After an absence of several years, the Langkawi International Dialogue (LID) returned this month, with a promise to step up relationship between Malaysia and developing nations, in particular Africa and the Caribbean.
The three-day event, which ended on June 21, was hailed a great success, despite the fact that it was not held in Langkawi, LID's birthplace.
This year, the LID was held in Putrajaya, the administrative capital city of Malaysia.
But perhaps it was the right time to revive LID this year, given the bad publicity of late against Africans in Malaysia. Africans are making headlines for the wrong reasons, such as their involvement in crimes, social ills and so on.
Their involvement in negative activities may not be as bad as what has being reported but leaders of African countries and even Malaysia should keep track of the situation to safeguard the relationship.
We would not want Malaysians to have prejudices against Africans and vice-versa as this will tarnish our good ties.
Last year, trade between Malaysia and Africa stood at US$8.25 billion (RM24.75 billion), 39 per cent higher than 2009. The African continent's gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 5.2 per cent from 2001-2010, a figure much better than the global GDP growth average of 4.2 per cent.
There are still a lack of economic activities between Malaysia and Africa presently. But hopefully, this could change as some of our major companies decide to expand in Africa.
Sime Darby Bhd for instance, is growing its plantation business in Liberia.
More African nations are seeking foreign investors.
Zimbabwe companies, for example, are seeking partners to promote projects worth over US$5.5 billion (RM16.5 billion) as they focus on becoming more competitive in terms of scale of operations.
They are seeking technical and financial partners to transform their operations to levels where they will compete with other corporates in Africa and the rest of the world.
The Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, the country's largest business association is also seeking to develop strategic alliances and technical partners to import US$1 billion (RM3.03 billion) worth of capital equipment and heavy machinery for various companies.
Tanzania welcomed Malaysian investors to participate in the country's manufacturing, mining and agriculture industries.
Given such a commitment from leaders of the African and Caribbean nations, it is now up to Malaysian companies and investors to make their move to grab the opportunities available. We will know the progress when leaders and delegates meet at the next Southern Africa International Dialogue in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and LID in Langkawi in 2013.