Malaysia following the foot steps of other Asian nations, seeks to increase its economic presence in Africa.
Malaysia is the latest nation seeking to tap into the African continent’s massive economic potential – following the success of countries such as China and India. Speaking prior to the launch of the Langkawi International Dialogue (LID) on 19th June 2011, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, described Malaysia and Africa as “natural partners” due to their abundance of natural resources and their relatively young population. “It is thus only natural that we work together to build on the opportunities and potential available,” he said. In 2010, trade between Malaysia and Africa stood at US$8.2 billion, a 39 percent increase from the previous year. However, trade and investment levels between the two regions remain relatively “untapped” with further partnerships and bilateral cooperation required. “There are tremendous opportunities for Malaysia. We need to explore the various opportunities” said Malaysia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kohilan Pillay. Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin also expressed his disappointment at the present lack of economic activity between Malaysia and Africa while emphasising the enormous potential that Malaysia could potentially tap into with the African market, “Contrast this with the US$12 billion trade Malaysia had with Germany last year, a country one per cent the size of Africa. These figures speak for themselves. As such I urge you (Malaysian investors) to be proactive.” Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahatir Mohamad believes that the LID will open up new avenues for Malaysia in Africa. “After the dialogue, Malaysia would have a higher visibility in the African market and Malaysian businesses could expect to do better there.” The LID was the brainchild of Dr. Mahatir and aims to bring together leaders of developing economies from Africa and the Caribbean in order to discuss and promote economic collaboration. More than 500 delegates from 15 African and Caribbean countries are attending the event that is seen as an important outreach program for Malaysia to Africa. According to Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the move would help build sustainable economic prosperity by synergising Malaysia-Africa business partnerships. However, the event has also met up with criticism over the attendance of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as well as Malaysia’s invitations to other controversial African leaders such as Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has deflected the criticism by citing that Malaysia was not yet a member of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and therefore did not break any international laws by inviting Omar Al-Bashir.