There were congratulations all round on when Saulos Klaus Chlima, the recently elected vice president of Malawi, called on President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday afternoon.
Chlima is on a three-day visit to Israel with a delegation of agriculture and irrigation experts. They are on a fact-finding mission, primarily related to water technologies, especially irrigation and water management, but will find time to visit Christian holy places..
Malawi, a country with a population of some 17 million, wants to see how Israel has irrigated its land mass to the extent that it is able to export between $2.5 billion and $3b. worth of agricultural products annually, he said.
Acquiring the know-how and putting it to use in Malawi should lead to a turning point in the economy, said Chlima. His delegation is also interested in health service technologies and educational programs that have been developed with technology.
While initially acting in a government- to-government capacity, the delegation hopes to make connections that will lead to the development of joint ventures in the private sector.
Israel has a particularly warm attitude toward Malawi because together with Lesotho and Swaziland, it is one of three sub-Saharan African countries that did not sever relations with Israel in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and it has not yielded to pressures to join in African boycotts of Israel during the most recent conflict between Israel and Gaza.
Rivlin recalled that in 1964, shortly before Malawi gained independence from Britain, president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who was Malawi’s first president and its leader when it was the British protectorate of Nyasaland, came to Israel and addressed the Knesset and compared the history of his people with that of the Jewish people. Essentially both nations wanted to live in their own state. Rivlin also recalled Banda’s in-depth knowledge of the Bible and his ability to quote chapter and verse.
Rivlin said: “We saw then and we see now the importance of Africa to the world.”
Rivlin observed that Israel’s expertise in water technology was born out of necessity that grew over the years, because Israel has to take care not only of its own water needs, but those of the Palestinians as well.
While Israel has cooperated with Malawi in the past, Rivlin was confident that more initiatives will lead to greater cooperation in the future.
During the conversation, Rivlin, in his references to Israel, repeatedly used the words “Jewish and democratic,” which together with his signature use of the word “Jerusalem,” the city of his birth, when acknowledging greetings, will become yet another hallmark of his speech.