Fans of J.K. Rowling will remember that a Common Welsh Dragon featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire<, the fourth book of her immensely popular series. The Baner Cymru is the striking flag of Wales, and the dragon is the perfect symbol of the bold, imaginative and original thinking for which Wales is renowned around the world. It flies at the High Commission on March 1 to mark St David’s Day, the national day of Wales, when people in the United Kingdom celebrate the first day of spring.
The ties specifically between Wales and Malawi are perhaps not as numerous as other parts of the UK, but there are, for example, a number of well-known journalists, such as Mabvuto Banda, who studied journalism in Cardiff, many through a British Government Chevening scholarship. And my own daughter studied architecture in Cardiff and still lives there. Golfers in Malawi will know Celtic Manor, scene of a famous European victory against the USA in the 2010 Ryder Cup. Readers may let me know of other ties.
In September last year, Wales was at the centre of the world stage when Newport played host to the NATO Summit, the largest summit ever held on UK soil, attended by 60 world leaders and 70 foreign and defence chiefs.
The year 2014 was also a very successful year for the Welsh economy. The UK’s GDP is currently growing faster than that of any other major advanced nation, and Wales has seen some of the fastest growth within the UK.
This economic success was underlined in November, when an investment summit in Celtic Manor gave Welsh business the opportunity to show over 150 global investors exactly why Wales is such an attractive place to invest and create jobs.
This year, the focus turns to sport, as people in Wales celebrate their great passion, rugby. After the Six Nations in the spring, September and October will see Cardiff’s mighty Millennium Stadium host several matches in the Rugby World Cup.
On March 1 in Wales, people celebrate St David’s Day by singing the rousing national anthem, Land of My Fathers and wearing daffodils and leeks, but Wales’ national day is also an opportunity to stop and take stock of the culture, history and achievements of this remarkable and beautiful country.
Among those born and bred in Wales were Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the world’s first truly national health service; Dylan Thomas, one of the world’s great poets, whose birth centenary was celebrated last year; and William Jones, who transformed mathematics by first using Pi as a symbol.
In the world of business, over half of the world’s commercial aircraft fly on wings made in Wales, and three Welsh companies collaborated on the European Rosetta project which landed a probe on a comet over 300 million miles away, travelling at 36 000 miles per hour.
It is innovation like this that has seen the creation of more than 26 000 new businesses in Wales in the last five years alone. Over 700 international businesses are located in Wales, including Sony, GE, Airbus and Toyota.
The business environment is underpinned by an education system with world-class universities that are fully integrated with commercial and industrial partners. Swansea University’s collaboration with Tata Steel is helping to engineer the buildings of tomorrowwhich are capable of creating their own energy. And Cardiff is establishing itself as a major international hub for life sciences.
Wales also receives millions of visitors each year. It boasts more castles per square mile than any other country in Europe, and is home to the Gower Peninsula, the first place in the UK to be awarded the accolade ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. From the annual Hay Literary Festival, the spectacular vistas of the Brecon Beacons, to the museums and nightlife of Cardiff and Swansea, Wales is a magical place to travel.
In the Welsh language, the word for welcome is ‘Croeso’. In 2015, visitors for business or pleasure can be assured of a very warm welcome in Cymru.
- The author is British High Commissioner to Malawi.