SMP Annual Gathering, AGM & a (very Malawian!) St Andrew’s Day celebration

UK time 14:00 – 19:30
Location Edinburgh City Chambers

The Scotland Malawi Partnership was delighted to host its 2022 Annual Gathering and AGM on Saturday 26th November in the Edinburgh City Chambers, with the Association of Malawians in Scotland.

It was a sell-out event: an inspiring, interactive and impactful afternoon discussing the next chapter of the bilateral partnership. For the first time in three years, all the key individuals involved in Scotland’s longstanding friendship with Malawi were able to come together in person.

The SMP was thrilled to work closely with friends in the diaspora community on this event, including the Association of Malawians in Scotland.

It was not just an afternoon of speeches and fine words: rather, it was members’ essential opportunity to have their voice heard, make new contacts, take part in vibrant discussions, and share their learning, as well as benefit from others’. At this critical juncture in the development of Scotland’s approach to international development, we wanted to bring members together to discuss the really key questions of the day, to help inform and drive the next chapter.

With the Association of Malawians in Scotland, we had a (very Malawian!) St Andrews Days celebration in the early evening, with the very best of Malawian music, food, drink and dance. A free bus service from Glasgow was provided specifically to support members of the diaspora to attend.

Read the draft minutes from the event here. These will be formally approved by members at the 2023 AGM.

The highlights reel!
Jack wide
Lord Jack McConnell at the SMP's Annual Gathering and AGM, 2022.
Dr Ann Phoya at the SMP's Annual Gathering and AGM, 2022.
Stella Masangano MaSP CEO at the SMP's Annual Gathering and AGM, 2022.
Prof Heather Cubie SMP Chair, at the SMP's Annual Gathering and AGM, 2022.
Caroline Fawcett at the SMP's Annual Gathering and AGM, 2022.
Rachel wide
Rachel, SMP Youth Committee, at the SMP's Annual Gathering and AGM, 2022.
Fiona Anderson at the SMP's Annual Gathering and AGM, 2022.


Angus Robertson MSP addresses SMP AGM 2022.

We were delighted to hear this pre-recorded message from Angus Robertson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Scottish Government. Click to watch.

Read speech in full here

We were delighted to have some brilliant speakers throughout the afternoon, including:

  • Lord Jack McConnell, Former First Minister
  • Angus Robertson MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Scottish Government
  • Hon. Vera Kamtukule, Malawi Minister of Labour, Government of Malawi
  • Rory Stewart, President of GiveDirectly, former Secretary of State for International Development, and UK’s leading podcaster
  • Habiba Osman, CEO Human Rights Commission
  • Dr Ann Phoya, Malawi Scotland Partnership, Chair
  • Stella Masango, Malawi Scotland Partnership, CEO
  • Maggie Banda, Women's Legal Resource Centre
  • Gertrude Chirambo, President Malawi women councilors at Malawi Local Government Association
  • Gertrude Kadzuwa, Widows Opportunity
  • Seth Stover and Cecilia Mkondiwa, TideRise
  • Mick James, Padziwe
  • Tamsin Lillie, Medic to Medic
  • Madeline Osborn, Scotland Malawi Mental Health Project


Our (Very Malawian!) St Andrews evening was a celebration of all things Malawian and Scottish, with Malawian Mandazi and Scottish Haggis, Malawian drums and Scottish Bagpipes, and of course some Malawian Gin and Tonics! We were delighted to have some brilliant performers, including:

  • Davie Luhanga, aka ‘Street Rat’
  • Nat Chalamanda and the Moyenda Band
  • Gertrude Kadzuwa, Poet
  • Louis Macmillan, bagpipes
  • Themba Bamusi

'World Cafe' discussion groups

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Following a type of ‘World Café’ format, all of those attending were able to attend two of the below interactive discussion groups. Click the section to read the provocation and questions discussed. We will update this page with a summary of some of the key points from this discussion shortly.

Global citizenship: what does this mean for you, in practice?

“Global citizenship” has become a popular phrase of late, seemingly underpinning a number of areas of policy. It’s therefore useful to discuss what we mean by the term, especially in terms of the Scotland-Malawi relationship.

The UN says: “Global citizenship is the umbrella term for social, political, environmental, and economic actions of globally minded individuals and communities on a worldwide scale. The term can refer to the belief that individuals are members of multiple, diverse, local and non-local networks rather than single actors affecting isolated societies. Promoting global citizenship in sustainable development will allow individuals to embrace their social responsibility to act for the benefit of all societies, not just their own.”

Questions discussed included:

  • What does “Global citizenship”, as a concept, mean for you?
  • Is there a danger the term is too loosely defined or understood?
  • How does it relate to the Scotland-Malawi relationship?
  • How should the SMP be understanding and engaging “Global citizenship”, ensuring we are always working within our core values and delivering real, tangible impact?

Malawi leadership: how do we ensure that it is Malawi that is setting the agenda?

It’s easy to talk about equal partnerships and Malawi leadership but all too often power and decision-making remains at the Scottish side of partnerships, as often this is where there is funding. Malawi has brilliant, inspiring leaders but, too often, structural injustices, social and cultural norms, and money can all conspire to make it harder for Malawi to have its voice heard at key moments. This can be true in high-level head of state negotiations, like COP27, as much as in small community partnerships.

Questions discussed included:

  • If a partnership is focused on fighting poverty and building human rights in Malawi, should it be an equal partnership, or should leadership be weighted at the Malawian side (where the project is located) or the Scottish side (presuming this is where most funds come from).
  • What have you seen that has worked well to support strong Malawi leadership, and what hasn’t.
  • What more could we do as a community, and the SMP as a coordinating hub, to support genuine Malawi leadership.

What does the cost-of-living crisis in Scotland and Malawi mean for our work together?

Both Scotland and Malawi are suffering uniquely testing times, with increasing costs and shrinking economies. As always, these challenges hit the poorest hardest, in both countries. In Malawi, the situation is compounded by a chronic lack of foreign exchange (Forex), meaning otherwise viable businesses are closing down for lack of Forex; in Scotland, the cost of heating as we go into winter is a major consideration for many.

Questions discussed included:

  • What are the practical impacts of the cost-of-living crisis in both nations, and on the bilateral relationship
  • Has your own link with Malawi suffered as a result?
  • Are these issues compounded by the legacy of Covid?
  • How should the SMP and its members respond to the pressures and changing priorities of this difficult economic context?

Scotland-Malawi governance strengthening: the next chapter?

Governance underpins all aspects of our work in the bilateral relationship. Without good governance no amount of good work in education, health or welfare will have a sustainable impact. Yet it is often the hardest area to make real progress. Both the Malawian and Scottish Governments have made strong commitments to good governance and both have been criticised at times (in different ways) for what some see as governance shortcomings. Governance is not just for governments but for all organisations, including our own. The SMP sponsored a major new 400-page book in 2021/22, co-written by 25 leading Malawian experts, called ‘Beyond Impunity: New Directions for Governance in Malawi’ and hosted a series of eight webinars for the authors to present their chapters, facilitating a discussion between Scotland and Malawi in each of these areas.

Questions discussed included:

  • What do you think are the governance priorities, in both Malawi and Scotland, at present?
  • Do you think the SMP and MaSP’s work on governance to date has been useful?
  • What next do we do together to support good governance, at every level, in genuinely practical and impactful ways?
  • What tone should the SMP look to take when talking about governance, to ensure it is not patriarchal or patronising?

Is it right to travel to Malawi if we’re serious about fighting the climate crisis?

We talk of a people-to-people friendship between our two nations and few would argue with the fact that physically visiting one another and meeting face-to-face has been an essential part of this. But the climate crisis has taught us the environmental impact of long-haul air travel and Covid-related travel suspension has shown us different ways of working together, digitally. Some report that Scots not physically being present in Malawi, and rather working together digitally, has been empowering for the leaders and communities in Malawi, disrupting often unseen power relationships.

Questions discussed included:

  • To what extent is Scotland-Malawi travel acceptable, now we know the climate impact this has – most especially in Malawi?
  • To what extent can digital alternatives avoid the need for international travel?
  • Should there be equal weighting in a partnership to reciprocal visits, or more support for Scots to visit Malawi, or vice versa?
  • What aspects of bilateral travel can never be digitally replaced?
  • Is it fair for the current generation of decision-makers, who have become engaged and inspired in internationalism through many years of international travel, to decide it is wrong for future generations to have the same opportunities?
  • What advice and support should the SMP be giving in this space?

How do we further strengthen the relationship between the SMP and Malawi diaspora communities?

Diaspora communities (both Malawians resident in Scotland and Scots resident in Malawi) are an integral and essential element of the bilateral relationship, as they have an invaluable depth of understanding of both our cultures. Diaspora engagement is a key priority for the SMP. The SMP has always had diaspora leadership on its Board and Committees, and has greatly benefitted from this. As a network it has looked to reach out to diaspora communities but we recognise this has not always worked and there have often been frustrations, misunderstandings and a sense of not being included in the right ways. Our sister network, MaSP, has had similar challenges with the Scottish diaspora community in Malawi at times.

Questions discussed included:

  • What do you think are some of the causes of the frustration, misunderstandings and the sense of exclusion in diaspora communities in both nations?
  • It seems at least some the frustration has come from genuine misunderstandings as well as not listening well enough to each other: how can we fix this?
  • What practical steps should the SMP and MaSP take to better reach out to diaspora communities and to welcome, encourage and support engagement?
  • What more could diaspora communities do to actively engage the SMP and MaSP, should they wish?

How should we engage the UK Government in the post-DFID, post-0.7% era?

For some time now, the UK Government has seemed to be moving away from its commitments to international development. DFID has been merged into the FCO and promises made to the SMP and the electorate that the UK would continue to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance, have been broken. The reduction to 0.5% GNI has hit countries like Malawi disproportionately hard, as the UK’s definition of ODA has been loosened, meaning most UK aid now never leaves the UK, instead being spent supporting refugees here, etc. The SMP continues to have excellent relationships with the committed and effective FCDO staff in Malawi and, although much reduced, the UK’s aid commitment in Malawi is still significant and impactful. Generally, attempts to engage UK Government Ministers have not born fruit in recent years, with two notable exceptions: the Scotland Office continues to seem interested to engage and represented the SMP, and the current UK Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, is genuinely passionate and committed about international development (but, again, neither of these two have actually born any fruit yet).

Questions discussed included:

  • How should the SMP engage the UK Government at this time?
  • Specifically, how should the SMP use the potential opportunities of:
    • The Scotland Office’s stated desire to represent the Scottish third sector within the UK Government?
    • Andrew Michell’s appointment as UK Minister for Development and Africa?
    • The SMP’s role as the secretariat for the UK Parliament’s Malawi All Party Parliamentary Group?
    • Its strong relationship with the FCDO officials in Malawi, including the British High Commissioner?
  • How should the SMP ensure it retains its party political neutrality, and should it continue its neutrality on the question of Scottish independence?

How should we engage the Scottish Government in supporting its new International Development strategy?

Following an extensive consultation, in December 2016 the Scottish Government (SG) published its Global Citizenship: Scotland's International Development Strategy. In light of Covid, understandably, the SG reviewed this strategy in 2020-21, publishing a set of guiding international development principles and a policy refresh in March 2021. The SMP is a key partner of, and is core funded by, the Scottish Government: we look to inspire, support and strengthen the SG’s work in this area, led by the views of our members and their partners in Malawi. Accordingly, the SMP published reflections on the 2021 policy refresh. We have also fed into subsequent consultations and given evidence in Parliament; looking to constructively support the SG as it considers how best to practically implement its updated policy. Specifically, we have championed an approach which has the Malawi relationship at its heart, and which values, engages and supports the involvement of civic society across both nations. It seems likely that the coming months will be a key period, as principles and priorities are translated into practical changes in how the SG does international development. We commend the SG for its continuing consultative approach and we are keen to ourselves continue to listen to members.

Questions discussed included:

  • Do you feel you that, where you have wanted to, you have been able to feed into the SG’s thinking in this area?
  • What are your reflections of some of the changes, and shifts in emphasis, in the SG’s approach to international development of late?
  • What do you think should be the SMP’s priorities as we engage, support and help inform the SG’s work in this area?
  • How do you feel the SMP should be engaging the Scottish Parliament?

Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals: what needs to change at ‘half-time’?

We are now half-way through the delivery period of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (2015-2030). Some areas have seen significant progress but others are lagging behind. It seems very likely that Covid, Ukraine, the climate crisis and economic contraction will make further progress harder, but even more important. Scotland was one of the first nations to publicly sign up to the SDGs, both domestically and in its international work. The SMP is committed to the SDGs. It has twice taken its pop-up exhibition, with case studies of Scotland-Malawi collaboration in all 17 SDGs, to the Scottish Parliament for a week (at the launch of the SDGs and last month at the half-way point) to brief MSPs and secure video pledges.

Questions discussed included:

  • Do you think the SDGs are on track for completion by 2030?
  • Do you think the SDGs are still the most relevant and applicable structure/priorities for the global community?
  • What do the SDGs mean in Malawi, and in Scotland?
  • What more should the SMP, and our members, be doing to support the delivery of the SDGs?

What next for the Scotland-Malawi Partnership Principles at 10?

The SMP talks a lot about dignified partnership but we’re aware that “partnership” can be an over-used and under-defined term. Accordingly, in 2012 the SMP and MaSP asked 200 Malawian organisations and individuals with Scottish links what good partnership working means for them, at the MaSP AGM. We then did the same later that year in the SMP’s AGM and got broadly the same answers. From this we designed our 11 Partnership Principles which have underpinned all our work for the last decade. We hold ourselves and our members accountable to these principles, and we try to ensure all our activities are framed around them in some way. The principles are:

Planning and implementing together
Respect, trust and mutual understanding
Transparency and accountability
No-one left behind
Do no Harm
Parity (equality)

Questions discussed included:

  • As we mark the tenth anniversary of the Partnership Principles, do you think they need updating to make them relevant for the next ten years?
  • Do you think the SMP has been effective at raising awareness of these principles, encouraging its members to follow them, and holding itself accountable to them?
  • What more/different should the SMP be doing to ensure it lives up to its values and its core purpose of supporting dignified, two-way, respectful and impactful partnerships?

Can better understanding our shared past help to make a better future?

Over the last three years there has been a really welcome focus on the UK’s past and specifically the latent and manifest legacies of colonialism. Scots both fought vociferously against slavery and the colonial project in Malawi, and were implicated by (and benefited from) it. This is a complex history and it is wrong to unreasonably simplify it into “163 years of unproblematic friendship”, nor to allow contemporary Malawi to be seen solely through the lens of colonial subjugation, 58 years after independence. The SMP and MaSP have looked to, together, talk meaningfully about our past, to inform a better future. Work understanding past injustices is crucially interlinked with work looking at contemporary issues of diversity, representation and inclusion. These are sensitive areas in which strong opinions are often held: our priority is to keep true to our values and ensure we are led by our partners in Malawi. Our joint Black Lives Matter statement with MaSP, our support for Samson Kambalu’s state of John Chilembwe in the Scottish Parliament and now 40ft high in Trafalgar Square, our historical blogs, and our work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity are all examples of outputs in related areas.

Questions discussed included:

  • Should the SMP be most focused on the past, the present or the future (and are they mutually exclusive)?
  • How should the SMP honestly and meaningfully engage the past of the bilateral relationship?
  • Whose opinions should the SMP be most interested in amplifying and should some people’s opinions hold greater weight than others when it comes to understanding our colonial past and related contemporary injustices?
  • Discussions in related areas can quickly become very heated, especially online, with considerable intolerance to hearing different opinions: how does the SMP navigate this space, as a diverse, inclusive and values-driven charitable network?

How can the SMP diversify its income and increase its sustainability?

The Scottish Government (SG) is to be commended for its far-sighted commitment to the SMP and MaSP through its core funding, which began for the SMP in 2005 and for MaSP in 2012. Most of the SMP’s operating costs come from this core grant which, between 2005-2022 has been on a triennial (three-year) basis, but our next grant (2023-24) is just a one-year extension for the first time. We hope to make a positive case for returning to triennial funding from 2024 but it is important the SMP can diversify its income to increase its sustainability and governmental independence. The SMP’s four main streams of non-governmental income are:

  1. Membership fees: but we want the network to continue to be inclusive to all and we have, to date, erred on the side of allowing those that don’t pay to continue in the network. Our fees are comparably modest but rates of payment/enforcement are relatively low.
  2. Project work: Such grants for specific pieces of work are one-offs, so hard to predict and generally do not make a significant contribution to core costs as they have associated operational expenses.
  3. Corporate Partnerships: For example, profit share arrangements with responsible tourism providers (but these have been suspended for lack of group travel, since Covid) and with financial service/cash transfer providers (but due diligence here is time consuming and hugely important to get right).
  4. Donations: Which can be hard to predict or rely on. We don’t currently do much conventional fundraising and are nervous about ‘competing’ with members.

Questions discussed included:

  • Most ideally, what proportion of the SMP’s income should be core grant vs non-governmental?
  • What do you think of the relative merits, and approaches of the above sources of alternative income?
  • What more/different should the SMP do to diversify its income?
  • What could you, and others, do to practically support this?

How ‘digital’ and how ‘in-person’ do you want the SMP to be?

Through Covid we have been forced to replace in-person engagements with digital alternatives. Technology has allowed this to happen surprisingly smoothly and a number of real advantages have materialised. During Covid we hosted monthly Covid coordination meetings, engaging 674 different organisations and key individuals, with 94% rating as ‘Excellent’ or ‘very good’, and 95% saying it strengthened their link with Malawi. Most crucially, digital has allowed a quantum leap in the scale and quality of Malawi input to our activities. For example, in one recent Scottish Parliament Malawi Cross Party Group we hosted, 75% of attendees were Malawians joining from Malawi; in our last AGM the President of Malawi (our Hon Co-Patron) was able to speak live from State House to set his priorities, without a single penny being spent on travel, accommodation or even printing. However, we must now look to the next chapter and think what we keep of digital and what we wish to return to in-person. ‘Hybrid’ seems an easy answer but we have found where a digital option is given, the convenience of this means few opt-in to the in-person experience and then complain about the lack of networking and inter-personal experiences. For this AGM, we decided to have an almost exclusively in-person event (with only remote participation for the core business, and remote input from Malawian speakers to reduce air travel).

Questions discussed included:

  • Is there a danger too much digital saps the life and energy from things?
  • Is it fair/right to go back to solely in-person experiences?
  • How can we offer digital inclusivity while still motivating those who can, to come in person?
  • Are there more/different ways of ‘doing digital’ to better replicate the in-person experience?
  • What balance do you think the SMP should find between the ‘in-person’ and the ‘digital’?

Equality, diversity and inclusion: what more can we all be doing?

Over the last three years there has ben a very welcome re-focusing on issues of equality, diversity and inclusion. This is, in part, linked to a greater understanding of the latent and manifest legacies of our colonial past and, quite rightly, far greater scrutiny of how the past is continuing to underpin contemporary injustices. The SMP has always worked to maintain a diverse, representative and inclusive Board, with a good mix of age, gender, backgrounds, and Scots:Malawians. We feel this aids good decision making. We are also an equal opportunities employer, actively working to build diversity in our small staff team, while ensuring we are always working within HR law and best practice. We have hosted events and engagements looking specifically at Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity, in keeping with our joint Black Lives Matter statement with MaSP. We are keen to do more in this space.

Questions discussed included:

  • What do you think are the priorities with regards equality, diversity and inclusion in the bilateral relationship now?
  • Who is currently excluded?
  • What do you think of the SMP’s efforts to date in this space?
  • What more should the SMP be doing to support equality, diversity and inclusion in its work?

Parallel sessions

Attendees are able to choose one fo the following three sessions when booking

Attendees were able to choose one of the following three sessions when booking:

  • Mental health: sharing learning between Scotland and Malawi
  • Empowering women and girls: listening to key leaders in Malawi
  • Innovation, adaptation and sustainability: case studies and ideas about different ways of working
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Members’ Marketplace

The Members' Marketplace has consistently been one of the highlights of past AGMs. A dedicated space is filled with vibrant stalls from the SMP's membership. Once again this year, it was a fantastic opportunity to network and share activities.

AGM Core Business:

The Annual Gathering included the SMP’s AGM as its Core Business. As the event was sold out, we offered SMP members the opportunity to join the AGM remotely.

During the AGM the following business was conducted:

  1. The minutes of the SMP’s 2021 AGM were agreed (proposed by Claire Martin and seconded by Fiona Anderson).
  2. The SMP’s2021-22 Annual Report was presented to members.
  3. The SMP’s 2021-22 Annual Accounts were approved by members (proposed Caroline Beaton by and seconded by Gift Thompson).
  4. The election of trustees took place (proposed by Veronica Evans and seconded by Mick James), with:
    1. Six Trustees standing down, in accordance with the constitution:
    2. Jude Turbyne, Rachel Philips and Sally Rae elected to the Board
    3. Douglas Young (the current HR Committee Chair), co-opted for a further year to ensure HR continuity
    4. The Board asked to co-opt someone with financial expertise to the Board, and potentially chair the Audit and Finance Committee
  5. Wylie & Bisset was reappointed as Independent Examiners (proposed by Mick James and seconded by Susan Dalgety).

Goodbye to David Hope-Jones

This was the last big in-person SMP event before David Hope-Jones steps down as SMP CEO, in January 2023.

David was asked by the Board to share his reflections on 15-years in post as part of the afternoon and many took the opportunity to thank David for his many years of service with the SMP.

A letter
was read from the President of Malawi, Hon Co-Patron of the SMP, thanking David on behalf of the people of Malawi.