Why the Arab-Africa, Saudi-Africa summits are a must attend for Chakwera

By Charles Mponda

If we ask any good engineer about construction, we will be told that a good foundation to a structure determines its strength and durability.

President Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera is set to attend the Arab-Africa Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the Saudi-Africa summit in Egypt and the Afreximbank Intra-African Trade Summit.

Dr Chakwera leaves the country Wednesday, 8th November 2023.

The First Saudi-Africa Summit and the 5th Arab-Africa Summit will be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 10th and 11th November, 2023, while the Afreximbank Intra-African Trade Summit will be held in Cairo, Egypt, on 13th November, 2023.

File photo: President Lazarus Chakwera and Saudi Royal Court Adviser Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Kattan

The Arab-Africa Summit is one of the oldest partnerships of the African Union (AU) and presents an opportunity for the two sides to deliberate on their political, economic and social relations. The summit presents prospects for Africa to collaborate with Arab states, in uplifting the living standards of the African continent and also reach out beyond its jurisdiction in advancing its interests in global affairs.

There are a total of four Arab-Africa summits held since 1977 with the first one held in Cairo, Egypt in 1977; the in Sirte, Libya in 2010; Kuwait in 2013; and Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2016.

The previous meetings signed a number of joint plans of action focusing on several areas of cooperation such as agricultural development and food security; private sector investment; collaboration in the diversification of African and Arab economies mostly in areas of hospitality and tourism, energy; and infrastructural projects.

For Malawi, these many areas of cooperation are aligned to Malawi’s developmental aspirations under MW2063 and its implementation strategy, the Malawi Implementation Plan 1 (MIP 1) 2021-2030 which is anchored on the three Pillars of Agricultural Productivity and Commercialization; Industrialization; and Urbanization.

As said by Minister of Information Moses Kumkuyu, the Summit offers Malawi the best platform to articulate its interest and aspirations.

According to Kunkuyu, President Dr. Chakwera has committed to ake advantage of such global gatherings to advance specific interests for the people of Malawi.

Like in this case among several engagements, the President is expected to witness the signing of the loan agreement between Malawi and the Saudi Fund for Development on the financing of construction of the all important Mangochi/Makanjira Road Project to the tune of Seventy-Five Million (75,000,000) Saudi Riyals (about 20 million US dollars or 22.45 billion Malawi Kwacha).

Secondly, President Dr Chakwera is expected to meet Yasir Bin Othman Al Rumayyan, Chairman of the Saudi Arabia Oil Group (Aramanco) and Maedem Mining and Fertiliser Company.

This meeting is essential for a predominantly agricultural nation like Malawi, as it helps address food shortages and enhance the livelihoods of Malawian farmers.

On the other hand the Afreximbank Summit which will be held in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people with a GDP of over US$3.5 trillion created under the African Continental Free Trade Area.

It is expected that Malawi’s participation at the Fair will facilitate market identification and linkages for Malawian businesses, both corporate companies and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

This is one of the trips whose results cannot be understood today. This could be taken as long-term investment which any worthwhile leader is expected to undertake for the future of the nation.

The President has in the past undertaken different trips whose results are now being seen.

For example, he went to Mozambique for the Inauguration of Rehabilitated, Rehabilitated and Expanded Nacala Port, an undertaking which has now seen Malawi being able to transport 13% of its fuel imports by rail thereby saving on transportation cost.

At the 30th Annual General meeting of the Afreximbank that took place in Ghana, the President was able to secure a US$2.6 billion (about K2.7 trillion) from the Bank, to finance construction of mega farms, industrial parks and special economic zones.

During the 3rd China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo,
President Chakwera secured various financial and technical support including a donation of US$150,000 (K158 million) towards the country’s rebuilding efforts following the aftermath of Cyclone Freddy. The Government also signed a number of MOUs in ICT connection, E-government, smart education, ICT talent training, cybersecurity, renewable energy, and agriculture, among others.

At the 78th United Nations General Assembly
Malawians benefitted from a 100 million US dollars (over 112 billion Kwacha) Educational Loan, and a 46 billion Kwacha for Social Cash Transfer among several opportunities.

While the Smart Africa’s Transform Africa Summit 2022
set Malawi on the path for innovative digital transformation.

Through Malawi’s participation, it is now possible for Malawi Government to engage other governments and enter into a partnership that will accelerate digital innovation in Malawi.

Such partnerships are aimed at reducing cost of connectivity through specially negotiated Diplomatic Data Corridors with countries that have direct access to the fibre optic cables that have landed on their shores.

To this end, Malawi has already signed MOUs and Commercial Agreements with Zambia and Tanzania, and currently negotiating with Mozambique. Other countries that with which such partnership is being planned are South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia.

On paper and to ordinary thinkers these trips could be seen as a waste of resources as has always been the narrative but looking deeper, it is clear that they are among the many foundation stones being put in place to build a better Malawi.