On its web-site the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) describes itself as “… the national civil society network coordinating, supporting and representing the people-to-people links between our two nations.” As the afternoon unfolded it became clear that the organisation plays an exceptional role, now representing 109,000 Scots with active links to Malawi and with over 1000 member organisations and key individuals, one of which is the University of Glasgow.
The afternoon opened with Malawian Mzuzu coffee in the Marketplace, where many organisations involved with the SMP had stalls. This included the ‘Handbags for Malawi’ stall under the control of our good friend Alex Mackay from the Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology.
Also for sale were the new SMP shirts so I splashed out on three to take with me on the next visit to Malawi in November.
The presentations were all delivered in the Union Building’s Debating Chamber, also the venue for the annual Glasgow Dental Student Society Christmas Pantomime!
The event was opened by David Hope-Jones, Chief Executive of the SMP, who started by acknowledging the support of the University of Glasgow which had provided the venue free of charge. Professor Dan Haydon’s input was gratefully acknowledged and Professor Paul Garside accepted a gift on behalf of the University from the SMP.
After introductions of the SMP staff members, there was a live link to the partner organisation MASP (Malawi Scotland Partnership) in Malawi.
This section incorporated an interesting discussion with Mphatso Sapangwa, the MASP Finance & Admin Officer, who had travelled from Malawi to join us in Glasgow.
The next section was chaired by Ken Ross, Chairman of the SMP, and focused on sustainability in international development. The four extremely interesting case studies contained many important learning points for the MalDent Project.
Webster Kameme spoke about Financial Sustainability, Institutional Sustainability and Programmatic Sustainability, all of which are essential for success, and themes which were evident in each of the very enlightening presentations in this section.
Following the session on sustainability it was time for a coffee break, back in the Marketplace.
After the coffee break, which was an excellent opportunity for networking, we were welcomed back to the Debating Chamber by a Malawian musical warm-up, courtesy of Davie Luhanga – an extremely lively performance with loud audience participation.
This was followed by a report on the recent Malawi-Scotland Conference in Lilongwe by the Chairman of the SMP, Ken Ross. This had been a high level meeting with a large number of delegates and clearly showed the massive progress that has been made in the wide variety of partnerships that now exists between the two countries. However, the keynote lecture at that meeting had highlighted that 71% of Malawians are still living in extreme poverty, so much remains to be done.
The Scottish Government Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, Ben Macpherson MSP, gave a superb presentation based on his recent visit to Malawi, including attendance at the Malawi-Scotland Conference.
There was next a focus on the newly recruited SMP Youth Committee, which was given an opportunity to ask questions of the Minister, some of which were very searching. In response to one of the questions, Ben Macpherson included the statement “As we evolve our partnerships we do so in empathy and not in sympathy”, a sentiment that permeated the afternoon’s proceedings.
Presentations followed from Patrick Grady MP, Chair of the Malawi All-Party Parliamentary Group and Alexander Stewart MSP, Co-Convener of the Malawi Cross Party Group.
The event closed with presentations of a variety of prizes for video films produced by individual project groups and the core business of the AGM including adoption of the 2017/18 accounts.
Sadly I had to leave at this point to attend another event, missing out on the Malawian G&T’s that were available back in the Marketplace to close the event. Nevertheless, this had been a tremendous afternoon, reflecting the energy and vitality of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership and the breadth of collaborative working that is underway.
What a fantastic context and environment for the MalDent Project!