By Sarah Munthali in Sochi, Russia
Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika has asked Russia to take lead in making meaningful investments in African countries including Malawi and take them as development partners and not targets for exploitation.
Mutharika was speaking Thursday in Sochi, Russia when he addressed a plenary session of the first ever Russia-Africa Summit.
He said Malawi and other African countries are endowed with rich natural resources such as minerals, lakes, rivers and mountains which form great investment potential.
Mutharika, therefore, said time had come “for Russia to do what history has failed. Time has come to set Africa on a “new economic balance of scales and give African people the dignity they deserve.
“We must bring to an end Africa’s history of exploitation. Africa can best contribute to the world if we create good conditions of production.
“We cannot trade with the world if we do not produce goods. Therefore, Africa must industrialise,” he said.
Mutharika further said countries such as Russia must look to Africa as a production point of the world.
“We have sufficient land and mineral resources, water bodies and labour forces of 1.2 billion people.
“Our labour force shall be your labour force and our markets shall be your markets as one way for us to create jobs for all our people,” he said.
Mutharika told the over 40 Heads of State and Governments and other business gurus that Malawi’s vision is to move from being a consuming and importing nation, to a production and exporting country.
“Malawi is on the road to industrialisation. This is a strategy that Russia has tried and prevailed.
“In order to make Malawi a producing and exporting country, we focus on agriculture, industrialisation, energy, ICT infrastructure, mining, among other sectors,” he said.
He said the sectors are priority areas outlined in Malawi’s Growth and Development Strategy.
Mutharika, therefore, invited Russian institutions to finance the Malawi’s priority sectors to the benefit of both countries.
“Let us also invite Russian investors in Agriculture and agro-processing, ICT infrastructure, transport, energy, security, mining, financial services, tourism, education, health and manufacturing.
“Together we can go far together we can achieve more,” he said.
Speaking when he opened the summit on Wednesday, Putin pledged different forms of support to African countries.
He told the African leaders that, currently, Russia exports to Africa US$25 billion (over MK18 trillion) worth of food.
“This is more than what the country exports in arms which is US$15 billion [about MK11 trillion].
“In the next four to five years, we should be able to double this trade,” Putin said.
In addition to military and security cooperation with Africa, Putin pledged Russian commitment to combat the Ebola virus with aid, and increase the number of African students to Russian universities among other things.
President Mutharika is accompanied by Minister of Finance Joseph Mwanamvekha, Minister of Foreign affairs Francis Kasaila and Minister of Trade Salim Bagus.