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Malawi — the ‘Warm Heart’ of Africa
September 22, 2013, 11:24 am
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A veteran of new-age diplomacy, His Excellency Younos Abdul Karim, Ambassador of the Republic of Malawi to the State of Kuwait, has spent a great part of his professional life in strife-stricken areas of the world, focusing on a humane approach in dealing with people and situations. “Before joining the Malawian Foreign Service I was with the International Federation of the Red Crescent Society (IFRC), involved in humanitarian work around the world,” revealed the envoy during an exclusive interview he recently afforded to The Times.

From humanitarian catastrophes in Zambia and Uganda as a result of civil unrests in neighboring countries, to sectarian strife in the Balkans; from violence of Iraq, to humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia, Ambassador Abdul Karim has witnessed depths of human suffering, while serving with the humanitarian organization. The IFRC is part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the largest humanitarian network in the world, which continues providing humanitarian support and service to those in need in times of peace or war.

“In late 2010, while I was serving with the IFRC in Pakistan, I was called by my government and assigned to the diplomatic corps of my country. My first external posting was in 2011, when I was appointed as ambassador to the State of Kuwait and tasked with opening our embassy here. I presented my Letter of Credence to His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait, on 28 September, 2011, and since then the embassy and I have been working to consolidate and strengthen bilateral relations in various spheres between our two friendly countries.”

During his decades of humanitarian service in different parts of the world, Ambassador Abdul Karim has strived to bring together public support and government resources to facilitate effective and inclusive partnerships for humanitarian programs. As the ambassador recalls, persuading the powers on both sides of a conflict, to protect the interests of those most vulnerable, and getting all parties to respect basic human rights, has often been a challenging task. The fact that he has now been inducted into his country’s diplomatic corps is the best evidence of his meritorious service in humanitarian diplomacy.

“Malawi and Kuwait have enjoyed cordial relations for decades and our two countries have supported each other at international forums, and cooperated in promoting just causes and shared values,” said the envoy. “In 1995, our former president paid an official visit to Kuwait during which he held discussions with His Highness the Amir and other high-ranking officials on strengthening bilateral ties in various domains,” he added.

Saying that even before political ties at the governmental level, there were strong relations on the people to people level, Ambassador Abdul Karim continued, “Back in 1981, the Kuwait-based Africa Muslims Agency, which is today called Direct Aid Society, began operating in Malawi under the guidance of its founder, the late Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait (May his soul rest in peace). Actually the society was born in Malawi under the name Malawi Muslim Committee, before changing to Africa Muslims Agency and then to Direct Aid.  Now it is operating in more than 30 countries. It provided extensive humanitarian aid to impoverished Muslims throughout Malawi and continues to support and sponsor talented students, assisting them in pursuing Islamic studies at various universities including in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.”

Clarifying that Kuwait has always been a true friend and a reliable, generous supporter of growth and development in Malawi, the diplomat continued, “The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development plays a substantial role in funding development projects throughout Malawi, including in telecommunications, road networks and other infrastructure projects. Specifically, the various road network projects financed by the Fund have helped invigorate economic activity in my country. The new roads allow rural farmers to transport agricultural products to distant markets quickly and enable them to obtain higher prices for their commodities. In addition to several successful schemes that have been implemented over the years, we are now negotiating a new road project that is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.”

Elaborating on Kuwaiti support, the diplomat went on to say, “Besides socio-economic support, the government of Kuwait has generously offered assistance in setting up our embassy in the country and thereby giving us a presence in this region, which today’s beehive of economic activities. Our embassy here is currently responsible for handling the interests of Malawi for the entire region, and I am accredited to nine other nations, besides Kuwait; they include the GCC countries, as well as Yemen, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. The potential for enhancing existing ties between Malawi and these countries, especially with Kuwait, is immense and we are working diligently to boost these relations in every way possible.”

Agriculture, industry and services form the main bulk of Malawian economy, with agriculture alone accounting for over 35 percent of the GDP. Products such as tobacco, tea, sugar and cotton make up nearly 90 percent of export revenue. Admitting that the current trade balance between the two countries is in favor of Kuwait, the ambassador added, “Malawi imports significant quantities of petroleum products and fertilizers from Kuwait; however, we aim to rectify this trade imbalance by increasing the export of agricultural products to Kuwait. We are also working to encourage Kuwaiti investments in various sectors of our economy.”

“Malawi is a superb investment destination for Kuwaiti businesses, with excellent opportunities available in agro-processing, textile manufacturing, mining, infrastructure and tourism among others. We are especially looking to promote investments that bring added value to our agriculture sector, while seeking direct investments in the untapped, capital-intensive, mining and tourism industry. But key to the success of all these investments is infrastructure development, especially electricity generation and distribution,” noted the ambassador.

As a signatory to various multilateral and regional trade agreements, Malawi offers investors preferred access to regional and international markets. For instance, as a beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of the United States, Malawi exports various agricultural and textile products to the American market. Also, as a member of the 15-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), and with its association in other regional organizations, the country offers access to an exceedingly large consumer market.

Expanding on the investor attractiveness of his country, the ambassador went on to say, “The steady and peaceful political environment of Malawi, where we have never had a war in the nation’s history, even at the time of our independence from colonial rule, is a rarity in Africa and makes Malawi unique in terms of safety and stability. In addition, an investor-friendly business climate, a liberalized economy, sound legal framework, competitive investment incentives and international treaties on foreign investment protection, add to the country’s credibility as a venue for safe and secure investments.”

Often referred to as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’, the friendly and hospitable people of Malawi and their land-locked country soaked in idyllic landscapes, ranging from rugged mountain escarpments to broad plateaus, verdant valleys and azure lakes, attract tourists from around the world. “With countless tourist attractions across Malawi, including the pristine Lake Malawi, which is also known as ‘Calendar Lake’, on account of it being 365 miles long and 52 miles wide at its extreme points, and nine National Parks, teaming with a multitude of exotic and endemic flora and fauna, our country is a wonderful tourism destination, as well as a lucrative opportunity for tourism infrastructure investments,” noted the diplomat.

Describing membership of regional organizations as vital to promoting socio-economic cooperation and ensuring political and security collaborations in the area, the envoy added.”This peaceful coexistence has also allowed the country to pursue its own development goals. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), is an overarching medium-term strategy that aims to reduce poverty through sustained economic growth and infrastructure development. The MGDS augments the country’s Vision 20/20 strategy, which is expected to transform the country from a predominantly importing and consuming economy, to a largely manufacturing and exporting economy.”

Ambassador Abdul Karim concluded by adding, “We welcome Kuwaiti investors to visit Malawi and see for themselves the immense business and investment potential, as well as rich resources of our country. The embassy will do all in its power to encourage and promote such visits and ensure bilateral relations between our two friendly countries continue to grow from strength to strength.”

The Times Report

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