Thank you very much for your participation in this "Text the Secretary" event during my recent trip to Africa. Several themes appeared throughout all of your questions. Listed below are my responses to questions that represent the important issues you raised.
Mary in Kenya asks:
Thank you for visiting Kenya and for your inspiring words at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya on 5th August 2009. What advice can you give the women of Africa so that they can play a more pivotal role in decision making and bring sustainable development?
Thank you for that great question, Mary. I think the role that women have to play in any society is so critical, and it’s particularly critical in Africa, where too many women are impoverished, they’re marginalized, they’re unable to really obtain the tools of education and healthcare for themselves and their children, and then it perpetuates dependency, it perpetuates the cycle of poverty. And that’s especially important because women are the tools and the real drivers of change in their own families. I mean, there’s that old saying: You educate a man, you educate a man; you educate a woman, you educate a family. And the World Bank and other economists have said over and over again that if you want to jumpstart development, then give the tools to your women who are underutilized. A lot of men are already able to exercise their income-generating capacity, and women are held down and held back. So I think we have to provide opportunities for women. We have to respect the rights and roles and responsibilities that women should have. And then the best outcome is for individual women to be prepared and equipped to make decisions that are right for them. If they want to be a broadcaster on the radio, then that should be a decision. If they want to devote themselves to their families and their children, that should be the decision. But if they want to balance family and work, which is what most women who have the opportunity to do so actually do in today’s world, then that should be what we aim for – to give women the choices that will enable them to lead the lives that will be productive.
Tendai in Wyoming writes:
What is the Administration’s strategy to help resolve the economic and political crisis in Zimbabwe? What steps are being taken by the Administration to help the ordinary Zimbabweans who have suffered for too long?
We are attempting to target the leadership of Zimbabwe with sanctions that we think might influence their behavior, without hurting the people of Zimbabwe and, during the recent visit to the United States of Prime Minister Tsvangirai, we talked with the president, with President Obama, and we made a commitment to try to provide more help on education and health, the kinds of things that the people of Zimbabwe deserve. So, we're going to be closely consulting as to how best to deal with what is a very difficult situation for South Africa and for the United States, but mostly for the people of Zimbabwe.
Mabine in South Africa writes:
I admire the new Administration's commitment to the African continent as a whole. What steps does South Africa need to take in order to practice its position as an African power, so that it may solve the problems that Africa is faced with?
Mabine, the economic success of Africa hinges in no small part on the economic success of South Africa. This is both a responsibility– and an opportunity. South Africa – as a member of the G20, and one of the important emerging economies of the world – is uniquely positioned to advance its own economic trajectory and to propel economic growth on the African continent as a whole. South Africans have taken steps – critical to economic progress -- that are all too rare on the African continent: they has shown a willingness to embrace political reconciliation and adopt a modern, progressive Constitution; diversify their economy; include women more broadly as citizens and entrepreneurs; and adapt new technologies to the challenges of today’s world. These factors have enabled South Africa to expand trade, attract investment, create jobs, and build a dynamic economy that has made this country the economic anchor of Africa – and a springboard for investors looking for opportunities and possibilities.
But South Africa will not fulfill its economic potential if it exists as an island of relative prosperity amid a sea of untapped opportunity elsewhere on the continent. Let me suggest three areas of opportunity that South Africa can seize to generate economic progress at home and across on continent: trade and regional integration; new technology; and the promotion of condition that can lead to more favorable business climates across Africa, from good governance to women’s economic empowerment.
I discussed these ideas in more depth in my remarks to South African business leaders in Johannesburg on August 6. You can read more here: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/08/127004.htm
Lazarus from Georgia writes:
As an American who was born in Uganda, I would like to know what the U.S. is doing to deal with the food shortage in many Sub-Saharan countries.
This is an important question. Agriculture in Africa has been held back for decades by wars that have forced farmers to flee their fields, by diseases that too often strike the young and the strong, by climate change which has caused droughts and floods that destroyed cropland, as the people of East Africa know too well. Farmers in Africa have also faced lack of investment from the private sector as well as governments and the global community, while technologies that have helped farmers in other parts of the world haven’t yet been adapted to the extent necessary to Africa’s needs. Together, these challenges have eroded the foundation of African agriculture.
The United States is committed to help strengthen the entire agricultural chain here in Africa and around the world. We think that is a critical tool for promoting economic growth and integrating Africa into the regional economy. We are convinced that investing in agriculture is one of the most high-impact cost-effective strategies available for reducing poverty and saving and improving lives. That’s why we have made this a signature element of our nation’s foreign policy. We do not seek to impose a one-size-fits-all approach. We will partner with individual countries to help them develop their own strategies for reform. We will work with partners outside government, including NGOs, foundations, and universities to provide coordination, minimize duplication, and maximize results.
In Nairobi, I was very pleased to visit our partners at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), where African scientists are developing tools to boost productivity of Africa’s farms – part of a broad strategy to strengthen the entire agricultural sector, to increase income, to support rural communities, and to drive economic growth. You can read more about KARI here: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2009a/08/126911.htm.
Secretary Clinton: Thank you everyone, and I look forward to answering more of your questions as we continue with the Africa trip.