The Scottish Parliament held a debate to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the signing of the cooperation agreement with Malawi. The agreement, delivered by then First Minister Jack McConnell, was signed in November 2005 and linked two countries and 17 million people together.
The co-operation agreement was also the first step towards the Scottish Government’s international development fund, which has led to many positive successes around the world.
At the time of the partnership agreement, Malawi was one of the poorest countries in the world. Its income per person was $160 per year, and despite having a population and land area more than double that of Scotland’s its economy was little more than 1 per cent of ours. At the time Falkirk’s local economy was twice the size of Malawi’s.
The country was suffering one of the worst HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world’ life expectancy had fallen from 45 to 37 years, and the number of orphans in Malawi numbered the entire population of Edinburgh.
Since the agreement 150 schools, 15 local authorities, all of Scotland’s universitites, most colleges and hundreds of NGOs, businesses, charities and ambassadors throughout Scotland has engaged with Malawi.
This includes a large number of partnerships within Mid Scotland and Fife. Fife Council was linked with team Malawi in the Glasgow Commonwealth games, and Fife College has a number of links to the country.
Local schools such as Kirkcaldy High and Burntisland Primary are linking pupils in Scotland with Malawi, informing and inspiring future generations in both countries. St Kenneth’s parish church has links with villages in the north of Malawi and is helping to build infrastructure, fresh-water boreholes, schools and sustainable income-generating projects to help to lift people out of poverty.
We now must look at the future of the next 10 years of the agreement and the 10 after that. The work and progress already achieved in health and education is to be celebrated but more can still be done to help boost the country’s fragile economy.
The co-operation agreement is a success story that the Parliament should be proud of. The past 10 years are an example to other nations and an example that we must continue. If we can assist in any way towards a sustainable economy, we will have laid the building blocks of a stable and, I hope, peaceful and prosperous country.
You can watch the debate below or read my speech in the official report here.