|H.E President Mutharika and First Lady, Madam Mutharika|
Remarks from Malawi Washington Association (MWA) to H.E. President Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi on the occasion of A Meeting with Malawians Resident in the Washington Metro Area.
Delivered by Sitinga Kachipande – President, Malawi Washington Association
Ritz-Carlton Hotel – Georgetown, Washington DC
August 7th, 2014.
Your Excellency, Professor Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi, Your Excellency, Madame Gertrude Mutharika, First lady of the Republic of Malawi,
Honorable Joseph Mwanamveka M.P., Minister of Trade and Industry,
Honorable Atupele Muluzi, M.P., Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mines,
Ambassador Steve Matenje, Ambassador of the Republic of Malawi to the U.S. and distinguished guests,
It is a great honor to welcome you on behalf of the Malawi Washington Association and the Malawi community in the United States. Your Excellency, we are grateful that you were able to take time out of your busy schedule to meet with the Malawian community. Before I proceed, I would like to congratulate you on your election as President to the Republic of Malawi and to wish you success over the next few years. I would also like to congratulate all Malawians for reaching the landmark occasion of fifty years of independence this year.
The number of Malawians living abroad has greatly increased since we first celebrated our independence in 1964. In the early years, Malawians would move abroad and then return home. In this new globalized world, fuelled by improvements in technology and mass transportation, Malawians are settling in greater numbers in countries much further away from Malawi and are making new homes abroad as global citizens. They make up what we now call the Malawian Diaspora.
Malawian Diaspora refers to the dispersal of Malawian peoples and their seeds who are scattered world-wide. We are comprised of men, women, children, Malawian and U.S. citizens and their spouses. The Diaspora here is spread across several locations but we are connected to each other and to Malawi by our common roots – “r-o-o-t-s”.
We are also connected because of our common routes – “r-o-u-t-e-s”. We have travelled the same path as Malawians before us and have a shared future with all Malawians. What happens in Malawi affects us here. Malawi’s influence on the Diaspora can be seen through the clothes we wear, the music we listen to and the food we eat. When there is famine, natural disaster or inflation, it affects us here too. When Malawi sneezes, the diaspora catches a cold…
Similarly, where the Diaspora goes, Malawi goes too. As unofficial representatives of our country the Diaspora helps to create important linkages between Malawi and the U.S. We build networks for skills sharing, project financing and development projects – and we do it for free. I would like to take a moment to highlight that the Malawians in the U.S. also have a track record of producing Malawi’s prominent leaders. John Chilembwe, President Kamuzu Banda and Your Excellency, were all once members of the U.S. Diaspora who returned home to contribute to Malawi.
Perhaps, the Diaspora’s most profound impact on Malawi is in the form of the remittances which tally to an estimated $16 million dollars annually. The funds go towards helping siblings, relatives, and friends start or expand business, pay school tuition, build housing for family or business and to undertake various self-financed projects. The funds ensure household security, alleviate poverty, build infrastructure, and provide emergency relief.
As social networks, we have moved towards more collaborative efforts. We have been mobilizing in formal ways through Malawian associations such as Malawi Washington Association, Malawi Seattle Association, Malawians in Texas Organization and Malawians in the Tri-State Area. A number of Malawian led non-profits and businesses across different sectors have also emerged that aim at either charity, investment, or development. As an example, in the DC area, Malawi Washington Foundation educates Malawian girls and Aspire to Inspire provides vocational training for Malawian youth… and there are other organizations.
The organization that I represent, the Malawi Washington Association or MWA has been working with Malawi in various ways. MWA is a registered non-profit organization founded in 1994. It is the oldest and largest Malawian Diaspora association in the U.S. Over the past twenty years, it has helped to create networks, build partnerships and undertake development projects. To highlight some of our work, MWA raised thousands of dollars for hunger and flood relief. We have worked on smaller projects that have provided assistance to orphans, sent durable medical equipment, books and the like. Locally, we participate in charity walks and organize annual Independence Day celebrations. This year, we collaborated with Malawian organization n community leaders under the umbrella “Malawi Community USA” to organize Malawi’s Golden Jubilee celebrations which were well attended by Malawians across the U.S., friends of Malawi and SADC member embassy representatives. We were also supported by our official representatives here who recognized our efforts of keeping the Diaspora united and engaged with Malawi.
The Diaspora is committed to the growth and success of our nation. We would also like to see Malawi more committed to us. Your Excellency, we were encouraged by your Independence Day message to the Diaspora which acknowledged that we had a role to play in Malawi. We welcome a chance to build stronger partnerships with Malawi and would like to come out of the shadows of Malawi’s development agenda. The majority of Malawians here are academics, small businesspersons, medical and other professionals or laborers who migrated for school or work. Together with other Africans, we make up the most educated immigrant group in the U.S. As an untapped resource, we are already engaged in Malawi, but we would like to be included as an integral part building of our nation in more formal ways.
We welcome opportunities for skills sharing including Diaspora focused programs, internships, fellowships, or Diaspora advisors on boards. We would encourage the creation of an interactive Diaspora portal where policies and procedures back home can be shared with us as well as the active use of social media by government and business where we can get current information. Since we are far away from home, access to information helps us identify areas where we can have greater impact. We would like platforms where we not only receive information, but also where information about our skills, projects and ideas can be shared. Finally, a pressing issue for Diaspora Malawians is the desire to see Malawi’s commitment to the Diaspora expressed through inclusive citizenship laws that recognize and secure our contributions, investments, property and Malawian identities. Dual citizenship has been successfully used as a strategic tool for socio-economic development in India and South Africa and now, nearly half of all African countries. This is helping them engage those that migrated and their offspring and in turn, is facilitating development.
Your Excellency, in spite of our own engagement with our country, The Diaspora still has low and marginal visibility in Malawi. We welcome increased engagement and greater visibility. We encourage our press to recognize and report on our continued contributions so that Malawians back home can see us as partners in the development process.
Malawi is not just a vacation place we visit every 3 years nor a place we abandoned. Malawi, is a place that we here in the Diaspora, call home. We are engaged and committed to the development and prosperity of our nation.