On Saturday, January 21, 2023, the Zambian Mission virtually met leaders of the Zambian associations in Australia and New Zealand. At the beginning of the year, it is essential that we, as leaders, set an agenda and a general outlook of what we hope to achieve through the year. It was an honour to join over 22 participants drawn from the Australian states and countries of accreditation. The moderators were Mr Derrick Chabala from the Victoria association and Dr Munanga Mwandila from the New Zealand Association of Zambians.
As a way to have the involvement of all, the meeting was also attended by all the diplomats at our mission. As we embark on a journey of change, all of my workmates must have a buy-in into what we are hoping to achieve.
Diaspora relations are not just a by-the-way thing; it is a core objective of what President Hakainde Hichilema has ordered us to do. I assigned the Deputy High Commissioner as the Diaspora liaison officer for the mission to highlight this priority. The elevation of this responsibility to the deputy head of mission reflects the urgency the President has attached to improving Diaspora relations.
The meeting had many takeaways, including the following:
Under my leadership, the Mission tries to create efficiencies in our systems. Consular services for our people are a priority, and our people consult us daily on specific concerns about their documents, passports, dual nationality and much more. To serve our community efficiently, our community must receive a timely response to their queries. Our Mission will implement the “two business days” rule this year, in which queries from our citizens must be answered. We have heard evident frustrations regarding emails, letters and phone calls, and we hope to serve our community efficiently by putting a clear timeline.
In 2023, we will lean towards more communication with the community. We find that for information to reach our people, it must be accessible, timely, and actionable. Taking dual nationality as an example, the mission will use all means necessary to explain the what, the why, and the how of dual nationality. We shall revamp the website in the first quarter and utilise social media to disseminate information on the acquisition of dual nationality.
We have heard some concerns from our community regarding how they feel they were mistreated at government offices back home. President Hakainde Hachilema has directed the public service to serve Zambians with the utmost respect. We will be following up with our colleagues to ensure that the Zambian diaspora continues to rely on the excellent services that our government has committed to. In this vein, I encouraged our citizens to register themselves with the Mission so that we can serve them better.
We are planning regular meetings with the community in Australia and New Zealand. We will be holding quarterly virtual meetings with them. Adding to these quarterly meetings, we will be having personal meetings if and whenever the diplomatic staff visits any Australian state or New Zealand. We aim to achieve several objectives with the quarterly meetings – timely response to our community concerns, updating on dual nationality, and as a tool for accountability. As the President has said numerous times, we are setting clear objectives, and you will judge our progress by these objectives. Our first quarterly virtual meeting with the community will be on February 18, 2023.
New Zealand Association president Dr Mwandila and the team have done an excellent job setting the stage for the Copper Queen’s reception in Hamilton and Auckland. A website will be up and running in the coming weeks to guide all interested in travelling to Hamilton and Auckland for the Copper Queen’s games. I encouraged the leaders and the business community to take advantage of this World Cup to market Zambia, brand Zambia, and show the unique heritage that Zambia has.
The Zambian community will have an Australia and New Zealand-wide conference in April. So that you know – the details will be communicated in due course. As a mission, we are encouraging such engagements in the community. Zambians in Australia and New Zealand are growing in numbers and their influence. We appealed to the leaders to encourage their members to let us know of their activities in the broader host countries.
In 2023, we are working with business leaders in Australia and New Zealand to relaunch the business council. Under the auspices of this business council, we have set an ambitious target of having at least two business forums, one in Lusaka and another in Australia. This forum will encourage business collaboration and partnership between companies in the host nations and Zambia. Several areas of business cooperation include energy, technology, infrastructure, mining, tourism, education, and agriculture.
We have set for ourselves an ambitious future. We will all work together towards achieving this future.
May God Bless Our Country
– Dr Elias Munshya