African countries are “very open to cooperation” with Malaysia in various fields to further develop their bilateral relations as well as people-to-people relations, said an African envoy.
South African High Commissioner to Malaysia Samkelisiwe Isabel Mhlanga said a stronger people-to-people relations could be one way of creating awareness among Malaysians of the many opportunities in African countries, besides dispelling the perception that the continent was unsafe for visitors.
“The African countries note the good and excellent relations that exist between Kuala Lumpur and them in many areas such as education, (thus) making Malaysia a popular education destination for thousands of African students.
“Apart from that, there are successful Malaysians who have studied and have worked in and have businesses in Africa, and we want them to share their experiences with Malaysians here and convince them that the people (of Africa) are friendly and the continent has a lot to offer,” she told Bernama in an interview at Wisma Bernama in conjunction with the 54th Africa Day which falls on May 25.
The envoy also said that the African continent was also Muslim-friendly, whereby Muslims would have no difficulty in finding a place to pray or eat.
Mhlanga said there was a need to portray the many positive aspects of Africa and its people to address the issue of stereotypes about Africans in Malaysia.
She said that apart from an education hub with 20,000 African students in Malaysia, more Africans were also expected to visit Malaysia’s tourist assets as they were now more familiar with Malaysia as an attractive tourist destination.
Besides tourism, Mhlanga said, Africa looking forward to diversifying partnerships and cooperation with Malaysia, especially in trade.
“Trade with Malaysia is definitely going forward over the next five years, with projected growth of between 10 and 15 per cent. That is why we see more Africans coming to Malaysia to buy products and more Malaysians going to African countries for partnerships in trade,” she said.
Asked about Africa’s biggest strength, she said the young people of the continent can offer the much-needed human capital to speed up economic growth and social development.
Mhlanga said, however, that Africa continued to be confronted with challenges, such as high levels of unemployment and poverty.
“Unemployment is a general problem in Africa and we are working on it. There must be a partnership between governments and the private sector to address this problem,” she said.
Touching on Africa Day, she said the African community working and residing in Malaysia as well as students will gather here to celebrate the day that symbolised the destiny of the African continent’s 54 countries, its peoples and their determination to transcend their differences.
The auspicious day marks the occasion when Africa commemorates both the birth of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which is now called the African Union (AU) and their aspiration for a united African continent. – Bernama