Excerpts from Remarks at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya, August 5
"Thank you very much, Tom. And it is a great delight for me to work with Tom Vilsack, who is such an accomplished public servant and a really wonderful human being.
"I am very happy to be here, Minister Ruto. Thank you so much for your joining us and for your leadership on this critical issue. I want to also recognize Permanent Secretary Kiome for his work and commitment, and KARI Director Mukisira and all who work at KARI for their dedication.
"I also want to recognize and introduce two members of Congress who are very important to our work with Kenya and to Africa: Nita Lowey, Congresswoman from New York – (applause) – who chaired the very important committee that actually determines in the House of Representatives where our foreign assistance goes, and she is very dedicated to improving the lives of people everywhere; and Congressman Donald Payne from New Jersey – (applause) – who has dedicated himself to improving relations between our country and the countries of Africa, and working to be a voice and an advocate on behalf of Africans. And I’m very pleased that Donald could join me. And then I want to recognize a long-time friend, someone whom I admire so much, Kenya’s own Wangari Maathai. (Applause.) Thank you for being here.
"Across Africa this morning, as I was getting up in my hotel room, millions and millions of people, mostly women, rose before dawn to begin their daily work tending crops and caring for livestock. By now, they have walked for miles to collect water for irrigation and guide their herds on grazing land. For millions of Africans, farming is a lifeline, the only source of income and food. For the continent, as the minister reminded us, agriculture is the primary economic sector and an engine for future growth. And for the global community, agricultural development could help address one of the most urgent challenges we face: chronic hunger, which afflicts nearly a billion people worldwide, including one in three Africans, many of whom are children.
"Innovations like these are a crucial piece of what must be a comprehensive approach to agriculture, one that connects the tools developed in labs like this to the fields where the farmers are every day, the markets where the crops are bought and sold, the financial institutions where farmers access credit to invest in new seeds, fertilizer, equipment, and the classrooms where they can learn to grow more food with less labor and less water.
"President Obama and his entire Administration, as evidenced by both Tom Vilsack and I being here, are 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. Very often, people in developing countries think that if we can only get a factory, if we can only get that business, whereas what is closer to home can actually produce more income and create more opportunities.
"But I think it’s fair to say in Tom’s work in Iowa with farmers and the work that I did as a senator from New York and living in Arkansas for all those years, oftentimes people think, well, if you’re modern, you don’t do agriculture anymore. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. If you don’t do agriculture, you don’t eat. (Applause.) And that’s the most important goal of any society – to sustain itself and to sustain the next generation. Last month in Rome, the members of the G-8 and other countries committed $20 billion to end global hunger, but not simply through short-term food aid, but through longer-term investments. The United States has pledged $3.5 billion to this effort.
"Now, we do not seek to impose a one-size-fits-all approach. We will partner with individual countries to help Kenya and others develop your own strategy for reform. We will work with partners outside government, including NGOs like AWARD, with foundations like the Gates Foundation, with Universities like Cornell, which has a long relationship with KARI here, to provide coordination, minimize duplication, and maximize results. The United States has been a proud supporter of KARI for more than 40 years. And we’re so proud that Cornell has a longstanding partnership as well.
"With Kenya’s leadership in biotechnology and biosafety, we cannot only improve agriculture in Kenya, but Kenya can be leader for the rest of Africa. (Applause.) And so as we scale up our efforts, let us strive to support those who do the work. Women are the backbone of farming in Africa, just as they are in most of the world. They plant the seeds, they till the fields, they harvest the crops, they bring them to market, they prepare the meals for their families. So to succeed in this work, we must work with women. And so we need a good collaboration to make sure that women are equal partners with men farmers all the way through the process.
"The AWARD program is a great example. It supports women scientists working to improve farming here in Africa and to fight hunger and poverty. And we need women represented in our laboratories as well as our fields. And I really congratulate the AWARD women for being pioneers in plant science. (Applause.)
"When I was a senator from New York, I learned something that I was very surprised by, and that is that in New York, which people think of as Manhattan with tall buildings, or the Bronx or Brooklyn or Queens, New York state actually has agriculture as its number two industry. But many people living in New York City did not know there were farmers in other parts of New York. And I realized that if you could enhance the income of the farmers in what we call upstate New York, it would benefit everyone. So I’ve worked with farmers and farming and improving income and helping with crop selection and providing inputs like better fertilizers and better farming techniques and more value-added processing.
"And even in New York, when I started about eight years ago, a lot of farmers weren’t getting their products to market in an efficient way. So when we talk about farming, we’re also talking about infrastructure, aren’t we, Minister? We’re talking about farm-to-market roads. We’re talking about storage and warehouse facilities, refrigeration facilities. We’re talking about local markets buying from local farmers. If Kenyan farmers were linked up with Kenyan buyers of food, everyone would benefit. Instead of importing food that you can grow right here in Kenya, grow it and then sell it to each other. That’s a win-win strategy for farmers and for the Kenyan people as well.
"So we are pledged to work with you. We’re proud to stand with you in this partnership that we have been involved in for many years. We want to take it to the next level, and we want to see the results. We’re going to measure results, we’re going to be very clear about what we expect to see as we work together, because we don’t have a minute to waste. Children are malnourished, people are going hungry, money is left on the table, crops are wilting and dying in the field. We know we can do much better here and throughout Africa.
"So I look forward to working with my colleague and partner in this effort, Secretary Vilsack, and with all of you here as well. Thank you very much." (Applause.)
"So, let me begin with greetings and good wishes from President Obama to the people of his ancestral homeland – (applause) – and with a message from the President and from his Administration: We believe in Africa’s promise. We are committed to Africa’s future. And we will be partners with Africa’s people. (Applause.) I hope all of you have had a chance to either see or read President Obama’s speech last month in Ghana. He said there what we believe: Progress in Africa requires partnerships built on shared responsibility.
"The flip side of responsibility is opportunity – shared opportunity. And that is what I wish to speak about this morning, how we can work together to help realize the God-given potential of 800 million people who make their homes and find their livelihoods in the valleys of the Great Rift, across the plains of the Serengeti, in vibrant urban centers from Nairobi to Johannesburg to Dakar, and why seizing the opportunities of Africa’s future matters not only to Africans, but to all of us.
"You know that too often, the story of Africa is told in stereotypes and clichés about poverty, disease, and conflict. We can’t seem to get past the idea that the continent has enormous potential for progress. Too often, the media’s portrayal is so much less than that. But such notions are not only stale and outdated; they are wrong. Africa is capable, and is making economic progress. In fact, one doesn’t have to look far to see that Africa is ripe with opportunities, some already realized, and others waiting to be seized together if we determine to do so.
"Now to be sure, progress is not apparent everywhere on the continent. Even with the accelerated growth of recent years, the economies of many countries have slowed or stagnated under the weight of the global recession. Others face looming crises when their young people who constitute half the population in some countries reach adulthood and need jobs. And we cannot ignore the fact that there are still African nations where some workers earn less than a dollar a day, where mothers and fathers die of preventable diseases, where children are too often schooled with guns instead of books, and where women and girls are mistreated, even raped as a tactic of war, and greed and graft are the dominant currency.
"But the story we also need to tell, and tell it over and over again, is that many parts of Africa are rising to 21st century challenges and following a road map that will turn Africa into a regional and global hub for progress and prosperity. We have seen the changes, and we know what is happening right now.
"I will visit six other countries on this trip, and I will see the results of the research of African scientists who are modernizing agricultural tools, and I will meet those who are devising new models for development assistance. I’ll meet the young entrepreneurs and professionals who are helping to build open markets, and the civil servants who are working hand-in-hand with them. There is so much that is going on that needs to be lifted up and spotlighted.
"Today, we look to nearby Rwanda. Progress sometimes comes so slowly. But in a country that had been ravaged by genocidal conflict, the progress is amazing. It has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, even in the midst of the global recession. Health indicators are improving. The Rwandan people believed in themselves. And their leaders, led by President Kagame, believed in policies based on evidence and measurable results, including a nationwide emphasis on family planning, cross-cutting partnerships with donors and NGOs, a greater premium on professionalism in the government and the health sector.
"You all know the story of Dr. Mo Ibrahim, a visionary and a pioneer willing to invest in the untapped potential of Africa when others were not. Why? Because he understood that new technologies could unleash local entrepreneurship, create jobs, expand prosperity, and build economies. But in return for his investments, he demanded good governance, adherence to the rule of law. And his achievement in African leadership prize celebrates exemplars of his philosophy.
"There are so many that already have invested and stand ready to do so, and who see the potential for leapfrogging the technologies of the past. With wireless technology, Africa doesn’t need to lay all of the wires or build the infrastructure. It could take advantage of what technology offers. New innovations are already transforming lives and fueling economic growth. Farmers in both East and West Africa can click a button on their cell phone to check prices on dozens of crops. Pineapple farmers in Ghana are using PDAs and bar coding technology to facilitate transport and increase crop yields. The new underwater fiber optic cable along Africa’s east coast will enable hundreds of millions of people to have access to the internet.
"Although Africa missed the first green revolution, it now has the opportunity to create its own. Technology and innovation make it possible for nations to bypass the dirty stages of development and become more quickly integrated. Right now, Africa suffers from a severe shortage of electric power, and too many countries rely on oil as virtually their only source of revenue. But the capacity for producing renewable and clean energy is far and wide. From the geothermal resources of the Great Rift Valley, to the potential hydropower of the Congo River, to wind and solar options, new projects are beginning to come online.
"So there are so many concrete examples of the opportunities to be seized. And with that in mind, I’d like to focus on four areas that warrant special attention: trade, development, good governance, and women.
"Some of you may have seen the op-ed that Ambassador Ron Kirk wrote and was placed in newspapers here in Kenya and across the continent. He laid out some of the potential opportunities to work with in order to maximize the promise of AGOA. As Africa’s largest trading partners, we are committed to trade policies that support prosperity and stability. To echo President Obama’s words, we want to be your partner, not your patron.
"In the past three decades, African agricultural exports have declined, even as the vast majority of employment on the continent still depends on income from the agricultural sector. This is due, in part, to inadequate infrastructure. Lack of roads, lack of irrigation, poor storage facilities jeopardize the hard work of farmers in the field, undermine the discoveries of researchers in the lab and depressed markets eagerly waiting for products to buy.
"So the United States will pursue strategies to improve infrastructure so that farmers have better access to information, capital, and training. We intend to develop the kind of partnerships that will integrate assistance as a core pillar of our foreign policy, because we believe that helping to improve the material conditions of people’s lives is not only an expression of American values, but a foundation for greater security and stability on the continent.
"The Obama Administration is on a path to double foreign assistance by 2014, but we will spend the money differently. While our past assistance has yielded gains, we have spent too many dollars and too many decades on efforts that have not delivered the desired long-term results. Too much money, for example, has stayed in America, paid salaries to Americans, furnished overhead to the contractors that were used. Too little has reached the intended target or contributed to lasting progress.
"So at the State Department and USAID, we are actively exploring how we can fund, design, implement development and foreign assistance that produces measurable, lasting results, while also helping people in the short run. Development assistance linked to trade policy will, we believe, fuel dynamic market-led growth rather than perpetuating dependency.
"In Africa and elsewhere, we seek more agile, effective, and creative partnerships. We will focus on country-driven solutions that give responsible governments more information, capacity, and control as they tailor strategies to meet their needs. This will require greater coordination within our own government and with the donor community. And it will also require a broader use of measurements to assess whether we are achieving results. Agricultural development is a case in point. President Obama asked me to head a government-wide and comprehensive effort to advance agricultural-led growth, and to reduce hunger, where the opportunity exists to provide more food, raise incomes, and create new jobs.
"Now of course, we have no control over the weather. And the devastating drought that has afflicted Kenya and other countries for four years is a deeply troubling challenge. But we can begin to try to even deal with nature’s difficulties. With most of the world’s remaining arable land spread across the African continent, Africa has a responsibility and an opportunity to maximize agricultural promise and provide food for your own people and the world as well. Building on the G-8 discussions in Italy last month, I am pleased to announce that I will convene a meeting next month on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly to advance the global partnership for agriculture and food security.
"True economic progress – (applause) – depends not only on the hard work of millions of people who get up every day and do the best they can, often under overwhelming circumstances; it also depends on responsible governments that reject corruption, enforce the rule of law, and deliver results for their people. This is not just about good governance; this is about good business. Investors will be attracted to states that do this, and they will not be attracted to states with failed or weak leadership, or crime and civil unrest or corruption that taints every transaction and decision.
"The private sector and civil society are playing an increasingly important role across Africa in holding governments accountable and demanding fairer, more open, more just economies and societies. Leaders have to lead. They have to demonstrate to their people that democracy does deliver. Sustainable progress is not possible in countries that fail to be good stewards of their natural resources, where the profits from oil and minerals line the pockets of oligarchs who are corporations a world away, but do little to promote long-term growth and prosperity."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for that warm welcome. It is a pleasure for me and my delegation to be in Angola, and I bring greetings from President Obama, who looks forward to a very positive, productive relationship between our two countries.
"The minister and his colleagues in government and I, along with my delegation, just concluded a very productive discussion on a wide range of issues. Peace and stability after 27 years of conflict have given the Angolan people the opportunity to realize their great potential and given the Angolan Government the opportunity and responsibility to demonstrate that democracy, peace and stability delivers results for people.
"The United States will partner with you in the comprehensive strategic partnership that the minister and I have discussed. We will work together to revitalize agriculture in Angola. It was once a great economic sector with many jobs that was destroyed by war, but it is capable of becoming an engine for economic growth for Angola."
"We also are working to build new partnerships (inaudible) society and nongovernmental organizations and to encourage more trade and investment, and particularly the development of the agricultural sector. The people of Liberia have proven their strength, their resourcefulness, and their resilience. They hold their own future and the future of their country and their children in their hands. But the people of the United States are proud to stand with them and you, President Sirleaf, in working to deliver the kind of future that the people of this country deserve.
"Well, I’m going to let the president address this, but of course, it’s a sign of support. We indeed have looked at the entire record that President Sirleaf brings to office, her performance in office, the accomplishments of the government she leads. And we are (inaudible) and will continue to be so because we think that Liberia is on the right track, as difficult as the path might be. And we will not underestimate the difficulties.
"We just had a briefing from the agriculture minister, who is over there. (Inaudible) post-conflict era inherited a devastating agricultural sector. All the livestock were gone. They have been killed, eaten in the course of the conflict, which drives people from their homes, which forces them to have to survive. Many of the plant life was (inaudible) regeneration of agricultural productivity was decimated.
"I look at what President Sirleaf has (inaudible) in the past two years, and I see a very accomplished leader dedicated to the betterment of the Liberian people, who has been consistent in her leadership on behalf of solving the problems that Liberia faces, to let Liberians (inaudible) a peaceful future with prosperity and opportunity.
"Well, first, with respect to our aid, we have provided a great deal of aid, and a significant amount directly to the government (inaudible) government (inaudible) providing technical assistance and other kinds of support (inaudible) to increase the capacity of the government to serve the people.
"We are working to train the police force, which is something that the Government of Liberia places a very high priority on. We are working to help train the military. We are working in just about every sector of society. And some of it is direct support and some of it is to experts who have experience in performing the jobs that Liberia needs performed.
"So it’s a mix and it will continue to be a mix, but we work very closely with the Liberian Government. We take their lead on what their priorities are, and we will continue to do so. Later today, I’ll be announcing some help for the airport. We think it’s important to try to upgrade the airport so that you can get more flights in and out of Monrovia that can then enhance the economic growth of the country. We have a very large food security program that President Obama has announced, and Liberia will be a good partner state to work with. So we will be working with the government, with small and medium-sized farmers and food processors.
"So there’s a variety of approaches that we try to do to find the best way to solve the problems or to deliver the results. We are constantly asking ourselves, as is the government here in Liberia: Is this the best way, and how can we do it better? And we will (inaudible) that, because our goal is to help you solve the problems and create the environment for further growth. That’s what we want to do, and to help you solidify democracy and good governance and the rule of law, and root out corruption and have a security force that will protect your people. All of that is what the Liberian Government and the Liberian people have requested. So we will continue to work on that.
"And I have no other – nothing to add to your second question that I haven’t already said."
"Right now, only 15 percent of the Liberian people work in the formal sector. So job creation and raising incomes is a critical task before you. So we will work with you to strengthen the private sector, enhance trade opportunities, and rebuild infrastructure, including roads, electrification, and information technology. (Applause.) We are assisting your government with natural resources management, food security, education for children, and adults who missed the opportunity to go to school because of the war. And this country is a focus for our Malaria Initiative.
"I want to congratulate Liberia for recently gaining eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I started my trip in Africa in Nairobi at the AGOA conference, and I and the U.S. Trade Representative and our Secretary of Agriculture emphasized that we want to do more to help countries access and utilize AGOA, and we want to help Liberia to work to achieve more products that can be exported duty-free into the United States market. (Applause.)
"We can’t mince words; you know that. In the briefing that I and my delegation received from the minister of agriculture, I was stunned when she said there are no livestock left. At the end of the conflict, anything that could be eaten was eaten. People (inaudible) rebuilding agriculture, rebuilding the tools that are needed for each individual to pursue his or her destiny is what this is all about. The talent and resources exist here (inaudible) overcome division, expand opportunities, and ensure that prosperity is more broadly shared across society."