LUSAKA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- China's decision to make Zambia among the five African countries being visited by its foreign minister this year speaks volumes about how much China values the friendship with the Southern African country, analysts said on Monday.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is on a visit to five African nations which will take him to Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Republic of Congo and Nigeria from January 7 to 12.
The visit is in keeping with China's two-decade long diplomatic tradition of making Africa its first overseas destination each year.
"China and Zambia have been friends for a very long time and the two countries have benefited from this relationship. Zambia supported China's bid to have a seat in the United Nations Security Council and China has helped Zambia in so many areas. This visit is a sign that our friendship is growing and we are grateful to China for that," Dr. Mbita Chitala, a former diplomat and public policy analyst told Xinhua in an interview.
According to him, the visit will enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries as the discussions will result in further investment by Chinese firms as well as more assistance to various development needs in the country.
"It is our hope that the leaders of the two countries will continue to nourish this relationship so that we can see more mutual benefits," he added.
Haggai Kanenga, an expert in China-Africa relations and a lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zambia (UNZA) agreed that the visit shows the unique position in which China places its relationship with Zambia.
"It is not surprising that Zambia has been chosen as one of the five countries China is visiting in Africa this year. I say so because Zambia has always been very unique to China over the years and it is among the first countries in southern Africa to establish diplomatic ties with China. So this is just meant to cement those ties that have existed over the years and shows the importance China places on this relationship," he said.
He said Zambia stands to benefit more from China in terms of increasing trade and investment if the country could put in place a mechanism of attracting more Chinese firms to invest in the country.
According to him, China has been encouraging companies to invest overseas, adding that Zambia should position itself well through putting in place a conducive environment in order to attract some of the companies.
The Chinese foreign minister arrived in Zambia on Sunday, January 8, and held bilateral talks with his Zambian counterpart Harry Kalaba. On Monday, he paid a courtesy call on President Edgar Lungu.
The Zambian minister said the government was grateful that China decided to choose Zambia as one of the countries to be visited in 2017.
He said this was an indication of China's resolve to take the relations to greater heights.
It shows us in Zambia that China is not just talking the talk but walking the walk, he added.