4 February 2014

Liberia: Malawi, Liberia Sign Agreement On Economic & Technical Cooperation

Photo: Travis Lupick/IPS
Malawi President Joyce Banda and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at a women's rights event (file photo)

At the end of a three-day State Visit to Malawi, President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf and her host, President Joyce Banda, witnessed the signing of an Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the two Governments, as a framework for consolidating the existing ties of economic advancement between both countries.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, signed on behalf of the Liberian Government, while the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MP Ephraim Mganda Chiume, signed for the Malawian Government.

According to a dispatch from Lilongwe, under the Agreement, which will form the basis of a Joint Commission for Cooperation, the two Governments will cooperate in a number of areas, including agriculture and livestock; trade, industry and tourism; monetary and financial arrangement; development and utilization of natural resources; health, education, development and utilization of human resources; institutional development; irrigation and water development; gender mainstreaming, women empowerment and children and social welfare; and natural conservation and environmental management.

At the invitation of the President, Dr. Joyce Banda, President Sirleaf paid a three-day State Visit to Malawi from Saturday, February 1, to Monday, February 3, 2014.

At a State Banquet Saturday evening, President Banda said her compatriots were very excited about the Liberia leader's visit to Malawi. "It is with great joy that I welcome you on behalf of the Malawian people, my dear sister. Your visit is historic and memorable because you are the first female President to visit Malawi," President Banda said. She believed the visit signified the strong bond of friendship that exists between the two countries and peoples.

President Banda pointed out that upon taking office nearly two years ago, she chose to visit Liberia first because, during her very difficult political days, President Sirleaf was one person she could speak freely to and had been her role model and mentor for a very long time in her private life, and was her best choice for counsel due to her vast experience in politics, governance and interest in women issues.

In response, President Sirleaf, who was visiting the country for the first time in 20 years, thanked President Banda and the Malawian people for the great welcome received by her delegation, and extended greetings from the Liberian people, particularly the women and children who are dear to the hearts of both Presidents.

Marveling at the changes that have taken place in Malawi, President Sirleaf said, "I see new roads, taller buildings, improved telecommunication, and increased electricity. All this progress is a symbol and signal of a transforming Africa with increased annual growth rate." She said that democratization in Africa is occurring at a higher speed, with the participation of a vibrant civil society.

She applauded President Banda for her courage to rise tall and meet the challenges confronting Malawi, and for overcoming them.

During the visit, the two African leaders held fruitful private bilateral talks aimed at consolidating the relations between the two Governments, and held discussions on many regional and international issues.

On bilateral relations, the two Heads of State expressed appreciation for the excellent ties of friendship and cooperation that exist between their two countries and peoples. They reaffirmed their willingness to further deepen the relations.

President Banda highlighted the fact that President Sirleaf, being the first female President in Africa, has been her role model, mentor and a source of inspiration in the 21 months of her presidency.

She said President Sirleaf paved the way for African women to aspire for high leadership positions in their countries. She also mentioned that she had learned from her counterpart that Africa cannot develop if the African woman is left behind.

On regional issues, the Liberian President congratulated her counterpart for the able manner in which she is steering the agenda of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), in her capacity as current Chairperson of the organization. President Sirleaf particularly commended President Banda for making Malawi proud, with the tribute she made on behalf of SADC, at the burial ceremony of the late former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The two African leaders emphasized the fact that although their countries are distance apart, they have a lot in common, including having female presidents; and being members of the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and the Group of 77 countries (G77). They reiterated their countries' commitment to the peace and security agenda on the continent, and reaffirmed their support for the Ezulwini Consensus that seeks to ensure a meaningful role for Africa in the UN Security Council.

During the visit, President Sirleaf toured pavilions of products mounted by Malawian market women at the Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC). The market women included a group called MWAI Women, an affiliate of the Joyce Banda Foundation, and it is President Banda's initiative to economically and socially empower women.

In her address, President Sirleaf encouraged the market women to work hard in their small-scale businesses in order to uplift the livelihood of their households. She underscored the positive contribution these women are making towards the development of the country.

President Banda, for her part, expressed the intention to replicate, in Malawi, the concept and design of the Liberian markets that are fully equipped with facilities such as crèches, banks, clinics, and appropriate sanitation.

On Sunday, February 2, the Liberian leader launched the Malawian Professional Women's Dialogue at a Breakfast Meeting held at BICC. The event brought together Malawian professional women from public, private, security and business sectors, as well as from civil society organizations. Professional women were afforded an opportunity to dialogue, share, network, and create a common purpose of improving participation of women in different sectors of society.

At that Dialogue, the two Heads of State recommitted themselves to appoint more women in decision-making positions, in line with the 50-50 Gender Protocols of the UN, AU and SADC.

Later in the afternoon, President Sirleaf, accompanied by the host, travelled to Salima for a switch-on ceremony of Kambwiri Malawi Rural Electrification Project (MAREP 7). MAREP is a program aimed at providing electricity to the rural masses.

The Malawi Government embarked upon it, realizing that energy is key to the country's socio-economic development. The two leaders addressed a development rally.

Prior to her departure on Monday, February 3, President Sirleaf delivered a Public Lecture at the BICC and the two Presidents addressed a joint press conference at the same venue.

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