Central Africa Time Zone UTC+02:00
Capital City Maputo
National Day June 25
MOZAMBIQUE’S NEW High Commissioner Albertina Maria D. Mac Donald notes that like many developing countries at the start of the health pandemic, “we were not prepared for Zoom sessions. This challenge to update our technology took some careful organisation.” The High Commissioner presented her credentials to Her Majesty on 9 June. “Although we were physically at Buckingham Palace, the ceremony was conducted virtually.’ She continues: “As diplomats, it is important that we adapt to our changing environment.” High Commissioner Mac Donald arrived in London at the end of April, one of her two daughters joining her a month later.
Growing up the first of three children, High Commissioner Mac Donald’s parents worked for the government and talk of international and African affairs round the dinner table was commonplace. “My mother also had a cousin who was an ambassador, who spoke about how his career was challenging to women. That piqued my interest. I was lucky to join the Superior Institute for International Relations in Maputo.”
A career diplomat, the High Commissioner comes to London with 30 years of experience. Her first seven years were working in bilateral affairs, and a move to Addis Ababa sparked a lifelong passion for the multilateral arena. She worked with the UN in Maputo, becoming Director for International Organisations and Conferences Division and Coordinator of UNDP Country Programme Coordination and Capacity Development Project, making her “more aware of the global challenges facing Mozambique, as well as the dynamics of the system. It also helped to build a network to get the job done.” During this time, she also had good exposure to the dynamics of the Commonwealth, as well as government, particularly as a member of the Advisory Committee to the President on SADC, Africa, Middle East and CPLP.
Prior to her arrival in London, the High Commissioner was Mozambique’s Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative of the African Union (AU). “My role was to inflate dynamism on bilateral cooperation with Ethiopia, through the implementation of agreements signed in 2016.” With regards to the AU, “the implementation of the Agenda 2063, including the structural reform process was Mozambique’s priority.” During that time, Mozambique also joined the African Peace and Security Council, “so peace and security issues were also top priority.”
High Commissioner Mac Donald comes to the UK with two key priorities. Firstly, she plans to boost the role of Mozambique in the Commonwealth, and make the work of the organisation more impactful in Mozambique. She continues, “I recently discussed with Baroness Scotland how best to engage Mozambique’s institutions, including civil society and the private sector to fully make use of Commonwealth potential in our development.”
Bilaterally, she notes that the relationship “is very good. The focus will be on improving trade between the two countries.” She hopes that Brexit will provide further opportunities for the UK-Mozambique relationship. “It is important to note the priority the UK has given to Africa in its foreign policy and the hosting of the UK-Africa Investment Summit in early 2020. Presidente Filipe Nyusi attended the Summit, which provided an opportunity to expose Mozambique to the private sector here. As a mission we must follow-up on the agreed commitments.”
In the context of COP 26, climate issues are also high on the High Commissioner’s agenda. “Mozambique is positioned in a sensitive geographical location – prone to cyclical floods and droughts. National adaptation and mitigation strategies aim to increase resilience in communities and national economy by integrating adaptation and mitigation measures in the development agenda.”
Of Mozambique’s various diplomatic challenges, the High Commissioner says that ‘perception’ is arguably the most important. “It is up to the diplomatic service to demonstrate that the agenda we put in place, and the people who implement that agenda, provide the steps to put us on the right path. If we are not well perceived, the trust is not there, and our support for programmes of development will be challenged.”
Visiting a vast refugee camp in Ethiopia with the AU was a memorable day in the High Commissioner’s career. “I saw how people were deprived of basic things like food, water and housing. As diplomats, we have the responsibility to promote the values and principles that are pillars of peace that all refugees and displaced persons need to return home. At the end of the day, everything we do as diplomats is about human dignity.”