Inonge seeks freindship & economic ties in US

Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika

Inonge Mbikusita Lewanika

When U.S. Ambassador for the Republic of Zambia, Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika strode to the podium wearing a traditional African Asoke Buba style pink and black lace dress the audience cheered and shouted ‘Her Highness’.

Awesome, uplifting, enlightening, warm, inclusive! These are some of the descriptive words that flowed forth from the lips of 20-year-old Mika Greenwood who attended the Thursday evening reception at Castaways Restaurant in San Bernardino.

The African envoy is the daughter of King Lewanika II of Barotseland. Her brother, Akashambatwa
Mbikusita-Lewanika, is also a high ranking politician.

“She’s a world traveler, accomplished linguist, speaks eight languages and has lived in five countries – and she’s also a princess,” gushed Temple Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Raymond Turner reading from the ambassador’s lengthy bio.

With more on her mind than just social circles and photo opportunities, Dr.  Lweanika appealed to a rapt mostly African-American audience of residents, politicians, business, community and faith leaders to consider investing in her nation’s storied past and bright future.  “Come experience the magnificence of Zambia. Our sweeping vistas, wildlife safaris, vast mineral resources, subtropical climate, miles of lust green gardens and farmlands bearing big juicy fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Come share what we have to offer a rising economy, African cuisine, music and dance, Zambia’s a place where descendents of Mother Africa can come and feel at home.”

Today Zambia stands out as a shining example of Africa’s recent democratization, experiencing both incredible success as well as notable challenges. The country is one of the most urbanized in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a result of this urban influx, Zambia’s diverse ethno-linguistic groups interact regularly.

“Many contemporary Zambian households especially in our cities are exposed to the media, technology and influences of western cultures from Internet cafes to hip hop music,” said Dr. Lewanika.  To the groans of a few in the audience, Dr. Lewanika said education and healthcare are free in Zambia. Like the soaring eagle on our flag, Zambia is rising from the pits of poverty. She said foreign investors see new resiliency in the mineral rich nation.

The ambassador told listeners to protect its resources, the Zambian government is pursuing an economic diversification program to reduce the country’s reliance on its vast copper reserves.  “This initiative seeks to exploit other components of Zambia’s rich resource base by promoting agriculture, tourism, gemstone mining and hydro power.” In its early years as an independent state Zambia became a regional bulwark against imperialism and colonial domination and South African apartheid.

The ambassador offered a tart response to a reporter’s question on the risk of returning to woes of corruption and colonialism as trade hungry superpowers like China, India and Japan push for mining expansion, elimination of monetary exchange controls and expansion of free market principles.

“Fool us once you don’t fool us again,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot of good lessons. We choose our trading partners carefully. That’s why we urge Americans and American companies to come have a look. Let me assure you conglomerates like Coca Cola and the many other international companies operating in Zambia are not there to stir up trouble, they’re motive is pure and simple – produce a good product – make a good profit.” Over 70% of Zambians live in poverty.  Per capita annual incomes are currently at about one half their levels at independence and at $627, place the country among the world’s poorest nations.  HIV/AIDS is the nation’s greatest challenge, with 16% prevalence among the adult population.

The economy continues to revolve around copper, but after decades of political corruption and mineral pilfering Zambia’s economy is doing better thanks to higher commodity prices and western investments made after privatization.  Dr. Lewanika said another recent success story has been tourism, with the misfortunes of its neighbor Zimbabwe driving tourists to the northern side of the Victoria Falls and Zambia’s safaris.

Ambassador Meets People from Youth to the Governor

Ambassador Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika’s week was a whirlwind, meeting a variety of people from the very young to the Governor of California. Friday to Friday everyday was wonderful. She was the guest of Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Pastor Raymond Turner and Sis Helen Harris and Pastor Josh Beckley, of Ecclesia Christian Church, who shared her with the entire community.  A Saturday morning breakfast hosted by the Black Voice was exciting for the community and to her, a down to earth woman who wants to educate children and expand business opportunities for Americans in this, her second home. Sharing a powerpoint presentation she showed various sectors of the country and said so many others are taking advantage of the opportunities they are buying land and setting up businesses and she wanted to offer the same to people in San Bernardino.

Speaking of what Africa gives to the world she said, “The next time you drink a Starbuck’s coffee the beans came from Africa, the gas in your car is from Africa, copper is from Africa, and those diamonds, all come from Africa,” she said. She told the audience, “We are connected.” Her Excellency acknowledges that Africa has been oldest and best civilization in the world.-“This country (America) was built by Africans, most resources of Africa have gone to develop other countries. The coca bean has built cities. Globally coca built the city of Cadbury in England. We are global village,” she told over 100 people.

As a Community Activist she has worked with national and international NGOs for the last four decades. As a Member of Parliament, she facilitated the establishment of community organizations for Rural Development.

Her lifelong passion and commitment are Child and Youth Development. She served as a founding Board Member of the International Youth Foundation for nine years. She participated in the preparations for the Charter on the African Child.  Currently, she serves on the Nike Foundation Advisory Board. She has also served on a number of Boards and as an Advisor for children and youth.

Last Thursday a San Bernardino delegation that included, Beckley, Helen Harris, the leader, Cheryl Brown, California Black Media, and Van Howard, official photographer, traveled with Ambassador Lewanika to the seat of power in Sacramento, CA.  Assembly member Wilmer Amina Carter was the host for the day. She held a breakfast in the Former Speaker, Willie Brown room with Speaker Karen Bass and other legislators attending. She presented a proclamation to the Ambassador Lewanika on the Assembly floor and introduced the entire delegation to the Assembly. Carter’s office arranged for local representative Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod to additionally present the Ambassador on the floor and welcomed her to speak before the Senate.

The last visit of a very crowed day was a visit to the Governor’s office. Governor Schwarzenegger received the Ambassador and delegation, they spoke of his visit to Zambia some time ago, the positive opportunities in Zambia and he presented her with a gift. She spoke of her country’s mission and how to involve people in the cause of humanity.  The trip ended with the delegation being the guest of Jeff Flynn, owner of the prestigious Chops Restaurant for lunch.

Courtesy of Black voices online

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