If you have not visited Malawi before, then now is the time. That was the message from the president of the African nation during his visit to Edinburgh today.
Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika addressed an audience of 150 guests at the City Chambers to mark the historic civic ties between his country and Scotland.
The event, hosted by the Scotland-Malawi Partnership (SMP), was attended by members of the Malawian diaspora and some of the many Scots with links to the country.
Prof. Mutharika spoke of recent progress being made in the country, which is ranked as one of the least developed in the world, and his commitment to investing in infrastructure improvements.
“Our economy is beginning to recover. If you come back, you will find a new Malawi,” he said. “If you have not been to Malawi, it is time you paid a visit.
“We want you to be part of our story.”
The friendship between Scots and Malawians stretches back to 1859 with the warm welcome extended to Dr David Livingstone and his companions when he entered what is now Malawi.
The Church of Scotland has retained a strong influence in the country in south-eastern Africa ever since, with Prof. Mutharika among the many Malawians who have attended a Kirk-run school.
His visit coincided with the publication of a study by the University of Edinburgh which found more Scots than ever before have active links with Malawi.
The report added there are now 109,000 Scots actively involved with Malawi links - an increase of 16 per cent since 2014. It also found that SMP members now contribute more than £49 million in financial and in-kind inputs to their Malawi links, up 24 per cent in the last four years.
David Hope-Jones, SMP chief executive, said: “We are delighted to welcome the president and show him first-hand the energy, expertise and enthusiasm in Scotland’s friendship with Malawi. It is wonderful to see this latest report confirming that more Scots than ever before are engaged in a Malawi link.
“This is a dignified two-way partnership, defined by partnership and not one-way charity. We continue to be inspired by the impact this nation-to-nation and people-to-people partnership continues to have.”
Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government’s external affairs secretary, said: “Scotland and Malawi have long-standing ties of friendship and shared history, and it is our pleasure to welcome the President and First Lady to Scotland.
“The engagement with and between civil society in both our countries has been a key factor in the breadth and depth of our relationship, and I am delighted therefore that this has been included as part of the visit programme.”