State House, Blair’s AGI confirm end of Malawi mission

Malawi’s State House and the office of former British Prime Minister Tonly Blair have confirmed to Nyasa Times that the story it earlier reported that services of   Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) for Malawi’s President Joyce Banda  comes to an end from early next year after a mutual agreement was reached between the two parties.

Presidential spokesman Steve Nhlane told Nyasa Times that Malawi government has been working with AGI since July 2012 and is  “very grateful to them for their support”, saying there has not been a withdraw of services as decision to leave was a mutual one.

He said: “They’ve helped us to build our systems and processes and to support government effectiveness.”

However, the presidential press secretary clarified that “[Malawi] Government and AGI agreed from the outset that the latter would finish their work in advance of the 2014 Presidential elections.

Talks: President Banda with the Tony Blair and his wife.
Talks: President Banda with the Tony Blair and his wife.

“The team will finish their work by the end of January. Government is grateful for their work and looks forward to continue working with AGI after the elections.”

And AGI’s official Sam Hardy told Nyasa Times from London that their mandate was “to help the Government build its systems and processes and to support its effectiveness.”

He said: “AGI agreed with the Government from the beginning that we would finish our work in advance of the 2014 Presidential elections. We will finish our work by the end of January.  AGI and Tony Blair remain committed to the country and its development and would be open to returning after the election subject to an invitation from the Government of the day. “

AGI began working in Malawi following a visit from Blair who said he wanted to “put on record” his “admiration and respect” for Banda’s leadership and Malawi’s “exciting possibilities”.

The AGI’s team work directly with President Banda’s office to strengthen systems of government in the President’s office: focusing on building processes in the President’s Private Office and enhancing the office’s communications function.

Blair set up his African charity after leaving Downing Street in 2007. It offers governance advice to seven African countries including oil-rich Nigeria and Rwanda.

Recently, Blair’s role as adviser to President Banda raised questions after the British government froze aid to the country amid a growing corruption. That has seen billions of public funds looted in what has been christened as cash-gate.

A spokesman for Blair said that neither the former UK prime minister nor AGI had any idea of the corruption before it was made public in September.

“AGI focuses on government delivery – this is what we mean by governance,” he said in a statement.

“Our role is not political. We work on building the systems and structures to support better policy delivery. Like any other charity or organisation working on technical support, we are not party to everything that happens within the governments we work with.”

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