number of our people population is young. And we have to take care of them. Not just jobs, but business opportunities as well.
So we are keen to invest in our people skills, keen to invest in technology. To share with you your advances in technology is something that we place a premium on because it will help, as you said inside, equalize things. The technology platform that delivers for economies, for our people, will take us where we want to go, together with other components.
We want to assure you that we will continue upholding the principles of good governance, fighting corruption. Equitous treatment of all our people is very important. And we’re happy to fly the flag on our continent of being a democratic country by choice, not by persuasion by America or by anyone. Our own choice. Because we came from a background that did not deliver for us, a system that did not deliver for us.
So you can be sure that we will, of course, encourage cooperation. But before you persuade us, we’ll be running the road of democracy, because we believe in that.
We’re very pleased to know that your own priorities, your own support — historical support to us, as a people — American people to Zambian people — is well appreciated.
You have made announcements in a number of areas. You will do that in other areas. I think that’s your forte. I will simply say we appreciate that support, historical support, and ongoing support in many areas — commercial development, investments in areas of accountability, stability, which are essential ingredients to the economic growth agenda.
I wish to say, once more, welcome home. And please take some rest after today’s session.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: (Laughs.)
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: You have been on a marathon tour of Africa. We’re the last leg, so it means a lot of your energy was sucked in in Ghana, in Tanzania, but we want your time. But we still care for your health.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you. (Laughs.)
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: Thank you very much. Thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
Thank you, Mr. President. And it is very good to see you again. It was my honor to host you at the White House in 2021 and then to see you again at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., last December. And it is wonderful to be in Zambia and to be back in Zambia. And I thank all here for the very warm welcome. (Applause.)
My visit to Zambia has a special significance for me, as many of you know, and for my family. As you know, I visited Zambia, Mr. President, as a young girl when my grandfather worked here. My grandfather was a civil servant in India. And in 1966, shortly after Zambia’s independence, he came to Lusaka to serve as a director of relief measures and refugees. That was his title. He served as an advisor to Zambia’s first president, Kenneth Kaunda. And he was an expert on refugee resettlement.
I remember my time here fondly. I was a child, so it is the memory of a child. But I remember being here and — and just how it felt, and the warmth and the excitement that was present. And, in fact, I was talking with my aunt recently, and she was reminding me of the relationships that she me- — made when she was working at — then it was called Lusaka Central Hospital — when she was working there with the physicians there.
So, from my family and from all of us, we extend our greetings and hello to everyone here.
There are strong people-to-people ties, as well, between the United States — the people of the United States and the people of Zambia. One may recall that Kenneth Kaunda visited the United States in 1960 and met with Martin Luther King, Jr. to discuss peaceful forms of protest.
He again visited the United States in 1961 to meet with President John Kennedy in the Oval Office.
The late, great Congressman John Lewis visited Lusaka to attend the independence celebration in 1964.
And all of that to say there is a long and enduring history of the relationship with Zambia. And it reinforces what you and I have continued to discuss during our time together, which is our collective commitment to principles of freedom, justice, and democracy.
And our shared history, then, is an underpinning of the relationship that we have today.
Today, the President and I had a discussion on a number of important issues. We discussed, for example, as the President have mentioned, our shared commitment to democracy. I want to thank the President publicly for co-hosting the Summit for Democracy yesterday. You too must be exhausted — (laughs) — hosting that summit and then hosting our delegation, and I thank you.
But the summit was extraordinary in the work that you, as a leader of it, did to convene leaders to advance our collective efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, to protect human rights, to support free and fair elections, and to accelerate the fight against corruption.
Zambia has indeed embarked on an ambitious democratic reform agenda under your leadership, Mr. President. And as I have said previously on this trip, democracy and good governance around the world is a priority for the United States, and we will always stand with those who are fighting for those principles.
To that end, I am pleased to announce more than $16 million for new programs in Zambia, including a focus on anti-corruption and other reform efforts.
Mr. President, thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
You and I have had extensive conversations about the economy and the work that you have done. And I congratulate on behalf of being a partner with you and just observing what you have done as a leader and as President to put real measures in place to strengthen the economy in Zambia.
And the work that you have done is about also implementing an economic reform agenda. We will remain a strong partner to build long-term economic growth and boost investment in Zambia. And we will continue to advocate for speedy finalization of Zan- — of Zambia’s debt treatment and the restructuring. And we have talked extensively about that.
Our administration believes the international community needs to help countries such as Zambia regain their footing. So I will reiterate a call that we have made now many times for all bilateral official creditors to provide a meaningful debt reduction for Zambia.
At the same time, we must focus forward and on long-term growth. As I have said throughout my trip, I believe that the innovation that is taking place across this continent will unlock incredible economic growth and opportunities for the entire world.
I am working during this trip to drive more private sector investment to Zambia and to the continent to accelerate the innovation and entrepreneurship that is already underway.
To strengthen business ties, I am pleased to announce that the United States and Zambia will sign a commercial development MOU — a memorandum of understanding — which will help to develop and implement commercial projects and increase the flow of goods and services between our nations.
The President and I also discussed extensively the issue of the climate crisis. And I thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership there as well. You have begun innovative public-private partnerships to focus on protecting forests and to protect and rewild landscapes, which will, of course, increase biodiversity and sequester carbon.
The United States is committed to these types of innovative solutions to support climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience. In fact, tomorrow I will visit a farm outside of Lusaka to announce $7 billion in public-private sector investments for this continent.
And I will then end my comments where I began: my family’s time in Lusaka in the 1960s. When I talk to my family about their memories, it is clear about the excitement that existed here in Lusaka at that beginning of that era.
And I remain optimistic, inspired by your leadership and the work of your administration, because what is happening here on the ground, Mr. President, is truly about understanding the potential and seeing what is possible and then working to achieve that.
So, again, I thank you for the warm welcome. It is good to be with you again. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you.
White House Official: Madam Vice President and Mr. President will now take a few questions from members of the press who are in attendance. I would ask those who ask questions to step to this microphone.
We’ll first start with Annie Linskey of the Wall Street Journal.
Q: Madam Vice President, you’ve spoken about democracy and the rule of law at every stop in Africa. Given that, what is your comment on former President Donald Trump’s indictment? And are you worried that his calls for protest could lead to a recurrence of the violence similar to that of January 6th?
And a Wall Street Journal reporter has been detained in Russia. Do you have any update on his status? And what is your reaction to Vladimir Putin’s decision to detain him?
And for President Hichilema, what does Trump’s indictment tell you about the example that the United States sets in terms of rule of law?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I am not going to comment on an ongoing criminal case as it relates to the former President.
But I will say, as it relates to the American citizen that has been detained by the government of Russia, we are deeply concerned. And I will state in unequivocal terms that we will not tolerate — and condemn, in fact — repression of journalists, and that we are absolutely concerned about any attempt to in any way stifle freedom of the press.
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: Can I (inaudible)?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yes.
PRESIDEN HICHILEMA: Right. The indictment of President Trump — what does that mean to rule of law? I think let’s remove names from your question.
Let’s put what we decided we will do to govern ourselves in an orderly manner. First, our constitutions, bedrock law. Then, secondary laws, other regulations create a platform or framework around which we agreed, either as Americans or as Zambians, to govern ourselves. And so, to live within those confines.
And when there’s transgression against law, it does not matter who is involved. I think that is what the rule of law means.
So, I take out a name. I put in place of a name what we citizens of our countries, citizens of the global community, must do to — as we exercise our rights and freedoms. And where our rights and freedoms end, other people’s rights and freedoms commence. This is universal, certainly for Zambia. This is the way it is.
And here, Vice President, we have a scenario now when we fight against corruption, which is taking away resources from children and the sick, sometimes names are thrown into it and perceptions are created that are totally inappropriate because transgressions against the law, if you take what belongs to the public, you have offended the law. And the name does not matter. That is my answer. Thank you.
Zambian Official: We’ll now take a question from the Zambian media. May I see the hands of the — okay. All right. Can I have the gentleman there please come forward?
Q: Good afternoon, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: Afternoon.
Q: Good afternoon, Madam Vice President. My name is Masauso Mkwayaya from the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation.
Madam Vice President, I wanted to find out — I know you’ve touched on the issue of debt, but I want to find out what immediate interventions are available for the United States of America to help Zambia made it out of this situation, which is strangling the economy. Thank you so much.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you. So, it is probably the main focus of my trip to the continent, including culminating — culminating the trip here in Lusaka, in Zambia, which is to work with leaders, such as the President here, as a partner, to work together on the goal of strengthening democracies, understanding that undergirding a lot of that has to be to meet the everyday needs of the people, much less the needs of their aspirations and ambitions.
When I look at what’s happening on the continent of Africa, as a general matter, I’m very excited about it. The median age of this continent is 19. By 2050, one in four people occupying Mother Earth will be right here on this continent. There’s incredible opportunity just on those demographics alone, much less what we are seeing in terms of the innovation and ingenuity that is coming from this continent, to the benefit of the entire world.
So having worked with the President on a number of issues — the President of Zambia — including our mutual goal to strengthen democracies and democratic principles, understanding that when democracies are intact, the people benefit.
I am here to then do the work that we can through, for example, public-private partnerships to bring the kind of U.S. dollars and resources that I have mentioned, such as the $7 billion, to bear for the continent on what we can do to spur innovation, to invest in talent, and, again, to the benefit not only the people on this continent but the people in the United States and around the globe.
UNITED STATES OFFICIAL: We’ll now take a question from Chris Megerian of the Associated Press.
Q: Hello, how are you? I have a question for — for each of you.
For Vice President Harris, what is the United States doing specifically to push China on restructuring the debt with Zambia? And what is the United States’ responsibility here, given that some of that debt is hold by companies like BlackRock in the United States.
And for President Hichilema, China’s influence in Africa is very controversial in Washington. Do you consider China’s role in the continent a constructive one? And what could the United States do to play a more constructive role here as well?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: So, on your first point, I will reiterate my poi- — the point I made earlier. We are continuing to reiterate our call for all bilateral official creditors to provide meaningful debt reduction to Zambia. And that includes the calls that we’re making in the context of the IMF that that be done.
But let me be clear: Our presence here is not about China. It’s about an independent understanding of the intertwined histories of our nations, and our mutual commitment to democratic principles, and a recognition and understanding of what it means to engage in smart investments and the potential for the future of the entire globe.
I will reiterate: When we look at the talent, the innovation, the ingenuity that is taking place in countries like Zambia, when we look at the partnerships that we’ve already embarked on, many of which are public-private partnerships, private investment, spurred or brought together by what we can do as the United States government, we’re seeing incredible return on the investment, both in terms of the investment in human capacity, as well as the investment of resources.
So, the work we are doing here is the work that we believe and is designed to benefit the people, to strengthen communities, to uplift communities.
And we are going to continue to do that work, understanding that the relationship that we have between the United States and Zambia is a relationship, again, based on shared ideals and principles that are always going to be designed to strengthen prosperity and security.
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: Thank you, Vice President. Let me just tag on to what she’s already said. China’s influence on Africa, viewed in certain ways in the context of the U.S. — what could the U.S. do to help Africa or Zambia, as it were —
Let me just step aside a little bit and say: Things must not be seen that way. Things must not be seen that way.
I totally agree with the Vice President that we are here to foster the U.S.-Zambia relationship. But there’s a context in the sense that that relationship exists in the operating environment where other countries also exist.
So — but the contextualization that if the U.S. and Zambia share lots in common, strong bilateral relationship, historical relationship, then they’re doing things against China is actually wrong. Completely wrong.
So, I have said before: When I’m in Washington, I’m not against Beijing. Equally, when I’m in Beijing, I’m not against Washington. We have a globe we share. We have a planet we share, Earth. For us in Africa, we have our continent. It is easy to say, when the President of Zambia is visiting Pretoria in South Africa, he is against Abuja, Nigeria. That’s the logic. Not quite.
What we expect of America and China as the two leading economies — number one, USA; number two, China — is to help us keep our world safe for everybody. Keep peace, stability, which would allow us to focus — for example, like us, on our economic reconstruction agenda.
And, by the way, as Zambia, to a large extent, we’re responsible for the downgrade of our economy, the way we transacted, the way we related with people. That’s why we’ve — since taking office, we have reset our relationship with the global community, the League of Nations. I’m talking about the civilized League of Nations.
So, essentially, for now, we’re expecting the U.S., as we have done in our conversations, to support us on resolving this debt overhang for which, as a country, we’re responsible. We didn’t manage our affairs properly. We must accept that.
Equally, we are asking — when we meet China, we are asking them to assist us resolve our debt burden and free resources to where they should go — apply the free resources where they should go.
So, I am saying that the U.S. and us, of our relationship — they have their relationship with China. We have our relationship with the U.S. We have our relationship with China. But none of these relationships are about working against someone or a group of countries. I think that’s what will keep our world safer, peaceful, secure.
But let me be direct. I do believe that the U.S. and China are engaging almost daily because of who they are, these two big countries. And our request to them is to keep our world safe, peaceful, orderly. For us, we would like to advance our democratic relationship with the Americans and with others.
I must say, and I said it yesterday in public domain: We believe that a democratic framework will allow us to advance our agenda, economical and social. We came from a one-party state: dictatorship. We didn’t like it. It didn’t work for us. So we want to stay this course.
But we must not always see each other that when we meet with the Vice President, then we are plotting against someone. We’re not.
Thank you. (Applause.)
ZAMBIAN OFFICIAL: Thank you. We are now going to the last question, coming from the Zambian media. Could I see a hand? Okay, let’s do a lady, for a change. Ma’am.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: (Laughs.)
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: (Laughs.) You must be careful; we have a Vice President who is a lady. (Laughter.)
ZAMBIAN OFFICIAL: My sincere apologies, Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I say “ladies” half the time. (Laughs.)
Q: Good afternoon, Your Excellency, President Hakainde Hichilema.
PRESIDENT HICHILEMA: Afternoon.
Q: And good afternoon to you too, Madam Kamala Harris.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you.
Q: My name is Stephanie Kunda [ph] from Mwebantu Media. My question is for the Vice President. Madam Vice President, what mechanisms are in place for the Zambian goods to be exported into the U.S. market?
VICE PRESIDENT: So, we have been — that — that is a lot of the work that we are doing with the collaboration and the MOU that we are announcing today around the ability to have these kinds — to create a framework around the commercial relationships that we have. And — and so that is the work that we will continue to do.
But I will say that, in addition to the commercial development MOU, which is about the increase of the flow of goods and services between our nations, there is additional work that we — we are intending to do, which is about, for example, the work that I’m going to do tomorrow when I visit the farm and highlight the mutual concern that we have in addressing the climate crisis and thinking about how we can bring new technologies and — and innovative approaches to industries, such as the agricultural industry.
We intend to do the work of not only investing in the innovation that is taking there — we refer to it as smart agriculture. Some refer to it as “agri-tech,” the application of technology to — to thinking about satellite technology, for example, and how that gives us data and information that we can give to farmers to give them a better idea of what the seasons might bring so they can make smart decisions about what type of crops to plant.
This is the work that we are doing together as well, understanding that we can share and exchange ideas that will be to our mutual benefit.
So we’re doing that work. And we’re also doing the work –and I will always do the work of uplifting the importance of — of — of gender equality, and making sure that, for example, that we are paying attention to the needs of women and economic empowerment of women.
I do strongly believe, I think most of us would agree, that when you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of families, and all of society benefits. And so paying attention to those issues is part of an economic agenda as well as anything else. (Applause.)
Zambian Official: Mr. President, Honorable Madam Vice President of the United States of America, we have now come to the end of our press conference. May I now kindly ask our friends to remove the podium so that we have the last photo, and then we allow the President and the Vice President to exit.
Thank you very much for your attention. Thanks.