Embassy of Ethiopia
Washington, DC


As prepared:

Thank you, Peter for that warm introduction, and for the privilege of speaking to you all tonight. Its truly a delight to be here, as my connection with APLU and with Peter and ,,,, goes way back to when I was posted in Ethiopia in the mid-80s during the famine. I’ve never forgotten the great work we did together, and I’ve been connected with them ever since.

Now, we are in a new era. So many changes have happened with regards to Africa, and will continue to happen, so we need to be ready for the challenges ahead. We have a new Africa Strategy that will re-calibrate our engagement with Africa, but not change our commitment. Our relationships with individual countries, regional organization, and most importantly, the people of Africa remain strong and growing.

One of the most important areas that is changing in Africa, and where we can truly make a difference, is in its massive expected growth in population over the next generation, where by 2050 Africa is projected to double to 2.2 billion people, of which over 60% will be under 25 years old. Now, this “demographic tsunami” can be a great opportunity if we so choose to make it so.

Indeed, one of the key strategies of the Africa Bureau at the Department of State is harnessing the potential of Africa’s tremendous youth bulge as a force for economic ingenuity and prosperity; which is a counter narrative to violent extremism and despair.

Today, young Africans are as wired and plugged in as any of their global counterparts, and they aspire to the same goals – a quality education, a well-paying job, a good house, and something left over to help their parents.

While there is no “silver bullet” for magically transforming a nation from undeveloped to developed, maximizing the education of its youthful population is the best route available. When I arrived in Ethiopia as US Ambassador in 1999 the literacy numbers were abysmal – especially for girls. Thanks to a national policy that first promoted primary education, and later extended that to high school, current estimates are that over fifty percent of women and two thirds of men can now read and write.

And now they are undertaking an even more ambitious – almost zealous campaign to go to the next level: build from scratch a network of universities across the nation to provide the necessary skills for its young people looking towards future prosperity rather than past misery. Ten years ago Ethiopia had three national universities – now it has 31! Facilities which didn’t exist five years ago now house 15,000 students, and Ethiopia is spending 27% of its national budget on education – an astounding figure for any country, not just in Africa!

So what does this mean for us as Americans? Firstly, when a country is on its way out of the poverty trap, it will become food secure, and no longer requiring international assistance. Secondly, the U.S. still has the best university system in the world, and international students who come here to study represent the fifth or sixth largest U.S. “export” (think of U.S. education as a “product” purchased by those students).

With Africans graduating millions with Bachelor’s degrees, they desperately need Masters and PhD degree holders to serve as faculty in their new universities. U.S. universities can help in this regard by establishing partnerships with African universities to collaborate on degree programs, faculty training, curriculum design, academic management.

For example, Texas Tech is well suited to participate with our expertise in STEM areas (which are science, technology, engineering and math), and also agriculture, education, even hotel and restaurant management.

There is plenty of funding available from international donors, so expenses would not be paid by U.S. taxpayers. While serving throughout Africa as a diplomat I found that the most pro-American people were those who either spent time as university students here, or came into contact with U.S. academicians in their home countries – and in this new globalized world, the U.S. can use as many friends as possible.

Finally, a better educated and more prosperous Africa helps to stabilize the entire region, currently one of the world’s most conflict prone. Better education and job opportunities will also dramatically reduce the siren song of international terrorism and persuade people to stay in their own countries instead of feeling forced to migrate elsewhere. Prosperity in Africa will also greatly increase opportunities for selling more US products there, rather than giving more US assistance.

Education is key. That being said, I want to emphasize that the United States’ APLU universities are ideal partners for African higher education, and how important land-grant universities are to the African model.

For example, in South Sudan, a partnership between Indiana University and the University of Juba is helping to address the needs of educational institutions, teachers and students affected by conflict through a Master’s in Emergency Education program. The project works to support and empower students, including women and underrepresented ethnic groups, with a focus on conflict transformation, promoting peace building and creating social cohesion.

In Uganda, where the northern part of the country has been devastated by decades of conflict, a USAID-supported partnership between State University of New York, Albany and Makerere University is helping to rebuild communities and improve access to clean water by disseminating Water, Sanitation and Hygiene information and leading training for village residents.

Between Fiscal Year 2011 and 2017, USAID’s global investments in higher-education institutions totaled over 3.3 billion dollars, 82 percent of which went to Title XII universities. In Fiscal Year 2017 alone, USAID worked with over 252 Title XII higher-education institutions to help our partners foster critical skills necessary for self-sufficiency in key areas including health, education, and food security.

A network of 24 Feed the Future Innovation Labs has played a crucial role in developing, adapting, and sharing innovative approaches and technologies that help poor communities combat hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. This network draws on the pre-eminence of America’s world-class system of land-grant universities and its legacy of agricultural innovation and ingenuity. These partnerships have trained thousands of people around the world, and have improved crop yields and varieties, which, in turn, has helped poor families grow and consume more-nutritious foods.

Thirteen universities in seven sub-Saharan African countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia) received 14 percent of the Agency’s total foreign funding.

Africa is still by and large an agricultural society, and economic growth will largely be bolstered by the agricultural sector. For example, in Ghana, where projected growth could reach 8.5 percent, the World Bank recently identified the agricultural sector as a key driver of a more diversified economy and potential engine of growth and job creation.

The promise of this sector can be amplified with certain legal and regulatory reforms that will help attract significant U.S. investment. The U.S. has the experience in agricultural development and we have a plethora of companies that are eager to enter the African market and help to expand the continent’s agricultural potential.

Beyond these issues, our collaboration with Africa has seen increased trade and investment; more open societies and responsive governments; and expanded security initiatives.

The Trump Administration has made expansion of trade and investment a U.S. priority in Africa. As part of the Africa Strategy, a new initiative “Prosper Africa” will support U.S. investment across the region, improve the business climate, and accelerate the growth of Africa’s middle class.

In October, the President signed the BUILD Act, reforming the U.S. government’s “development finance” capabilities into the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation; doubling investment capital to over 60 billion dollars.

In December, a $550 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Power Compact was signed with Senegal. MCC selected Malawi for a bilateral compact, a five-year grant program, and selected Ethiopia for a threshold program, focused on policy and institutional reform.

In the first half of 2017, U.S. trade with Africa surpassed 18 billion dollars, up 15.6 percent from the previous year.

Under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, also known as AGOA, U.S. investment in Africa increased from 9 to 34 billion dollars a year from 2001 to 2014, creating 300,000 jobs. U.S. exports to Africa rose from 6 to 25 billion dollars from 2000 to 2014, and U.S. imports from Africa totaled 11 billion dollars in 2016, a 14 percent annual increase.

In addition, prosperity and stability require strong and accountable democratic institutions. Our support is always with the philosophy that ultimately Africans must be responsible for solving African problems. That is why we champion free and fair elections through partnerships with both governments and regional mechanisms like ECOWAS.

And with security, we are doing the same. The United States has provided peacekeeper training to over 20 African countries. Ten years ago, Africans comprised 40 percent of the continent’s peacekeepers; now it is 60 percent.

U.S.-funded programming has been vital to help “silence the guns”, such as 110 million dollars provided to the G5 Sahel Joint Force to counter terrorism in West Africa.

We work towards long-term stability and confronting terrorism in East Africa too. In Somalia, the AMISOM mission, which the United States supports, is composed of regional states seeks to bring that country stability and prosperity.

We also support the Africa Peace and Security Architecture with early warning and conflict prevention, maritime and border security, and mitigating arms, drugs and wildlife trafficking.

Finally, we see China as a strategic competitor in Africa and offer a different model of partnership. The United States pursues sustainable avenues for African growth; debt-free development alternatives.

The United States has an unwavering commitment to Africa. U.S. programs like AGOA, PEPFAR, Power Africa, and Feed the Future have opened the U.S. market to African goods, countered HIV/AIDS, brought electricity to rural areas, and helped Africans in innumerable ways.

Africa is the continent of the future, but one Africans must envision for themselves, not one that seems foisted upon them by others.

I believe strongly that we must look at Africa through the windshield, and not through the rear-view mirror.

As an old African proverb states: “He who does not look ahead, always remains behind.”

Thanks again for all the great work you do for our country and for the people of Africa. It was an honor to speak to you tonight and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.

U.S. Department of State

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