I visited Malawi and Zambia from 21 to 28 January 2014.There were a number of strategic aims to my visit:
Firstly, in Malawi and Zambia, I represented Scotland to welcome the arrival of the Queen’s Baton, and accompanied it on its journey to Zambia.
Secondly, of course, both countries are priority countries under the Scottish Government’s International Development Policy. The Scottish Government therefore partners in funding projects, through Scottish based organisations, under both its International Development Fund and its Climate Justice Fund, which are helping to improve peoples’ lives.
Therefore, in Malawi, a key purpose of my visit was to deepen the close relationship between Scotland and Malawi, including renewing ties with the Government of Malawi; further, in recognition of the very strong civil society links that exist between Scotland and Malawi, to meet with civil society groups, in particular those organisations in Malawi which partner in implementing Scottish Government funded projects.
In relation to my visit to Zambia, this was the first visit by a Scottish Government Minister, with the aim of developing a closer relationship with the Zambian Government. There was a strong recognition of Scotland’s historic relationship with Zambia and that this is important to us. Building stronger links with Zambia, will allow us to work together in areas of mutual interest such as climate change.
In terms of my programme: I arrived in Malawi on 21 January 2014. On 22 January 2014 I started my official programme by visiting St Michael and All Angel’s Church in Blantyre, the site of the first Scottish Mission, where I was warmly welcomed by the Blantyre Synod, and the Likhabula Children’s and the Churches Ladies choir. I then laid a wreath at the Commonwealth War Grave in the graveyard attached to the Church, to commemorate the centenary of the start of WWI.
Later in the morning, I took part in a round table business discussion on creating a business and investment friendly environment in Malawi, and business opportunities and challenges for Scottish investment in Malawi. This meeting, which was chaired by Dr Justin Malewezi, former Vice President of Malawi, followed on from the Investment Conversation which President Banda chaired in Edinburgh in March 2013. This series of meetings reflects the on-going interest of both governments, to move beyond aid only and to support increased trade and investment to Malawi as part of development.
In the afternoon I attended an energy symposium hosted by the Scottish Government funded Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP) at the Blantyre Polytechnic, where I was welcomed by Prof Kululanga, the Principal and Prof Saka, the Vice Chancellor. The energy symposium event brought together the whole range of renewable energy projects currently or previously funded by the Scottish Government International Development Fund, as well as climate justice projects funded from its ground breaking Climate Justice Fund. During my address to symposium attendees, I announced the extension of the MREAP project for one year, taking it to March 2015, which was warmly welcomed as evidence of the Scottish Government’s commitment in the area of renewables. During the symposium I also commissioned a recently funded solar power project in the locality, along with the grant holding partners Scottish Malawi Foundation/Eqnon.
At the close of the symposium, I then visited the Scottish Government funded Renew’N’Able Malawi project’s solar kiosk at Bvumbwe, a rural village outside Blantyre. Only 9% of Malawians currently have electricity. I was therefore able to see first-hand for myself the transformational changes for those living in off-grid villages that such renewable energy initiatives can make.
In the evening I had dinner with Mr Matthews Mtumbuka, the Chair of the Malawi Scotland Partnership, the sister organisation to the Scotland Malawi Partnership, both of which are funded through the Scottish Government International Development Fund (DIFD) as part of the support for networking organisations.
I travelled from Blantyre to the capital Lilongwe on the morning of 23 January 2014. My first engagement was with the Scottish Government funded Chance for Change (C4C) project, where I watched a performance by the C4C participants and met with them. This project supports teenagers in a deprived area of Lilongwe, teaching them life skills including business. I was able to hear in person from the teenagers the difference that C4C had made to their lives, and the hopes and skills for their future that they had been afforded through this project.
In the afternoon I met with the Hon Mr Sosten Gwengwe, Minister for Industry and Trade during a business lunch. Later in the day myself and Dr Kanyumba, Minister for Education, signed a new five year education partnership agreement between the two governments, representing the successful culmination of an initiative on schools inspection and improvement between Education Scotland and Malawi’s Department of Schools Inspection.
In the evening I met with the Norwegian, Irish and German ambassadors and the head of DFID in Malawi, at a dinner hosted by the British High Commissioner. I was also able to meet with the EU Ambassador to Malawi, reflecting interests in multilateral organisations working in Malawi.
On the morning of 24 January 2014 I attended the Malawi Scotland Partnership symposium, opening this event along with Hon Mrs Catherine Gotani Hara, Malawian Minister for Health. This symposium brought together Scottish Government funded projects from across all four strands of the 2005 Scottish Government/Malawi Government Cooperation Agreement, namely: health; education, economic development; and civic governance. In the course of that morning, I also took part in a telephone interview with Good Morning Scotland.
Later in the morning I attended the Civo Stadium in Lilongwe as part of the official welcoming party for the Queen’s Baton Relay team, led by Hon Mr Khumbo Hasting Kachali, Vice President of Malawi. Both myself and Hon Kachali spoke of the special relationship between Scotland and Malawi in our speeches at this ceremony. In the afternoon, after the close of the Queens Baton Relay (QBR) ceremony, I returned to the MaSP symposium to spend more time with project leads.
In the evening, the British High Commissioner hosted an official reception, attended by Malawian Ministers and other dignitaries, at his residence for the QBR, at which I was an honoured guest and gave a short speech. In recognition of the date, and the Glasgow Games, the reception had a Burns theme, and a strong Scottish presence.
The morning of 25 January 2014 started with a visit to a kindergarten where the Scottish Government funded the Eurotalk project, which is working with pupils to increase their educational progress with the use of new technology. This project is also important in seeking to bridge the digital divide, helping developing countries such as Malawi to expand their access to computers and the internet, which are key to development. I then travelled to the Fistula Unit at the Bwaila Hospital to meet with Paul McNeil from the Ann Gloag Foundation, the unit manager Mr Maggie Moyo and patents in the unit. During the visit I presented patients with solar energy BBOX units; this is a new Scottish Government funded project providing fistula patients with a method of income generation that will aid lift them out of poverty, as well as providing them with an energy source in their villages.
Later in the morning I met with Brown Dzatopetsa, Opportunity International Bank, to discuss financial models for the disadvantaged in society, such as the fistula patients whom I had met that morning. Opportunity International Bank is a highly successful Scottish Government legacy project from an early Malawi funding round, which has grown from its micro finance roots to now be a successful bank. I was then interviewed by Wonderful Hunga, one of the Malawians who was in Scotland on a journalism scholarship in October 2013, for an article in Scotland on Sunday which was published on 2 February 2014.
In the afternoon, accompanied by the QBR team, I visited a Batik centre, at Mtandire (an informal settlement on the outskirts of Lilongwe). This is a Scottish Government funded project in partnership with Sport Relief, through the ‘Home and Away’ initiative, and provides a Games legacy. I met with the director of the project and with the inspiring women who run the co-operative, seeing their work first hand. The women are trained in how to make the batik, market products, business skills, and in customer care; the training leaves them able to earn a living as a cooperative, to support themselves and help their families out of poverty.
On 26 January 2014 I travelled with the Queen’s Baton from Malawi to Zambia. I helped carry the Queen’s baton from the plane and handed it over to the Local Organising Committee Chair, Mrs Miriam Moyo. The Queen’s Baton and I were met at the airport by the Zambian British High Commissioner and they were then entertained by traditional Zambian dancers as part of the QBR arrival ceremony. In the evening I attended an informal dinner hosted by the British High Commissioner, at his residence where I met with officials from the Commission and DFID.
On the morning of 27 January 2014, I attended the Zambian official reception of the Queen’s Baton outside the Cabinet Office. During the event I met with former President Kenneth Kaunda and with the current Vice President Mr Guy Scott. As part of the ceremony I gave a short speech and then ran a leg of the relay with former President Kenneth Kaunda.
After the official reception I then attended a Climate Change roundtable event hosted for the Scottish Government by Oxfam Zambia, where I announced funding for two new scholarships for Master’s level studies in Climate Change and Environmental issues. After this event I interviewed two UNICEF young Ambassadors for climate change; and they reciprocated by interviewing me for their blog.
In the afternoon myself and the British High Commissioner met with the Zambian Minister for Finance and discussed the current economic climate and matters related to trade and investment in Zambia. This also included a discussion on Whisky import taxes. After the meeting with the Finance Minister, I then had a private meeting with the Zambian Vice President, Mr Guy Scott. In the evening the British High Commissioner hosted a reception at his residence in honour of the Queen’s Baton, at which I was again a guest of honour and gave a short speech.
The last day of the official visit, 28 January 2014 was spent visiting a Scottish Government funded agricultural project run by Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) outside Lusaka at Kasisi. The Kulima Programme is the longest running development project to be funded through the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund, having received support since 2008. The project aim is to increase food production and nutrition through organic farming methods, and has already made a difference to the lives of thousands of small farmers in the area. During the day I met with the project partners, the staff of the Kasisi Agricultural Training College, the Director of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection. I was also honoured by the attendance throughout the day of the two local chiefs: Her Royal Highness Senior Chieftainess Nkhoneshya Mukamambo II (Chairperson of the House of Chiefs); and His Royal Highness Imfumu Chibesakunda XI (Muchinga), giving recognition to this important project for the whole of Zambia’s long-term farming development.