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Speech at a dinner in honour of the President of the Republic of Malawi, Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika

Bundespräsident Christian Wulff, Schloss Bellevue Schloss Bellevue, 2. September 2010 Bundespräsident Christian Wulff, Schloss Bellevue © Gero Breloer

It is a special honour and pleasure for me to welcome you to Schloss Bellevue as the first official guest during my term in office. For me this is an important sign of continuity - my pre­decessor, who is with us today and to whom I extend a particu­larly warm welcome, succeeded in lending Germany's relations with our neighbouring continent of Africa a new quality. Mr President, you are also here today in your capacity as Chair­man of the African Union. This shows that Germany remains strongly committed to Africa.

The last state visit from Malawi took place almost thirty years ago. However, this long period gives a false impression of the con­tinuity of our contacts - in fact Germany is the only European country apart from the United Kingdom to have had an ambassador in Malawi since it gained independence. Our political cooperation is based on trust. Following the recent intergovern­mental consultations last year Germany doubled its development cooperation funding to Malawi. Germany stands by its partners.

Contacts between our countries' citizens also have a long history, for example the town-twinning arrangement between Blantyre and Hanover, which began as early as 1968. German and Malawian scientists have long cooperated closely in researching the origins of mankind with the aid of fossils. I'm delighted that the newly-established German Malawi Association will be a point of contact for all interested citizens.

Mr President, you have brought with you a high-level delegation with the aim of also intensifying our business cooperation. That is something I greatly welcome - for several years now Malawi has enjoyed high rates of growth. I want to encourage German business to continue examining how it can share to an even greater extent in that growth. In a recent poll the German-African Business Association found that German business interest is high, also and particularly regarding the smaller African economies. This is not just due to economic factors - Malawi is highly regarded by German busi­ness not least because of its independent judiciary and respect for freedom of opinion.

Economic, social and political development go hand in hand. Respect for human rights is the essential basis for all of these. Mr President, you personally experienced the suffering which authoritarian regimes can bring to entire families. That personal history has prompted you to commit yourself wholeheartedly to respect for human rights, to freedom and to the guaranteeing of democratic principles.

During a recent case in which two young men were threatened with imprisonment under a tough criminal law dating from the British colonial period, you pardoned them and, in the face of domestic political resistance, placed the protection and freedom of all Malawians at the forefront. That was an important and cour­ageous decision, and it deserves our deep respect.

Former Chancellor Willy Brandt once said that while people with enough to eat aren't necessarily free, hungry people certainly aren't. In 2009, according to the FAO, the number of under­nourished or starving people worldwide rose to over one billion. However, today almost no-one has to suffer from hunger in Malawi. In 2005 your country still needed food aid from abroad - now it produces agricultural surpluses. This is a success of which you can be proud, Mr President, and for which you were awarded the FAO's highest distinction.

Your policies have focused on small-scale farmers from the very beginning. They were able to buy fertilizer and seed with state-subsidized vouchers. Not all donor countries liked this programme, but you have been proved right. The programme demonstrates firstly that the fight against starvation can be won, and secondly that African problems need African solutions. While the donors have a major role in the implementation, the impetus must come from Africa itself.

So it is only logical that you will bring your experience in this field to bear in your position as Chairman of the African Union. I am very impressed by your proposal for an African Compact on Food Security involving AU and donor-country representatives. We should enter into an intensive dialogue on how to feed the 21st century's growing population in the face of climate change. Malawi, "the warm heart of Africa", is an important partner for Germany in that dialogue. I'm pleased to be able to say that today.

Ladies and gentlemen, Now I invite you to join me in a toast to the health of President Mutharika and his wife, to the well-being of the Malawian people and to the friendship between Malawi and Germany.

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