Friday, May 7, 2010

Prof. Mutharika says Africa can export food

Malawi President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika greeting the African ambassadors after the meeting. Pic by Samuel Makaka.

By Samuel Makaka in Shanghai, China

Malawi State President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika has once again delivered an emotionally charged speech telling African ambassadors based in the Peoples Republic of China that they have a critical role to play so that Africa does not only become food sufficient but also a net exporter for the whole world.

The Malawian leader was speaking in the Chinese commercial capital, Shanghai, where he convened a meeting for all African ambassadors based in the country.

“Africa is not as poor as we are meant to believe. It is important that we change this mindset.

The industrial revolution in Europe is based on resources from Africa and these include food, timber, meat, cotton, coffee and many more raw materials. We have the resources, what we need is to develop scientists, industrialists and technology to transform our natural resources and create wealth,” Professor Mutharika told the ambassadors.

He explained that when he was elected chairperson for the African Union (AU) he made a proposal to fellow African heads of state and governments to make a resolution that within the next five years, Africa must be able to feed itself because most of the problems on the continent come from the fact that Africa has not been able to feed herself.

President Mutharika reminded the ambassadors that in the 60s, Africa was exporting food to the world but it was ill advised to diversify its products by venturing into other agricultural productions like coffee, tea, cotton. He said while Africa was busy producing these raw materials for western industries, food production stopped and Africa became a hungry continent.

He told the gathering that it is possible to turn this mindset around: “Africa can feed itself within the next 5 years.”

Professor Mutharika argued that if a tiny country like Malawi has been able to make it what can stop other countries in Africa to achieve the same.

He then disclosed that alongside food production, there are also other elements to be considered and he cited transport and communication, energy, and environmental impact studies and climate change amongst the important areas of focus.

“Food processing needs adequate energy, and we need good transport infrastructure to transport food from food sufficient areas to where it is needed, where there have been draughts for example. We need highways from one country to another so that one is able to drive from Harare to Nigeria without problems and our immigration rules need also to be simplified because we cannot talk of African Union when one can hardly travel from his country to the next neighbour because of tough immigration laws,” he explained.

He also told them that Africa needs to harness its power so that national grids are linked to regional grids and regional grids go into continental grid so that a man in Uganda can use electricity without knowing that the power is from Mozambique.

“We also need ICT so that we develop data banks to record who eats and produce what. If Malawi is able to easily produce rice but doesn’t need, it must produce abundantly and transport where it is needed,” he stressed to the ambassadors.

President Mutharika then appealed to the ambassadors to work together, fight for priorities as a continent and not as individual countries.

He called upon them to be proud Africans.

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation representative in China, Korea and Mongolia, Victoria Sekitoleko praised Malawians for electing a good and wise man in Ngwazi Professor Mutharika which she said is not often common in Africa.

“In Africa, it is not common that good men win elections, so Malawians must be praised for electing a good and wise man in the name of President Mutharika,” she told this reporter after the meeting.

During the meeting, Sekitoleko, an African appealed to President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika to encourage fellow African heads of state and government to see China as a true friend indeed and work along with it.

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