The Ambassador who saved Zambia’s forests
Mr Pertti Anttinen, Finland’s Ambassador to Zambia, has always been interested in the environment, in addition to business and diplomacy. Trade between the two countries is constantly growing, and Finnish companies are more interested in Zambia than ever. The greatest challenge is how to equitably distribute the benefits from this growing trade.
According to Ambassador Anttinen, Zambia no longer needs large sums of money as aid, rather he believes that aid should take the form of transfer of information, development of know-how, and application of tried and tested solutions to some of Zambia’s problems.
In summer 2013 Anttinen invited Zambia’s Minister of the Environment to his summer residence in Finland, municipality of Keuruu, where he introduced the Minister to Finnish forestry and forest industries. Zambia’s Minister returned home as someone who had awakened to new possibilities: he stopped the intense harvesting of Zambia’s untouched native forests and began a countrywide tree planting campaign.
Finland is seen in Zambia as a country that can be learned from.
“We have a long history of development cooperation with Zambia, and its results can be seen all over. Zambia is also going to open an Embassy in Helsinki next year,” Ambassador Anttinen revealed.
The first Finnish development workers came to Zambia in 1972. In four decades, Zambia has changed from a country dependent on foreign aid to a resilient country that is one of Africa’s success stories, with current economic growth at the rate of 6-8% a year. Zambia already creates capital in its own private sector markets, and the state’s own income begins to be sufficient to cover its costs.
Zambia is less and less dependent on foreign aid, which is now below five per cent of its Budget. Howevere, some 40 per cent of health sector expenses are still covered through development cooperation. The character of development cooperation between Finland and Zambia has also changed. In the beginning, cooperation was in the areas of forestry, electrification, and construction of infrastructure. Today’s emphasis on development cooperation is targeted at agriculture, development of the private sector, the environment, and budget support, as well as the promotion of good governance.
“The Zambia state forest plantations were developed with the support of Finland. Most of the raw materials for the sawmill industries still comes from those forests. Finnish forestry projects that used imported Finnish Kara-spindle saws were widely copied, and these saws are still used in small-scale sawmills in Zambia. The high quality textbooks and teaching materials provided by Finland in the 1990s are still remembered in the schools; and the electricity grid still uses Finnish technology,” Ambassador Anttinen said.
In recent years, good results have also come for example from the support to small farmers channelled through the Zambia National Farmers Union. The agricultural financing system has provided funds to some 20,000 small farmers so that they can produce more with better methods.
Sustainable development dictates conditions
In addition to Zambia, the Foreign Service career that Ambassador Anttinen began in 1991 has taken him to Turkey, Ireland, and South Africa. He has also had experience in Kenya, on a UN mission. At 53, Ambassador Anttinen is the father of three grown children. Nature and the environment are favourite subjects of this expert in agriculture and forestry.
“All economic activities should be carried out with an eye to sustainable development,” said Ambassador Anttinen, who sits on the Advisory Board of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Finland. He hopes that the whole of Finland will support development cooperation between countries. As trade between Finland and Zambia grows and Finnish companies become ever more interested in Zambia, even small companies and actors in the provinces can contribute a great deal toward finding practical solutions for Zambia.
Poverty is being reduced too slowly
Zambia’s greatest challenge is to channel the benefits of economic growth so that they reach everyone. The economy is growing, but poverty is not being reduced at the same speed. Zambia is still one of the world’s least developed countries. In the countryside, poverty is still deeply entrenched, and in the cities, inequalities are growing. The private sector is too narrow, and the mining industry cannot provide sufficient employment. New industries and new jobs are needed.
Finland is rising to meet the challenge with a new type of development cooperation.
“A national social security programme is being developed to help all of the poorest people through income transfers. The programme activities are supported with small sums and avoids creating passive recipients. The programme is also being supported by Great Britain, Ireland, and UNICEF. Finland has also included disability issues,” Ambassador Anttinen observed.
Zambia is deeply committed to the programme, and has increased its own share of financing the programme by a factor of seven in next year’s Budget. According to Ambassador Anttinen, Zambia will no longer need large sums of money as aid in future, but will require more information technology (IT), the development of know-how, and increased application of good solutions that have been found to work.
What’s in the future?
“This has been a good time to track Zambian development while in Lusaka,” said Ambassador Anttinen, whose tour of duty in Zambia ends in autumn 2014. He feels that Zambia’s future is good, and that economic development will continue on its present course. Aid dependency will decrease further, and the country’s own resources will be better able to cover the costs of development..
“Zambia has great possibilities for developing agricultural production. Practically the entire country could be used for food production and silviculture. This would require the right decisions be made in Zambia: decisions to invest in education and the development of agriculture. Zambia is a peaceful country which does not suffer from internal or external conflicts, and the governments are changed through elections.”
The risks are from fluctuations in the global economy, a dependence on developments in the price of copper, and the growth of inequalities.
“The government has to make decisions that will make all Zambians feel they are essential to the great changes taking place in the country,” Ambassador Anttinen sums up.
(Photo of Mr Pertti Anttinen, Finland’s Ambassador to Zambia, by Juho Paavola)