Chiefs of Mission Conference

Tibor P. Nagy, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
Washington, DC
January 14, 2019

As prepared:

Thank you so much to all of you for being here. Furlough or no furlough, we are marching ahead to carry out our critical national priorities in Africa.

And thank you for the great leadership you are showing out in the field from reporting on critical bilateral and regional issues to advancing our key national interests on human rights, good governance, health, humanitarian response, advancing the role of women in society, promoting trade and commercial interests, and supporting peace and security operations.

And I know that you for doing everything possible to keep your teams safe and well-supported. I expect all of you to take good care of your people and help the wider American community

My congratulations as well to the new ambassadors who were recently confirmed.

Now that we have launched our new United States Africa Strategy, I’d like to reiterate the four core priorities I shared with you some months ago, which I believe complement the new strategy.

We must continue to:

  • Promote stronger trade and commercial ties between the United States and Africa by establishing a level playing field across African markets;
  • Harness 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;
  • Advance peace and security through robust partnerships with African governments via bilateral and regional mechanisms; and
  • Most importantly, re-emphasize that the United States has an unwavering commitment to Africa and that no other nation matches the breadth and depth of our engagement on the continent.

I’m grateful for all your hard work in advancing these priorities. I saw this firsthand during my recent visits to West and East Africa. I look forward to visiting Southern and Central Africa later this year.

I am also pleased that senior leadership in the Department is also paying closer attention to Africa with both “D” and “P” planning trips to the continent in early 2019.

AF is a family and we need to ensure that we are taking care of our people in the field.

In all of my trips, I have set aside time at every post to meet with First and Second Tour Officers, country teams, and our locally-engaged staff to identify issues that require Washington’s attention and to gain a better understanding of operating conditions in the field.

My top priority here in Washington is supporting you and making sure that your embassies are well resourced. I am working with EX to eliminate hiring bottlenecks and unnecessary bureaucracy that limits your ability to adequately staff your missions and advance our goals.

I have asked EX to assess how we can adequately use incentives and enhanced conditions at posts to reach our recruitment targets. Let’s look at any method we can to make our posts more attractive.

As I have told many of you, I prefer to look at Africa through the windshield rather than the rear-view mirror and I believe we saw significant progress in numerous areas during these recent months.

New leadership in Ethiopia has embarked on historic changes internally, as well as regional peace initiatives in the greater Horn that offer opportunities for greatly-expanded engagement with all countries in the region.

A change in leadership in Angola with a renewed vigor to attack corruption affords another opportunity to ramp-up engagement.

We are finally “on-the-ground” in Somalia with an energized Embassy team led by one of our most senior ambassadors.

As we recently completed the move to a new Embassy complex in Harare, we remain hopeful that there will be significant political and economic reforms in Zimbabwe that will permit a better relationship with that country.

Meanwhile, we have seen breakthroughs in some of our thorniest relationships in Africa. For instance, we have lifted some sanctions on Sudan and Eritrea this year.

We are encouraged by the expanded trade and investment opportunities and support the AU’s efforts to improve intra-Africa trade through the Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.

Now my goal is to establish at least one bilateral FTA, an objective on which USTR is energetically leading. We will move aggressively to explore these opportunities.

American companies are signing major commercial deals in Uganda, Angola, Kenya, Mauritania, Mozambique, and Senegal, just to name a few. And with your sustained advocacy, we will see more.

OPIC’s Build Act will significantly increase U.S. investment on the continent and double the amount of capital available to support U.S. investment to $60 billion. You’ll hear more about that later during this conference. While all of this investment will not necessarily go to Africa, much of it will.

We want our development dollars to support governments that are taking reform efforts and governance seriously. For example, we recently signed a $550 million dollar MCC compact with Senegal to modernize its power sector, increase economic growth, and reduce poverty through improved access to electricity.

Ethiopia has been included in consideration for an MCC Threshold program, and Malawi has been chosen to negotiate a second Compact.

American companies in Ethiopia and Togo were awarded the 2018 U.S. Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence. They created jobs and opportunities for thousands of African women, many of whom live in rural areas with few economic opportunities.

We now even have direct flights from Nairobi to JFK on Kenya Airways! And other direct flights are on the way.

We also know you and your teams are working to advance peace and security around the continent, even in ways that may not make global headlines.

Whether it is our tireless efforts to promote peace and security in South Sudan or our work in Mozambique to bring an end to one of the region’s longest running conflicts and the signing of a historic peace agreement in August 2018, you are making a difference.

Our targeted security assistance to Niger to combat terrorism and our active support of free and fair elections in Nigeria represent critical pillars of our work on the continent.

I could go on and on, and I wish I could name all of the great things you and your missions have achieved this year. I’m proud of all the excellent work being done.

As Ambassador Bolton’s recent remarks made clear, Africa is at a crossroads, and the direction it takes will have a major impact – for good or ill – not only in Africa but the rest of the world as well. You all play a pivotal role in this effort.

We look forward to discussing with you plans for “Prosper Africa” and “The Journey to Self-Reliance” among other key initiatives.

Thanks again to all of you and I look forward to working together in the coming years.