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From Juliana Taiwo in Abuja

Zambian President, Rupiah Bwezani Banda, on his first foreign trip since he came into power in October, yesterday requested for Nigeria ’s assistance to  tackle  effect of the global economic crisis on his country’s economy.

This is as President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua said despite the stalemate in Zimbabwe’s peace talk over power-sharing, the progress recorded deserves commendation.

Banda, in a joint press conference with Yar’Adua at the foyer of the Presidential Villa, told State House Correspondents that the global financial crisis has hit Zambian’s  economy to the extent that the price of its main commodity which is copper, had come down to $3,300 from $8000 per tonne.

Banda said, “it has certainly affected us (global economic crisis) and that is why I am standing here with my brother (Yar’Adua), because I believe together we are stronger, on our own it may be difficult to withstand the impact of the melt down, particularly the price of our main commodity which is copper and other metals which has gone down from over $8000 per tonne down to $3,300.”

The Zambian President, whose country’s economic mainstay is mining, lamented that the global economic meltdown had made nonsense of  earnings from the  sector and therefore, appealed to President Umaru Yar’Adua to assist Zambia in carving out another economic route.

“We are affected but what we intend to do as a government is to widen the base of other industries and other commodities that we have to depend upon and we believe Nigeria is in the position to assist us.“You have got the  manpower and experience over the years for some of these crops we want to introduce in our country as staple foods.

“We believe because of our friendship,  we can depend upon one another to face this problems, which have certainly affected us.”

“We are very proud that Nigeria is one of the few countries who have invested in Zambia and shown keen interest to improve these investments.”

We have for the first time truly an African bank from Nigeria – Access Bank, and two more banks will be coming to our country from Nigeria ,” he said, adding that his government was happy that “we have agreed on a major investment in the cement industry from the Nigerian group.

I am taking this opportunity with my brother to call on Nigerian businesses to come to Zambia to take advantage of the facilities and the opportunities that exist in the industrial, manufacturing and financial sectors of our country, and also to help us have additional groups in our agriculture such as cassava, cocoa and palm oil, for which you are well known as specialist in that field.”

He said the bilateral talks became very necessary because “ Nigeria and Zambia have always been very close friends. Although Nigeria is so far away from our region, you will recall that Nigeria was one of the few countries in West Africa and in the rest of Africa we have invited to become frontline state. In other words, you have a lot to do with the liberation of our continent, especially the hard core southern part of the continent.”

Yar’Adua said he was happy with the bilateral talks adding that “this is his first visit since he was elected last October in Zambia . We have discussed issues of bilateral nature, African issues, the situation in Zimbabwe and the need for Nigeria and Zambia to convoke a bilateral commission and for us to sign the various agreements that will enhance our bilateral relations.”

He said discussions were on the political crisis in Zimbabwe , especially the worsening humanitarian crisis and noted that the seeming break down in negotiations in terms of   implementation of agreements signed was a major concern.