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Message from the Chief Representative

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Welcome to the web page of JICA Malawi Office. My name is WADA Yoshikazu, appointed as Chief Representative of JICA Malawi office with effect from July 1st, 2020.

Currently, as the whole world is affected by Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), Malawi is also fighting against the spread of the infection by taking various measures. Here on the greeting page, let me give a brief introduction of Malawi, its development challenges and an overview of JICA's cooperation under such difficult circumstances.

Malawi is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, surrounded by Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. Her land area is about two-thirds of Japan's Honshu (the main island of Japan) and has a population of about 18 million people. Nearly 80% of the population lives in rural areas where it is engaged in agriculture which is the major economic activity of the country. The staple food called Nsima, which is made from maize (corn) flour. Since her independence in 1964, Malawi has had no major internal conflict or civil unrest. It is popularly called the "Warm Heart of Africa" where peace-loving people live.

There are some world rankings and some of the best in the African continent worthy mentioning.

Firstly, Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and the 9th largest in the world. It is about 45 times as big as the area of Lake Biwa, the biggest lake in Japan. In addition to the size, it's depth of 706m puts it as the sixth deepest lake in the world. Lake Malawi National Park was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is the largest tourist attraction in Malawi.

Secondly, Mulanje Mountain, located in southern Malawi with an altitude of 3,002m, is one of the highest mountains in Southern Africa. When visibility is good, the Indian Ocean can be seen in the neighboring country of Mozambique.

Thirdly, the country's GNI per capita is US$360, making it statistically one of the poorest countries in the world with 189th place out of 190 countries (World Bank 2018).

Malawi is attractive for its nature including wildlife and its warm hearted people, but it faces the challenge of being one of the poorest country.

Firstly, the spread of new coronavirus infection is a major concern at present. After WHO declared it a pandemic, the Government of Malawi declared the State of National Disaster on March 20, strengthening border restrictions and closing schools nationwide. The international airports were closed on April 1. The first covid-19 infected person was confirmed on April 2. Afterwards the numbers have been increasing, exceeding 100 in late May and reaching more than 1,000 in late June. Malawi's medical system is vulnerable, and there are fears of rapid spread of infections in future. Due to such difficult circumstances, the country will experience economic stagnation and loss of opportunities for students to learn at school thereby creating great concern on the future development of this country.

Secondly, there was fresh presidential election in June 2020. During the general elections that were held in May 2019, the then President, Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika, was re-elected, but immediately after the results were announced, opposition parties and civil society groups started to protest claiming that the election was riddled with fraud. Following a Constitutional Court's ruling in February 2020, a fresh presidential election was held on June 23. The leader of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, won. From now on, great attention is going to be paid to how the new leader is going to steer the nation after a period of political uncertainty that lasted about a year.

Thirdly, national development is a challenge. Among the major indicators, Malawi ranks 172 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. In terms of daily life, more than 40% of people take 30 minutes or more to get to a source of drinking water, and only 50% have access to improved toilets. In addition, paved roads are less than 30% of the road network in the country. This severely restricts movement during the rainy season. Electrification rate of the entire country is about 10%, in other words 90% of the people live without power supply. For the country to develop, there is an urgent need to promote industrial and economic sectors, while promoting infrastructure development which would be the base for socio-economic activities.

With the above-mentioned issues, Japan as a close friend though physically very far, has been working closely together with the people of Malawi for a long time.

One of the symbolic examples of Malawi-Japan ties is Japan's support in the construction of the country's gateway (Kamuzu International Airport-KIA) through a Yen loan scheme in the 1970s. At the time the country gained its independence, the capital city was in Zomba, a highland city in the southern region. In 1975, when it was decided to transfer it to Lilongwe there was an urgent need to have an international airport as an entry point into the country. This led to the construction of KIA which was opened in 1983. Since then, Japan has been cooperating in the development of airport operating equipment and the training of human resources for air traffic controllers. Recently, in anticipation for an increase in the number of passengers in the future, a project for the Expansion of the Terminal Building was implemented using a Japanese grant aid scheme. The existing structure has been remodeled for the first time in about 35 years.

Apart from cooperation activities in infrastructure development, there has been cooperation through human exchange. This began with the dispatch of members of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) in 1971. To-date, a cumulative total of more than 1,800 members who work closely with Malawians in social and economic development sectors at grassroots level have been developing close friendship of two countries. For instance, in the field of education, JICA has been dispatching teachers in science and mathematics fields for a long time. As a matter of fact, many people have fond memories of JOCV members who taught them physics and mathematics during their school days. In a reciprocal gesture to such interaction with Japanese volunteers in Malawi, a total of 3,000 Malawians have participated in various training courses organized by JICA and have visited Japan and third countries. Relationships through long-term interaction with people have laid the foundation for nation building in Malawi and trust in Japan.

Let me take this opportunity to wish Malawians who are currently in Japan pursuing different studies a very enjoyable stay and I request them to strengthen ties with the Japanese.

In September 2015, the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the United Nations Summit and all countries are working hard to achieve development that leaves no one behind. In line with this, JICA will pursue human security, based on the trust it has cultivated, and support with emphasis on the development of agriculture, human resource development including science and mathematics education and the development of social infrastructure.

In order to further solidify our trust, although we are experiencing difficulties in a corona-wrecked environment, JICA as an execution agency of Japanese ODA would like to continue working closely together to create a better tomorrow for Malawi and Japan. As I finish the greetings, I would like to humbly ask for your continued understanding and untiring support for development cooperation efforts of JICA in Malawi.

Until the difficult circumstances of COVID-19 come to an end, please stay safe.

WADA Yoshikazu
Chief Representative,
JICA Malawi

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