Interview with the Chargé d'Affaires a.i of Madagascar- Hanta Ramahazosoa
‘So, the traditional costume, dress, haircut and accessories are a way of showing that as a country we are different but open to everyone and open to negotiation.’November 03rd, 2021
On the 3rd of November, Orkida Deliu and Ana Dididze had the opportunity to conduct an interview with the Chargé d'Affaires a.i of Madagascar- Hanta Ramahazosoa.
How have you enjoyed your position so far, and what have been the main challenges and difficulties you have encountered, especially with covid times?
The main challenge that I faced was the cultural shock. This was the first time I settled down in Europe which is completely different. I started to realize that Berlin is an amazing place to live.
To be posted as a diplomat in the middle of a pandemic is hard. It was hard to work online at home and not meet anyone. I was not able to present myself to anybody at the diplomatic corps. It felt weird to practice diplomacy via Zoom. But after all of this, covid taught us a new way of communication. Now I started to meet all my colleagues in person.
What are the Embassy’s main priorities here in Berlin?
Our main priority as an embassy is to maintain the long friendship (trade agreements, diplomatic relations) between Germany and Madagascar which already exists for more than 100 years. That is why we try to maintain this and develop it further by making new partnerships, cooperate with the local government, institutions and companies. Also, as an embassy, one of our priorities is to maintain diplomatic relations with the other diplomatic missions in Germany. At the same time, we represent Madagascar in nine more European countries. Secondly, we try to keep a good mutual relationship with Germany. We try to prospect new partnerships because Germany is one of the biggest European partners. As a diplomat and especially with the embassy, we have to sustain the diplomatic network. It is not easy during this time, but we try our best. We try to be present in Berlin every time there is an event which can evolve our embassy.
Last but not least is the promotion of Madagascar by means of economy. The pandemic had a huge effect. We are trying to reopen now, and re boost our economy by economic promotion of the country. We promote our local companies and brands to the German companies that are willing to get implemented in Madagascar. In terms of cultural diplomacy, we are a very traditional people and cultural diplomacy is already included in our foreign policy. Even if our main goal in foreign policy is economic diplomacy, cultural diplomacy is always involved in it. We have a saying in our country: 'the spirit is the essence of humankind’, so we try to do everything based on that, on our culture.
More in terms of Cultural Diplomacy, do you think that it is efficient? What role can soft power play during an agreement or negotiations?
Yes, I do think it is efficient. For example, when you are going to a negotiation meeting, you always want to be different, to stand out. You will dress traditionally and/or have traditional accessories, something that will arouse interest. We sometimes try to be more “exotic” when it is allowed. So, the traditional costume, dress, haircut and accessories are a way of showing that as a country we are different but open to everyone and open to negotiation. So indeed, it is one of the means of soft power. Cultural diplomacy is a way to promote tourism too. When tourists come to Madagascar, they primarily come because of the beaches but some people want to know further about the culture and the origin of Madagascar.
What are the key programs, events, and initiatives that the embassy is currently hosting in the sphere of cultural diplomacy and in order to strengthen the relations between the two countries?
Last week I participated in the promotion of Madagascar in Oranienburg Gesamtschule, as this month is going to be the month of Francophonie in Berlin. All the member states of the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) are celebrating the French language and we, the embassies in the OIF, will participate in the promotion of the French language next to our culture. For that reason, I chose to present Madagascar differently in a German school. Firstly, I presented the organization and afterwards my country in the field of tourism, culture and many other sectors. In October, the Malagasy Diaspora in Stuttgart organized sport and cultural events and we have been invited to participate as guests but also as the Malagasy Government representatives. So, those are the most important things I have done since my arrival in Berlin. I did not have a lot of opportunities to organize other events or to attend. If the time allows it, we can organize more things.
Could you tell us more about the I-Diaspora program? Is it something that has truly helped you to achieve the goals about reconstruction and development?
I-diaspora is a program of the United Nations, focused on immigration. Therefore, as a part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Madagascar, we have our direction of Diaspora in Antananarivo. This direction is very active in the area. And at that time, in 2019, through the “Project Loharano”, we succeeded in gathering with people from Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United States and Canada to to commit to the economic development of Madagascar. The people that participate in the program brought their experiences and knowledge to the young people in Madagascar. The youngsters could find a better future without planning to immigrate, because, we all know that it is one of the major problems nowadays. Every young person wants to go to Europe and find a place to live but sometimes they just face difficult experiences. I-Diaspora helped a lot and even till now some people just like to do small things to help our local people. It is a way of development even if the progress is a step-by-step approach. It helps some people in order to find their vocation for their future job.