New Ambassador of Finland to Zambia: Diversifying Relations, with Focus on Trade
The new Ambassador of Finland to Zambia Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury presented her credentials to President Edgar Chagwa Lungu on 21 January 2019. Prior to her current position, she served as Finland’s Ambassador to Nigeria, accredited also to Ghana, Benin and Liberia. She has worked as Director for United Nations Development Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, as well as with EU and Nordic issues. Her previous postings were at Finland’s Embassies in Beijing and Santiago de Chile.
In Zambia, the new Ambassador of Finland intends to focus on further deepening and diversifying the traditionally strong relations between the two countries. Finland and Zambia share fifty years of diplomatic relations, as well as forty-five years of development partnership. Already for several years now, these relations have been moving towards a strengthened focus on trade, and there has been interest in intensifying political dialogue and partnership in international fora, while bilateral development cooperation has been gradually decreasing. This development is supported by Finland’s contribution to the strengthening of the Zambian private sector, SMEs in particular, through the Accelerated Growth for SMEs in Zambia Programme that will span over four years. The approach is based on the vision that sustainable development requires a strong, vibrant, and responsible private sector.
Ambassador Suomela-Chowdhury believes that the long history of relations between the two countries, and the many links created over decades, provide a good foundation for a multifaceted partnership with the promotion of mutually beneficial trade relations playing and important role. Opportunities exist from CleanTech to ICT, and from agriculture to power, mining technology and education. One area with great potential is forestry, where Finland has a long history of activities in Zambia in development cooperation, and where it has strong private sector expertise. Another one is agriculture. The Agritech Expo in Zambia will again this year be attended by several Finnish companies.
The Ambassador points out that Finland also supports Zambia through its funding to the European Union, United Nations, as well as World Bank and African Development Bank. Several Finnish private sector funding instruments are available to support Finnish-Zambian business partnerships, and NGOs from Finland continue to work with their Zambian partners. The Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare cooperates with the National Pension Scheme Authority NAPSA to help develop social protection for informal sector workers, and educational institutions of the two countries have active cooperation. Regional programmes supported by Finland, such as Southern African Innovation Support Programme, Energy and Environment Partnership, and Forest and Farm Facility all benefit Zambia, too.
The new Ambassador of Finland to Zambia believes that there is yet much to explore in Finland-Zambia relations, and is keen to make the most of the potential that they hold. She stresses that it is also important to work together in the political sphere, and to promote common values and priorities in the United Nations and other international fora. An international rules-based system, climate change, and gender equality are among issues where common efforts of the two countries can go a long way.
Ambassador Pirjo Suomela-Chowdhury can be contacted at [email protected]. She is also active on twitter: @PirjoSuomela