Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1361, (21 - 27 September 2017)

Ahram Weekly

China in Malawi

To mark the holding of the Lilongwe Conference,  Ahmed Eleiba spoke to Egyptian Ambassador to Malawi Maher Al-Adawi and Malawi Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Emmanuel Fabiano on Egypt-Malawi relations

The Malawi capital Lilongwe hosted a conference on Sino-African relations last week focusing on the major developmental role that China has been playing in Africa. The Egyptian delegation was headed by Assistant to the Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs Ahmed Abdel-Aziz and Egypt’s Ambassador to Malawi Maher Al-Adawi, who outlined the opportunities Egypt could offer in enriching Sino-African relations.

Malawi is among a growing number of African countries experiencing expanding relations with China. The latter is participating in a range of infrastructural, technological and agricultural projects in this relatively small African nation that still needs intensive development projects. The conference participants discussed the many opportunities and challenges that lay before Chinese assisted projects in Malawi and elsewhere on the continent.

What progress has the Egyptian mission made in Malawi in the three years you’ve been posted there?
There have been major developments in the relations between Cairo and Lilongwe, including six agreements in the fields of justice and civil aviation. Exchanges of visits between the two countries are increasing. The Malawi ministers of defence, foreign affairs, transport, industry and trade have visited Egypt recently. Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika visited Egypt in 2015, and he was one of the heads of state who signed the tripartite framework agreement for cooperation in Africa concluded in Sharm El-Sheikh. Relations at the political, diplomatic and friendship levels are excellent. We’ve also signed agreements in agriculture, tourism, culture and the military sphere, as well as an agreement to increase the number of investors in the two countries.

How did your previous experience in Africa help you promote Egyptian interests in the region?
I think of myself as lucky to be working in Africa. Firstly, we are from North Africa. This is our region. I’ve worked in Ethiopia, Ghana and Liberia. Each area has its own character, and each offers different insights that you learn from the experiences of colleagues and that you acquire yourself.

How would you characterise Egypt’s relations with Malawi?
There are extensive commercial relations at present in the import of tobacco, a major agricultural activity in Malawi and a primary source of income. We hope to assist in industrialising agriculture in Malawi and in the field of agriculture in general. Lake Malawi is the third-largest lake in Africa and has huge quantities of fresh water that are largely unused. We are trying to help put this water to use on the basis of our expertise in agriculture and irrigation.

How is the relationship being used?
The people of Malawi love Egypt, and we want to work together with countries that are ready to open their arms to us. The political leadership in Malawi is also very open to Egypt and wants us to cooperate in all possible ways. Malawi was one of the countries invited to the Uganda-Israel Conference, and it turned down the invitation. The same thing is true of the Israel-Africa Conference to be held in Togo in October, which it won’t attend either. There is no such thing as an important or an unimportant state. What matters is whether or not countries are ready to cooperate with us.

How did Egypt participate in the Sino-African Conference and what is the Egyptian role?
We have relations with Africa and outside of Africa, and we are trying to develop these relations. In this conference, China is working with Malawi and with Africa. Egypt has a major role because of its connections with Africa and with China. We can optimise the benefits of Chinese potential. We orient ourselves to what can be of benefit to both the continent and to Egypt in accordance with mutual interests, and this was our approach in the Sino-African Relations Conference. China has come under criticism for taking over natural resources and agricultural land in Africa. However, it defended itself against those criticisms and explained the facts.

The Western presence earlier created a gap between Egypt and the rest of the countries of Africa. Should we have the same fears with respect to China?
What concerns me is the Egyptian role. If we study the Chinese outlook and goals, we can identify what we should do and how we can influence relations. This applies to Sino-African relations and other relations where we work to increase cooperation. Our policy is to do what we can to augment our influence in the various ways we interweave with Africa. It’s like a football match: you don’t just run around the field or sit on the reserves’ bench on the sidelines.


Egypt’s relations with Malawi are growing in importance. How would you characterise present relations?
The Egyptian Embassy in Malawi has taken various measures to make sure that much is achieved in terms of partnerships and cooperation between Malawi and Egypt, especially in terms of projects being implemented for the benefit of Malawi. Malawi’s tobacco exports to Egypt have been growing, just one example from the agricultural sector, and there are important cultural exchanges between Malawi and Egypt.

The two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding confirming the desire to work closely with each other, and we believe that Malawi will benefit from Egyptian expertise particularly in tourism and education. Malawi is developing its educational system, but for this to happen we need expertise, and Egypt is assisting Malawi in scholarships and the design of new courses that will give us the training we need for economic development.

Some Malawi diplomats have been trained in Egypt, assisting us in efforts to improve our international relations.

Egypt is also very advanced in the healthcare sector, and there are moves to ensure that Malawi benefits from specialised equipment from Egypt allowing us to build our health sector.

The Egyptian ambassador has praised the level of relations between the two countries.

This praise by the Egyptian ambassador is based on the fact that there is a very good understanding of what Egypt wants to do for Malawi and what Egypt expects from Malawi in return. It’s a relationship of mutual trust, and when there is mutual trust between two countries much can be achieved. Egypt is doing its best to assist Malawi, and there is a responsibility on Malawi’s part to respond to the offers being made. I think the ambassador has realised that in most cases we are doing our best to respond to what needs to be done, and I hope that over time there will be a lot more cooperation to the benefit of both countries.

Is there a triangular relationship between Egypt, Malawi and China in your view?
There is China on one side and the African countries on the other side of the triangle. It is important that China works with the African countries, but there also needs to be close relationships between countries in Africa so we can work together to sustain the support that we are getting from China. If there is a project that can benefit more than one country, it is best to invest in that as it maximises resources. This is better than each country having its own projects and ignoring the others.

As a result, there are projects bringing together China, Egypt and Malawi, as well as China, Egypt and other countries, the idea being to enhance bilateral, trilateral and multilateral relations. It is important for China to be involved because of its financial muscle and technical expertise.

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