From 22 to 28 March, Flemish Minister for Finance, Budget, Housing and Immovable Heritage, Mr Matthias Diependaele, visited Southern Africa in the framework of Flanders’ cooperation with the region. The Minister first accompanied Their Majesties the King and the Queen of the Belgians on their State Visit to South Africa, before travelling to Malawi and Botswana.
Intense academic relationships with South Africa
Minister Matthias Diependaele was accompanied by a sizeable academic and business delegation from Flanders on the first stop in South Africa, underlining the intense academic cooperation and trade relations with the country. Existing partnerships were further strengthened during the visit by the signing of several new cooperation agreements between Flemish and South African academic institutions. The visit also focused on Flemish investments in South Africa, the social economy, human rights, social entrepreneurship and new collaborations, such as the one between VITO and CSIR on the subject of innovative solutions for the storage of renewable energy.
Minister Diependaele's visit to South Africa built on the earlier visit by Minister-President Jambon to the country in April 2022 with the objective of consolidating cooperation between Flanders and South Africa in areas including sustainable energy transition, and academic and economic cooperation.
Support to Malawi’s development
In Malawi, Matthias Diependaele met with President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nancy Tembo and Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale, amongst others, to discuss the new programme for international cooperation between Flanders and Malawi. He also visited successful Flanders-supported projects implemented by Farm Radio Trust, Ziweto Enterprises Limited and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
Flanders remains committed to its cooperation with Malawi, which remains one of the least developed countries in the world, and where the impact of climate change is severe. The new country strategy paper 2024-2028 will therefore focus on urban development, commercialisation of agriculture and climate-smart agriculture.
During his visit, Minister Diependaele announced Flanders’ support to the emergency relief response to Cyclone Freddy which hit Malawi mid March. This support will be channelled through EUR 200 000 earmarked for the relief activities of Red Cross Flanders, which works closely with the Red Cross Society of Malawi.
Botswana: a focus on digitalisation, innovation and renewable energy
Minister Diependaele concluded his visit in Botswana, where he met with the President of Botswana, HE Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, as well as with several Cabinet Ministers, including Minister for State President and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Kabo N. Morwaeng, Minister of Trade and Industry Mmusi Kgafela and Minister of Minerals and Energy Lefoko Moagi. As one of the outcomes of the meetings, the Excellencies agreed to give a new impetus to the 2017 Memorandum of Understanding between Flanders and Botswana, diversifying the cooperation and exploring new sectors, such as digitalisation, research and innovation, renewable energy and the green economy.