David Ashley

British Ambassador to Madagascar

Guest blogger for FCDO Editorial

Part of UK in Madagascar

14th January 2022

My first year in Antananarivo

David Ashley, British Ambassador to Madagascar

It is a year this week since I first arrived in Madagascar to head the excellent British Embassy team.  So here are 10 of my many fond memories of these past 12 months.

Presenting credentials in Madagascar and Comoros. Initially nerve-wracking, trying to ensure I didn’t make mistakes in formal French, but actually enjoyable. President Rajoelina and President Azali were generous with their time and I was pleased that both accepted the invitation to visit Glasgow for COP26.

Welcoming the first Covid vaccines to Madagascar, and watching the first of the doses be administered, to the Health Minister. Encouraging more Malagasy to benefit from the vaccines now available here is one of our major priorities for 2022.

Seeing the difference UK aid is making in combating the crisis in southern Madagascar.  The woman here, for example, explained how our cash transfers were enabling her to feed her children. We gave £5 million for humanitarian aid last year through WFP and UNICEF.

Talking to children about why school matters to them, ahead of the Global Education Summit. I was happy to visit some of the schools we support across Madagascar through the Global Partnership for Education. It was also great to meet the brilliant Malagasy students leaving for, or returning from, Masters studies in the UK on Chevening scholarships.

Getting to know many of the dedicated British organisations and individuals working across the country to support Madagascar’s development and environment. Two of those – Kew Gardens and Durrell Wildlife Trust – are leading the major new UK-funded forest programme that will start this year.

Visiting Comoros: Besides good discussions with the Government in Moroni, it was gratifying to see how UK funding has supported reforestation and the Covid response on the verdant island of Anjouan.

Preparing for COP26 in close cooperation with Madagascar’s Environment Minister, including an excellent event at the Foreign Ministry, and then hearing the needs of climate-vulnerable countries like Madagascar and Comoros be highlighted in Glasgow. Ensuring implementation of the commitments made at COP26 will be a key task for the UK in 2022.

Seeing the wonders of Madagascar’s biodiversity, whether deep in a rainforest or just sitting in my garden. It’s the nature’s uniqueness that makes the work of environmentalists so important. I was delighted to witness one of them, Julie Razafimanahaka, receive the Tusk Award for conservation in Africa from Prince William.

Madagascar’s signature of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the UK and Southern and Eastern Africa. A tangible sign of how much goodwill exists towards the UK in Madagascar, in government and society, and a firm basis for promoting greater trade and investment between our two countries.

Exploring Madagascar. A particular pleasure is the warm welcome you receive when visiting the different regions of La Grande Isle. With all due respect to my fellow Brits, I doubt my Malagasy counterpart in London is greeted with quite the same amount of singing and dancing when he visits towns and villages across the UK.

Manantena aho ny hahita bebe kokoa ny hakanton’i Madagasikara, ahafantatra bebe kokoa ny tantara ary ny kolontsaina, ary handalina misimisy kokoa ny fisakaizana manan-tantara eo amin’i Fanjakana Britanika sy Madagasikara, amin’ity taona ity.

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