Ever since David Livingstone’s day different groups of Scots have had their different interests in Malawi.
- First came the missionaries, and with them
- the Moir brothers, the traders.
- Later the British Government ruled the country till after various twists and turns it became a small Independent State.
The successors of all these groups maintain their concern for Malawi today, but the country itself has changed in many ways, and so have those with an interest.
- Strong indigenous churches have grown up with local leadership -- Presbyterian, Catholic and Anglican. There is an indigenous Muslim presence and there are other religious groups. All of these have close ties with external partners.
- So do the traders who have become international corporations, exporting tobacco and tea, and providing all Malawi’s imports.
And the UK government maintains its diplomatic and aid links with Malawi’s Government.
Obstacles to Development
Despite its independence Malawi has not escaped the fate of almost every other country in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The population has doubled since 1980, and since most families are still dependent on subsistence agriculture there is now acute land hunger.
- All the fuel oil for its transport needs has to be imported, as has fertiliser made from oil.
- Since the 1970s the dramatic increase in oil prices coupled with poor prices for exports have prevented the country balancing its budget and have driven it further and further into debt.
- Recent poor rainfalls mean that the country can no longer grow enough maize to feed itself, and the shortfall must be purchased from abroad.
- 14% of the adult population now live with HIV & AIDS, and there are half a million AIDS orphans.
The analytical Services Division of the Scottish Executive has recently produced an excellent six-page Economic Brief on Malawi.
It can be found here.
- Recognising these changes for the worse, many of the major inter-national aid agencies have now added Malawi to the list of those countries with which they are willing to develop aid programmes. They and their Scottish supporters are now major players on the scene.
- Individual reports of the present situation of real human need filtering back to Scotland through the development of email, increased possibilities for ‘volunteering’ and personal visits, have led to many other groups of Scots wanting to provide ‘help’, often in quite small ways – “person to person”.
Strathclyde University’s Millennium Project
This Project was one of these. Through its good work it gained the support of the Lord Provosts of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Glasgow’s Lord Provost has already visited Malawi, and Edinburgh’s Lord Provost will visit later this year.
However Dr Peter West and his colleagues at Strathclyde University realised some time ago that no body was offering any co-ordination to the myriad of Scottish groups developing links with Malawi. Co-operating with Dr Ken Ross of the Church of Scotland and others they devised the ‘Scotland -- Malawi Partnership’, designed to do just this.