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By Shapi Shacinda

LUSAKA (Reuters) – Acting Zambian President Rupiah Banda said on Thursday he would keep Ng’andu Magande as finance minister if he wins next month’s presidential election, suggesting he will keep to economic policies praised by donors.

Investors are keen to know whether the election will mean policy changes after the death of President Levy Mwanawasa.

Mwanawasa, who died in August after a stroke, was credited with prudent economic management and tackling corruption. He helped turn Africa’s biggest copper producer into a rare success story on the continent.

Banda defeated Magande to become the Movement for Multiparty Democracy’s (MMD) candidate for the October 30 election and the competition for the party leadership had raised questions over the fate of the finance minister and other senior officials.

“I look forward to working with them all the coming years,” said Banda.

If Magande, a tough economic manager with wide experience in government and finance, keeps his job after the election, he is likely to ease any concerns foreign investors may have.

Since 1978, he has been a top negotiator in major financing deals Zambia has signed with major lenders, including the International Monetary Fund. An IMF mission is in Zambia for a periodic review of economic targets, Banda said.

Opposition Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata — who narrowly lost to Mwanawasa in 2006 — is expected to be Banda’s main rival.

In an apparent policy shift designed to reassure foreign imvestors, Sata has said he would welcome Chinese investors in the country’s mining industry.

Chinese companies have invested over $500 million in mining and other sectors over the last five years, Treasury data shows.

Magande is credited with helping Mwanawasa usher in strong growth, which averaged 5 percent over the last six years, while inflation declined to single digits in April 2006, for the first time in over three decades.

Banda pledged to protect foreign investors, saying their money generated wealth and jobs for Zambians, many of whom are still impoverished despite economic growth.

“We welcome all foreign investors for as long as they obey the laws of our country and protect our people and the environment. I will in the next few weeks announce new economic measures,” Banda said.

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