Timo Olkkonen. Photo: Henrik Alfredsson

In-depth knowledge on Zambia after NAI visit

Timo Olkkonen is Finland’s ambassador to Zambia since 2014. He resides in the capital Lusaka from where he also covers the diplomatic relations with neighbouring countries Zimbabwe and Malawi where Finland has no embassies. On August 19th, he visited Uppsala for the Nordic Africa Institute’s ambassador coaching programme.

"During my two years of posting, I have already been travelling around a lot in the country. I’ve seen and learned a lot about how things work. Still I made some exciting new insights in my meeting with NAI’s research team", Olkkonen says.

One of the researcher that Timo Olkkonen met was Patience Mususa. She is Zambian and her research is on urban planning, urbanization, mining and welfare development in Zambia.

"We discussed one of her expertise areas, the privatization reforms of the 1990’s, which explains a lot in Zambian economy today, especially in how private interests and public sector interlink. For example it explains the lack of investment in infrastructure in large parts of the country", says Timo Olkkonen.

Together with Patience Mususa and NAI’s senior advisor Henning Melber, Timo Olkkonen also discussed the General Election that was held in Zambia last week, an election in which Timo Olkkonen took part as an observer for the European Union.

"We shared the same view in our analysis of the election. Sitting president Lungu was re-elected for five years, but there were some irregularities and incidents of electoral violence. And the referendum that was held at the same time left a lot to be desired from a democratic point-of-view", says Timo Olkkonen.

Patience Mususa also drew links between religion and what she refers to as a general conservatism in Zambian society.

"The strong position of Christian church in Zambia, especially Evangelism and Pentecostalism, has a clear effect on politics. President Lungu, himself a member of an Evangelical church, has used this to appeal to voters with his talk of traditional values and security", says Mususa.

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