Scotland Malawi Partnership

The Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP) is the national civil society network coordinating, representing and supporting the many people-to-people links between our two nations. We represent a community of 109,000 people in Scotland with active links to Malawi. This is part of a shared history that dates back to the travels of Dr David Livingstone.

Scotland Malawi Partnership
TypeUmbrella Organisation
FocusThe Scotland Malawi Partnership exists to inspire the people and organisations of Scotland to be involved with Malawi in an informed, coordinated and effective way for the benefit of both nations
Area served
Scotland, Malawi
MethodWe represent a community of 109,000 people in Scotland with active links to Malawi. We harness experience, expertise and enthusiasm from across Scotland and help inspire each new generation of Scots and Malawians to become involved together, in a variety of innovative new ways.
Key people
David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive

Stuart Brown, Deputy Chief Executive
Grace O'Donovan, Member Services Officer
Douglas Coulter, Media and Communication Officer (Maternity cover)
Pamela Tulloch, Media and Communications Officer
Gemma Burnside, Youth and Schools Officer

Stuart Middleton, Finance and Administration Officer

Vision and mission

We believe the hundreds of partnerships which unite Scotland and Malawi represent an innovative new approach to international development. This is an approach based not on 'donors' and 'recipients' but on long-standing, mutually-beneficial community-to-community, family-to-family and people-to-people links, each on its own quite modest in scale but, together, a formidable force for progressive change.

We exist to inspire the people and organisations of Scotland to be involved with Malawi in an informed, coordinated and effective way for the benefit of both nations, and encourage development of sustainable projects in Malawi by. We do this by:

In this way, we harness experience, expertise and enthusiasm from across Scotland and help inspire each new generation of Scots and Malawians to become involved together, in a variety of innovative new ways.

The SMP is core funded by, but independent of the Scottish Government, as part of its own outstanding Malawi Development Programme. We are extremely grateful for this far-sighted investment by successive governments.

We are a membership organisation representing more than 1,200 Scottish organisations and key individuals, including half Scotland’s local authorities, every Scottish university and most of its colleges, 230 primary and secondary schools, dozens of different churches and faith-based groups, hospitals and health boards, businesses, charities and NGOs, and a wide range of grass-root community-based organisations. Any Scottish organisation or individual with a link to, or interest in, Malawi is welcome to join the Scotland Malawi Partnership. It is quick and easy to join online.

By creating a single space for all organisations and individuals in Scotland currently engaged with Malawi to come together, we help reduce duplication of effort, add value to Scotland’s historic civil society relationship with Malawi, and contribute towards poverty alleviation in Malawi.


Links between Scotland and Malawi began with David Livingstone's journeys up the Zambezi and Shire Rivers to Lake Malawi in 1859, long before the borders of the modern nation of Malawi had been established. Both the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland had established missions in Malawi by the mid-1870s. These missionaries persuaded the UK government to declare the area a British Protectorate. This colonial arrangement lasted, in various forms, until full independence was achieved on 6 July 1964, with Malawi becoming a member of the Commonwealth.


The Scotland Malawi Partnership was born from the 'Malawi Millennium Project' of the University of Strathclyde and Bell College, in response to the belief that there was a need to bring together under a single umbrella the many organisations and individuals throughout Scotland engaged in fostering and developing links between Scotland and Malawi.[1]

The Partnership was officially launched in the Glasgow City Chambers on 22 April 2004 by the Lord Provosts of Glasgow and Edinburgh, with the support of Ibrahim Milazi, the High Commissioner of Malawi, and representatives from the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, the Church of Scotland, and the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).[2] The Lord Provost of Glasgow and Dr Peter West (Secretary of the University of Strathclyde) thereafter travelled to Malawi, and, with the support of Norman Ling, the (then) British High Commissioner, and numerous prominent Malawians, established the Malawi Committee of the Scotland Malawi Partnership which held its first meeting on 28 September 2004.

Developments since formation

On 29 April 2005 the Scotland Malawi Partnership held a 'Shaping the Partnership' consultative conference at the University of Strathclyde, attended by approximately 100 people - representatives of NGOs, universities, small charities, hospitals and individuals with an interest in Malawi. Guests heard speeches from Ms Patricia Ferguson MSP, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport; The Lord Provost of Glasgow; Professor David Rubadiri, Vice Chancellor of the University of Malawi; Dr Peter West and the Rev Howard Matiya Nkhoma, General Secretary of the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). The proposed structure and remit of the Partnership were decided upon.[3]

Shortly after this meeting, an Interim Board was formed, with the Rev Prof Ken Ross as the Chair and Dr Peter West as the Vice Chair. Three founding members of the Scotland Malawi Partnership were subsequently identified - the Malawi Millennium Project, Malawi Tomorrow and Child Survival in Malawi.

Working in collaboration with the Scottish Executive, the Partnership staged a 'Malawi Health Workshop' in October 2005, attended by over 65 Scottish health professionals. Delegates endorsed the Partnership's plan to maintain related databases for networking purposes.

November 2005 was a significant month for the Scotland Malawi Partnership. The Partnership's conference, 'Malawi After Gleneagles: A Commission for Africa Case-Study', was held at the Scottish Parliament, involving over 250 delegates from Malawi and Scotland engaged in debates about international development.[4][5] The First Minister, Jack McConnell MSP, and the late President of Malawi, Dr Bingu wa Mutharika, were keynote speakers - and during the President's visit the Cooperation Agreement between Scotland and Malawi was signed.[6]

Other important developments in November 2005 were formal acceptance of the first applications for membership of the Scotland Malawi Partnership and confirmation of secure funding from the then Scottish Executive (now Scottish Government) for two and a half years. The Partnership became a fully recognised legal entity on 12 December 2005, having registered as a Scottish Charity (SC037048)[7] and as a Company Limited by Guarantee (SC294378).[8] In the process, the Partnership's Memorandum and Articles of Association was also formally ratified.

From May 2006 a full-time coordinator, Leo Williams, was appointed, working from the University of Strathclyde. Assisted by seed funding from the Interim Board, the Malawi Committee held its official launch at the Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, attended by Patricia Ferguson (then Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport) and a delegation from the Scottish Executive, as well as numerous prominent Malawians. The Scotland Malawi Partnership was registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee in Malawi (7852) on 4 May 2006.

June 2006 saw the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow become Honorary Presidents of the Scotland Malawi Partnership. In collaboration with the Committee of Malawians in Scotland, the Partnership staged a 'Malawi Independence Celebration' on 1 July to introduce the Partnership to as many Malawians as possible. Guests of honour included His Excellency Dr Francis Moto (Malawi High Commissioner to the UK), His Honour Mr Colin Cameron (Malawi Honorary Consul to Scotland), Ms Patricia Ferguson MSP and the Moyenda Band.

In August 2006, the Scotland Malawi Partnership relocated from an office in the University of Strathclyde to Edinburgh City Chambers.

With the transition to a Scottish National Party (SNP) Government in May 2007, the SNP launched a pledge which successfully persuaded the new administration to continue supporting Malawi – soon after they announced that at least £3 million per year from the International Development Fund would be reserved ("ring fenced") for Malawi projects.[9][10]

Activities and impacts

Since its inception in 2004, the Scotland Malawi Partnership has staged organisational conferences in Edinburgh and Glasgow, bringing together representatives of Malawian and Scottish civil societies, governments, churches, educational institutions and NGOs, as well as workshops dealing specifically with issues relating to health and education. Malawi Independence Celebrations are held in Scotland annually around 6 July to commemorate Malawian independence from the United Kingdom in 1964.

The Partnership circulates regular weekly news bulletins and monthly newsletters to members, detailing developments in the relationship between Scotland and Malawi, key news from Malawi, reports from members, Partnership news, and upcoming events.

In 2007, the SMP hosted 3 stakeholder meetings focused on funding, health links and agriculture. These meetings were attended by 57 participants from 42 different organisations. Three workshops in relation to educational links and "best practice" were also held, attended by 150 individuals representing 43 different members of the Partnership and 50 non members (schools, colleges and universities attending the Partnerships in Education Workshop). The Partnership has also been involved in the establishment and oversight of working groups in microfinance (which led to the formation of the Scotland Malawi Business Group), governance, housing cooperatives and school partnerships. The School Partnerships Working Group has produced a Practical Guide to School Partnerships Between Scotland and Malawi.

Since the signing of the Scotland Malawi Cooperation Agreement, some 58 projects (many involving Partnership members) have benefited from Scottish government funding, including the Mary’s Meals project, which feeds Malawian schoolchildren, and the Malawi Millennium Project to deliver equipment to schools for visually impaired children.[9]

Academic Exchange

The Partnership also administers a project of Academic Exchange, which provides for the exchange of academic staff, administrators and librarians between the Universities of Scotland and Malawi. Over the period between 2007 and 2010, the project provided for the exchange of 24 ‘Fellows’ – 12 Scottish, 12 Malawian. The first Scottish Fellow was David Bone. Mr Bone was attached to the Theology and Religious Studies Department at Chancellor College. On the Malawi side, Solomon Dindi was the first fellow to visit Scotland. Mr Dindi was attached to the University of Strathclyde's IT Services Department.

The Academic Exchange project aimed to:

  • Allow young Malawian academics to visit Scotland for periods of between three and nine months, in order to gain exposure to and experience of the Scottish Higher Education system.
  • Allow such Malawian academics space to complete and write up research projects.
  • Afford Malawian university administrators or librarians the opportunity to gain exposure to systems in Scotland, and to update their professional skills as a result of placements at Scottish universities.
  • Enable Scottish academics, administrators and librarians to build capacity within universities in Malawi.
  • Give Scottish academics, administrators and librarians the opportunity to work in a very different environment, and thus to acquire skills and knowledge which they could not acquire in Scotland.

Partnership Principles

We are an energetic coalition of civil society actors who believe in sustainable development through dignified partnership. We asked around 200 Scottish and 200 Malawian organisations to identify the principles which underpin such a partnership and were excited to find a great convergence of opinion. This has been enshrined in our eleven Partnership Principles: we, and all our members, hold ourselves accountable to these published principles.

Our work is not confined by a conventional understanding of charity and international development, with donors on one side and recipients on the other. It is about partnership, joint-working and friendship. In keeping with this model, we have a sister network in Malawi MaSP that manages all coordination in Malawi and is 100% Malawi-owned and Malawi-led.

The SMP is itself non-governmental and politically neutral. We are, however, active in representing our members’ work in Holyrood (where we provide the secretariat for the Malawi Cross Party Group) and in Westminster (where we provide the secretariat for the Malawi All Party Parliamentary Group). All 59 Scottish MPs have SMP members in their constituency and all 129 MSPs have SMP members in their region or constituency. There is unshakeable all-party political support for Scotland’s historic friendship with Malawi amongst Scotland’s elected leaders.

We are led by our members and exist to support them to inspire the people and organisations of Scotland to be involved with Malawi in a way which benefits both nations. We are active in coordinating, representing and supporting two-way dignified partnerships across a diverse range of areas including: cultural links; diaspora leadership; environment and renewable energy; faith links; further and higher education; gender; governance; health links; local authorities; primary and secondary education; sport; sustainable economic development; tourism; trade and agriculture; water; and youth.

Our project is to build connections and collaboration on a multi-sectoral basis between two small nations in ways that are transformational for both.

School partnerships

Around 160 schools in Scotland who have partner schools in Malawi are also members of the SMP. These partnerships are based on educational sharing and development in both schools. The historical links, starting with Dr David Livingstone and his work in Malawi in the 1800s, provide a strong context for cross curricular learning using the links between Malawi and Scotland. The SMP works with their sister organisation the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP) to support school partnerships in Scotland and Malawi. This collaborative working includes; brokering new partnerships, supporting the development of partnerships, delivering workshops on partnership working in schools, and providing resources to support partnership activity.

The benefits of school partnerships go far beyond individual teachers and students - they allow school communities in both Scotland and Malawi to learn from and understand other cultures better and feel connected in a global society. The joint learning which has taken place through school-partnerships includes enterprise projects, global curriculum activities and reciprocal visits between schools.

Over 200 Scottish primary and secondary schools are members of the SMP and have active links with a school in Malawi or learn about Malawi as part of their curriculum. The links between schools in Scotland and Malawi are massively varied, reflecting the depth and breadth of partnership between the two nations.


A 2018 University of Edinburgh study estimated that the SMP membership contributes over £49 million in time, resources and money to their links with Malawi each year. This activity directly benefits 2.9 million Malawians and 260,000 Scots annually. In total, more than 208,000 Malawians and 109,000 Scots are actively involved in links between the two countries, making the SMP one of the UK’s largest cross-community networks engaged in international development.

A separate 2018 paper, by a University of Glasgow researcher, working from a randomly selected sample of 449 Scots, found that roughly 45% of Scots could name a friend or family member with a connection to Malawi, and more than 75% of Scots were supportive of these links, with less than 1.5% opposed. There is arguably no comparable north-south, people-to-people bilateral relationship with this degree of public engagement and support.

The Partnership continues to be buoyed by the growth in both the quantity and quality of civil society connections between Scotland and Malawi. The difference these links make in terms of combating poverty in Malawi and inspiring greater awareness in Scotland has been widely recognised from the outset as something immensely worthwhile.

Every month, we deliver an ambitious series of diverse, high impact events and activities, attended by members, partners, civic leaders, policy makers and other key stakeholders. Events such as our Youth Congress which was co-designed by the SMP’s Youth Committee. We share information and updates with our members and partners through the regularly updated news pages of our website, through a dedicated weekly electronic bulletin, and through social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube).

Organisational structure and members

The Scotland Malawi Partnership has continued to grow year on year since its inception in 2004. As a result, the organisation has developed a well-organised structure to effectively service its growing membership.

The Board

The partnership has a board of directors serviced by Chair, Heather Cubie; 3 Co-Vice Chairs; and approximately a dozen members.


The partnership also created 3 committees to manage different aspects of organisational functioning – Audit and Finance Committee; Policy and Strategy Committee; and Staffing Committee.


In order to give members the opportunity to exchange information on a subject specific basis, the partnership developed six forums:

  • Higher and Further Education Forum
  • Primary and Secondary School Forum
  • Business, Investment, Trade and Tourism Forum
  • Governance Forum
  • Health Links Forum
  • Renewable Energy Forum

The different forums host meetings throughout the year in order to discuss relevant issues in Malawi and exchange advice and expertise on each topic. Members are welcome to join any forum. The partnership also actively encourages anyone with links or interests in Malawi to attend the forums to share or develop their knowledge and views.

The partnership has also launched a new youth membership category with an event at the Scottish Parliament in November 2012. The event was attended by over 200 guests including Minister for External Affairs and International Development, Humza Yousaf MSP, and Maureen Watt MSP. It was primarily a networking event; aimed at enabling schools, young people aged 16–24, charities, and organisations with links or interests in Malawi to share their ideas, knowledge and experience.

Princess Anne is the Honorary Patron of the SMP as was the late Malawian President Dr Bingu wa Mutharika.


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