Zambia is a model country for investment, with a regulatory regime most attractive to South African companies, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the launch of the Nakambala sugar expansion project at Mazabuka, Zambia, Zuma said economic cooperation between South Africa and Zambia dated many years back and had improved substantially in recent years.
Zambia was now South Africa's number one trading partner on the continent, surpassing countries which traditionally used to attract huge investments from South Africa.
Initially, these investments were largely concentrated in the so-called "old economy" of mining, retail and related industries. However, that pattern had shifted, because investments in the "new economy" sectors, such as financial services, information communication technology (ICT), agribusiness, and leisure, had become visible.
"Your country has been able to attract these investments, thanks to its conducive regulatory framework and legislative environment," said Zuma.
"Zambia is a model country for investment and we believe that your regulatory regime has been most attractive to South African companies such as Illovo Sugar Ltd."
Zuma said he was honoured to commission Zambia's biggest agricultural project - the sugar plantation at Mazabuka - highlighting the R1,7-billion investment by the South African company, Illovo.
When Illovo Sugar acquired Zambia Sugar in 2001, the company was producing about 200 000 tons of sugar. In less than a decade that output had doubled.
This was a great achievement - Zambia was not only a copper producing country, but had also become a sugar producer of note.
"We have a duty to ensure that the economic relations between our two countries remain vibrant and growing," Zuma said.
"We believe that the various memoranda of understanding which were signed yesterday and the business interactions during the two-day business seminar will help us to achieve this objective.
"It is through these economic activities that the socio-economic challenges of poverty and unemployment can be addressed," he said.