Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Ziad Haider travels to Tunis, Tunisia and Cairo, Egypt for Road to GES 2016
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
May 24, 2016
Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Ziad Haider will visit Tunisia and Egypt from May 26 to June 1 to promote the 7th annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (June 22-24) in Silicon Valley, CA.
Road to GES: Tunis, May 25-26, will feature events in partnership with the Tunis Business School, Pragma Corporation, and key government officials in the Ministries of Commerce, Industry, and Vocational Training and Employment. Special Representative Haider will also engage with representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises and local incubators.
Road to GES: Cairo, June 1, will be among the final international events leading up to GES 2016. In Cairo, Special Representative Haider will host an event with leading private and public sector representatives to celebrate the potential of entrepreneurship and innovation to strengthen markets. He will also visit American University’s Cairo Campus and Egypt’s Smart Village to discuss how the next generation can use tech innovations to tackle future challenges.
GES 2016 will showcase over 700 entrepreneurs from 170 countries and 250 investors from around the world to create new opportunities for investment, partnership, and collaboration; connect American entrepreneurs and investors with international counterparts to form lasting relationships; and highlight entrepreneurship as means to address some of the most intractable global challenges.
Hosting GES in Silicon Valley will highlight America’s entrepreneurial spirit and allow American investors and entrepreneurs to see the talent, solutions, and opportunities that exist globally.
For updates, follow Special Representative Haider on Facebook and Twitter @EconEngage.
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2016
Statement by Deputy National Security Spokesman Mark Stroh on National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice meeting with Kenyan Cabinet Secretaries Amina Mohamed and James Macharia
Yesterday, National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice met with Kenyan Cabinet Secretaries Amina Mohamed and James Macharia at the White House. They discussed the strong U.S.-Kenya partnership, as highlighted in the President’s July 2015 visit to Nairobi, and opportunities to work more closely together to expand security and prosperity in East Africa. In discussing Kenya’s recent announcement related to refugees, they mutually acknowledged the importance of maintaining Kenya’s longstanding humanitarian leadership with regard to refugees from Somalia and elsewhere, and ways the United States and the international community can support these efforts. Finally, Ambassador Rice reiterated the strong U.S. interest in launching direct flights between Kenya and the United States as soon as possible.
Department of State
May 20, 2016
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Judith Garber will travel to Nairobi, Kenya, May 24–27. She will lead the U.S. delegation to the second session of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-2). In addition to attending UNEA-2 sessions, she will conduct bilateral meetings with counterparts from a range of countries to advance U.S. objectives related to wildlife trafficking, ocean conservation, and other urgent issues.
Follow the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs on Twitter @StateDeptOES for updates on Acting Assistant Secretary Garber’s trip.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Department of State
May 20, 2016
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Cameroon as you celebrate your national day on May 20.
Since independence, Cameroon has earned a reputation as a peaceful and welcoming nation, and as a lynchpin of regional stability. The United States is proud to be a partner with you in your effort to build prosperity through improved infrastructure and a more diversified economy. We are also pleased to work with you to protect endangered species, address the harmful impacts of climate change, curb wildlife trafficking, and improve maritime security.
The United States stands with you, as well, in your courageous fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram, your peacekeeping efforts in the Central African Republic, and your willingness to host hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled conflicts in nearby lands. We deeply admire the positive international role that Cameroon continues to play to address climate change, protect endangered species, curb wildlife trafficking and improve maritime security.
On this special occasion, I wish peace and prosperity for all Cameroonians in the year ahead. On est ensemble!
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
May 20, 2016
The following is attributable on the record to Spokesperson John Kirby:
Secretary Kerry spoke by telephone today with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. As he did yesterday in a call to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Secretary offered his deepest condolences for the loss of life in the Egypt Air crash. He pledged continued U.S. support for the investigation and search effort, and he thanked the Foreign Minister once again for hosting him in Cairo earlier this week. The Secretary and the Foreign Minister promised to stay in close contact as the investigation progresses.
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
May 16, 2016
Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman will travel May 17-23 to Rabat, Casablanca, and Marrakesh to highlight best practices for protecting religious pluralism.
Morocco has long recognized the contributions of religious minorities, including its Jewish community, as an important part of its heritage. To that end, Special Envoy Forman will meet with government officials, Jewish and other religious leaders, and students and academics to gain a broader understanding of the concerns of the Moroccan Jewish community and discuss best practices in educating about and combating anti-Semitism.
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
May 14, 2016
Good afternoon. President Buhari, your Excellencies, distinguished ministers, it is an honor to join you today and express our profound appreciation to President Buhari and the people of Nigeria for hosting us.
[Introduction repeated in French]
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with young Nigerian entrepreneurs and innovators who are pioneering new frontiers in science and technology. Their energy, their ingenuity—reflected in young people across the region—points the way towards a future for the Lake Chad Basin defined by growth, by opportunity, by dignity.
The fight against Boko Haram is a fight for this future—one that unlocks the potential of all people, the prosperity of nations, and peace for the entire region.
Today’s Regional Security Summit can play a critical part in making that hope a reality.
This Summit provides a valuable forum for frank conversation and collaboration on critical shared priorities, including security cooperation, humanitarian assistance, and stabilization efforts.
As we assess the considerable progress the Lake Chad Basin countries have made in degrading Boko Haram, it is our hope that these discussions will set the stage for developing a comprehensive approach for how the countries of the region—with continued support from the international community and partners—can best work together to defeat Boko Haram.
The United States is deeply committed to supporting this fight—a fight against a group that has turned young children into suicide bombers. We are determined to defeat their campaign of murder, enslavement, and destruction.
We will continue to provide advisors, information sharing, training, logistical support, equipment, and resources to support our partners in this struggle.
As we do that, we urge that security forces carry out their operations in a way that respects human rights and strengthens the bonds between the security forces and the civilian population.
It is the right thing to do, but it is also the smart thing to do—because ignoring the human rights of citizens risks turning them to extremism and fueling the very fire that we seek to extinguish together.
Effective defector and detainee policies are needed to break Boko Haram’s cohesion and provide viable exit routes for those prepared to renounce violence.
It is crucial that detainees receive humane treatment in detention facilities, again, so as to not fuel extremist narratives.
We commend Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, and Benin for standing up the Multinational Joint Task Force. We support the MNJTF—which can play, and is already playing, an important role in planning and coordinating security operations, expediting the exchange of information, and ensuring that security forces uphold human rights. Since Boko Haram has no respect for international borders, strategic success requires that the governments of this region work together.
Victory on the battlefield is not enough to ensure the lasting defeat of Boko Haram.
Success will require a sustained and comprehensive approach that includes combatting Boko Haram’s ideology, providing civilian security and civil administration, investigating human rights abuses and holding those responsible to account, repairing civilian-military relations, restoring stability in liberated communities, providing basic services, and promoting economic development.
There is a continuum that we have to address. We have to start by liberating communities from Boko Haram, but that is not enough. We then have to stabilize these communities so that people can come home, but still that is not enough. We then have to rebuild these communities, and even that is not enough because we have to address the economic and political drivers of division that set us on the course we are on already.
Taken together, these efforts can address the drivers of extremism that gave rise to Boko Haram in the first place. This comprehensive approach is also needed to create the conditions that would enable nearly 2.4 million internally displaced persons and 170,000 refugees to voluntarily and safely return to their homes in Nigeria.
If we fail to adopt and pursue this comprehensive approach, we may well defeat Boko Haram on the battlefield, only to be confronted by Boko Haram 2.0 that rises from its ashes.
At the same time, we must also address this region’s acute humanitarian crisis—provide more life-saving humanitarian aid to those in need and education opportunities for children who have been out of school for far too long. None of us can afford a lost generation of children in this region.
The United States has been proud to provide nearly $250 million in humanitarian assistance to the Lake Chad countries over the past two years. We have established nearly 300 non-formal learning centers for children, supported mobile health teams, set up reporting mechanisms and services for survivors of gender-based violence, and created village savings and loan associations for women and girls to generate a little more income.
We also remain absolutely committed to the efforts to find and return the Chibok girls and the many others taken by Boko Haram from their families and from their communities.
The hard challenges of this moment are matched by the promise and potential of this region. We are confident that the Lake Chad Basin countries—with support from the United States, France, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and other international partners—will win this fight and set this region on a course to realize a better future. Let us now turn our unity of vision into sustained unity of action.
Thank you very much.
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
May 13, 2016
Thanks to all of you for being here this afternoon. It is very good to be back here in Nigeria.
I was here about eleven months ago and that was an opportunity, just after President Buhari’s election, to start to meet with the senior leaders of the new government to help prepare for President Buhari’s visit to Washington, where he was received by President Obama at the White House.
I have to say, in the time since then we have seen the relationship between Nigeria and the United States grow even deeper and stronger. That is evidenced by the fact of President Buhari’s visit, which in and of itself was very successful. By the reinvigoration of the Binational Commission that I was able to co-host with Secretary Kerry just a few weeks ago. By the meeting in London yesterday between President Buhari and Secretary Kerry, and of course their participation in the anti-corruption conference. And then by the events of this week, with Nigeria taking a lead role in bringing together countries in the region and beyond to further coordinate the fight against Boko Haram and violent extremism.
In all of these endeavors I think we have seen a Nigeria that is leading decisively at home with the President and his strong agenda, but also in the region, and even beyond the region. The fight against corruption, for example, is truly a global issue and Nigeria has made itself a leader in that effort.
We had the opportunity today to meet with the Vice President and the Foreign Minister and we talked about our work to further strengthen the partnership between both of our countries and to support President Buhari’s national priorities, in particular improving security, fighting corruption, and expanding economic opportunity.
I also had an opportunity to meet with some young Nigerian innovators and entrepreneurs who are pioneering new frontiers in science and technology and, separately, with civil society leaders who are advancing the fight against corruption in innovative ways.
The meeting with the young innovators and entrepreneurs was really extraordinary because around this table we had maybe twenty people, and when you sat and listened to them and the work they are doing—the conclusion you reach is that there is really no limit for Nigeria because the talent in the room was so extraordinary.
We have the Global Entrepreneurship Summit coming up in Silicon Valley—this will be the sixth summit that President Obama is hosting or taking part in—of the Summit participants, and there is a really hard process to get in, there are nine Nigerians. Nigeria had more applicants to the Summit than any other country in the world, a fact that I think is evidence of the talent that is here in this country.
For me, the conversations with the innovators and entrepreneurs as well as with civil society provided a window into a future for Nigeria that is defined by inclusive growth and high standards of governance. That is the potential that is there.
Let me say briefly as well that we very much admire the work that the President and his Administration are doing on fighting corruption—the progress that has been made to date and the work that remains to be done as well.
Also on the work that is being done on the economy. I’m happy to address both of those during questions if they come up.
Realizing this future, though, requires Nigeria and its Lake Chad Basin neighbors to confront the region’s security challenges with focus and determination. Tomorrow we have the Regional Security Summit. That is a valuable forum for frank conversation and collaboration on what are critical shared priorities, including humanitarian assistance, stabilization efforts, and deeper security cooperation.
The United States is deeply committed to supporting Nigeria and other Lake Chad Basin countries in the fight against Boko Haram and its campaign of murder, enslavement, and destruction.
Our governments have been working together to strengthen border security, enhance the capacity of security forces, improve information-sharing, and emphasize the value of respecting human rights above all.
In support of Nigeria’s efforts, we have also contributed counter-IED equipment, mine-resistant armor-protected vehicles, and training for infantry battalions.
Defeating Boko Haram will require a sustained and comprehensive approach that includes providing civilian security and civil administration to areas that are newly freed, investigating human rights abuses and holding those responsible to account, repairing civilian-military relations, restoring stability, providing basic services, and promoting economic development over time.
Taken together, these steps can address the drivers of extremism that gave rise to Boko Haram in the first place and break the cycle of hopelessness and violence that can entice young people to become agents of terror.
At the same time, even as we are doing this, it is vital that we continue to provide life-saving humanitarian aid to those in need and educational opportunities for children who have been out of school for far too long. That last thing that Nigeria needs is a lost generation of children who do not benefit from basic education and thus will be less able to provide for themselves and their families in the future, to contribute meaningfully to society, and in the worst case scenario, fall prey to extremism, to crime, and other social ills.
We have established nearly 300 non-formal learning centers for children of displaced families and their host communities. And we remain committed to efforts to find and return the Chibok girls and the many others taken by Boko Haram from their families and communities.
Military gains have to be matched with a surge of civilian security personnel in liberated areas to prepare for the safe return of nearly 2.4 million internally displaced persons and nearly 170,000 Nigerian refugees who have been forced to flee across borders.
We are ready to support the voluntary return of families who have fled their communities—but when the conditions are right. When refugees and displaced persons are allowed to return on their own timeline—when they deem it safe—then their journeys home are more likely to last.
Plans must also be put in place to ensure that Boko Haram defectors have a secure pathway to demobilize without fear of retribution and detainees receive humane treatment in detention facilities so as not to fuel extremist narratives.
These are all incredibly hard challenges, but I think those challenges are matched by the promise and potential of our collaboration, and especially by the promise of this extraordinary country. With Nigeria’s leadership and continued partnership among the Lake Chad basin nations, we are confident that the fight for the future of the region will be won.
With that, thank you very much for listening and I’m happy to take any questions.
Office of Communications
Department of Agriculture
U.S. Beef Arrives in Recently Reopened South African Market
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today confirmed that the first shipment of U.S. beef recently arrived in South Africa following the reopening of the South African market earlier this year.
“The arrival of U.S. beef in South Africa represents another important milestone in efforts by USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to regain access to this important market,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Along with U.S. poultry, South African consumers now have access to high quality, safe and wholesome U.S. beef, and U.S. producers and exporters have gained another valuable market for their products.”
On January 7, 2016, after more than two years of intense discussions, the United States and the Republic of South Africa concluded an agreement on sanitary barriers and related health certificates for U.S. beef, pork and poultry products exported to South Africa. The South African market had previously been closed to U.S. poultry since 2000, beef since 2003 and pork since 2013. With the removal of the barriers, U.S. exports of meat to South Africa could reach $75 million annually.
The United States began shipping poultry to South Africa earlier this year under the terms of the agreement. As a result, U.S. poultry exports to South Africa totaled almost 12,000 metric tons, worth $7.2 million, in the first quarter of 2016.
The Obama Administration has worked aggressively to expand markets for American-made goods, including agricultural products. Six of the past seven years have represented the strongest period for American agricultural exports in the history of our country, with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling $919.6 billion between Fiscal Years 2009 and 2015. In fiscal year 2015, American farmers and ranchers exported $139.7 billion of food and agricultural goods to consumers worldwide. Not only that, U.S. agricultural exports supported more than 1 million American jobs both on and off the farm, a substantial part of the estimated 11.7 million jobs supported by exports all across the country.
Additionally, the Administration has concluded negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that will help expand U.S. agricultural exports to some of the fastest growing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and will now work with Congress to secure its passage into law.
Last year, USDA also engaged trading partners to eliminate all remaining animal health barriers related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) for U.S. export markets. Fourteen countries removed all BSE restrictions and granted access to U.S. beef and beef products, including Australia, Macau, Philippines, New Zealand, Singapore, Ukraine, Vietnam, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Costa Rica, Guatemala, St. Lucia and Iraq. The total value of U.S. beef and beef products exported to the 14 countries that lifted their BSE restrictions is in excess of $180 million.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
Department of State
May 17, 2016
The U.S. Department of State, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, will contribute to the First International Conference on the Internet, Cyber Security and Information Systems convened by the University of Gaborone and the University of Johannesburg. U.S. Deputy Coordinator for Cyber Issues Thomas Dukes will provide a keynote speech to open the conference, and will be joined by Professor Bhekisipho Twala, University of Johannesburg, Dr. George Patrick Ah-Thew, SADC Secretariat Directorate of Infrastructure and Services, and Professor Linda Ott, Michigan Technological University, as well as other Government of Botswana and relevant university officials.
Conference attendees will include government officials from Botswana, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia, and others. Regional organizations, such as the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been invited to share their ideas on cybersecurity and cybercrime. Distinguished guests from universities across the continent and the globe, and officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security will also share perspectives on cyber issues.
As use of the Internet and mobile phones expands throughout sub-Saharan Africa, nations are grappling with how to respond to multiplying cyber threats, while promoting new and innovative technologies that contribute to stronger democratic institutions, economic growth through trade and investment, advancing peace and prosperity, and promoting opportunity and development. Strong cybersecurity practices enable everyone to enjoy the full benefits of information and communication technology while staying safe online.
The U.S. Department of State works with a variety of stakeholders across a range of interconnected cyber policy issues to promote a cyberspace that is open, interoperable, reliable, and secure for all users. We achieve this vision through diplomatic and developmental engagement around the world.
This conference builds on previous engagement with the Government of Botswana and other key African stakeholders in support of our mutual goals of promoting cybersecurity, combatting cybercrime, and advocating for an Internet that continues to allow people of every nation and background to communicate, cooperate, and prosper like never before.
To learn more about the Department of State’s cyber policy efforts, please follow us on Twitter @State_Cyber, or Facebook.
Department of State
May 17, 2016
Macon Phillips, Coordinator of the Bureau of International Information Programs, will travel to Senegal, Ghana, and Uganda May 18-26 to engage with the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network and meet with stakeholders to discuss entrepreneurship and public outreach on digital platforms.
Coordinator Phillips will visit Senegal May 18-20 where he will meet with young Senegalese to discuss a range of issues including entrepreneurship, women in technology, and leadership. He will also meet with prominent bloggers, journalists and with members of the YALI Dakar Regional Leadership Center team.
The Coordinator will travel to Ghana May 20-23 where he will participate in the YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship West Africa Regional Conference in Accra and join a capacity-building YALI TechCamp for grassroots organizers at Ashesi University.
The Coordinator will visit Uganda May 24-26 where he will meet with members of the YALI Network and host roundtable discussions with civil society in Kampala.
For more updates on Coordinator Phillips’ trip, follow him on Twitter @Macon44.
Department of State
May 17, 2016
Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Ambassador Susan Jacobs will travel to the DRC from May 17-20.
Special Advisor Jacobs will meet with government officials and parliamentarians to discuss the intercountry adoption process and resolution of the remaining U.S. adoption cases affected by the exit permit suspension. She will also discuss ways to strengthen child protection systems.
For more information about children’s issues, please visit: ChildrensIssues.state.gov
For updates on Special Advisor Jacobs’ trip, follow her on Twitter: @ChildrensIssues
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs
African Methodist Episcopal University
May 16, 2016
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for having me here today. I am thrilled to be back in Liberia where my international journey began as a graduate student decades ago. And I’m thrilled to be back in the country where I had the honor of serving you as U.S. Ambassador from 2008-2012.
Since 2012, I’ve only been back to Liberia for one day, and I’ve really missed the country and its wonderful people. This time I’ve got four days only, and I’m packing the schedule with as many events as I can fit in! This for me is the most important event.
I’d like to offer my thoughts on where Liberia has come from, the challenges that it still faces, and how all of us can do our part to secure a bright future for Liberia and its people.
First of all, let me congratulate all Liberians on the tremendous progress your country has made in recent years. To quote your president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s people have moved from tragedy to triumph. The 15 year civil war that ended in 2003 devastated the country in every aspect imaginable. GDP fell by 90 percent.
But 13 years later, Liberia has become a champion of democracy and peace, and has taken some important first steps in the difficult task of rebuilding its economy and strengthening its educational and health care delivery systems even in the face of an unprecedented challenge like the Ebola epidemic. You have shown your commitment to foster an open society by joining the Open Government Partnership, and the Partnership on Illicit Finance, and you have put in place laws and mechanisms to improve transparency, accountability, and fight corruption.
It is also notable that during the past 13 years of peace, Liberia has held three free and fair nation-wide elections; two presidential and one Senate mid-term.
Liberians showed their tremendous resilience and faith in the midst of and the aftermath of the Ebola crisis.
Now, the task ahead is to make sure Liberia stays on this positive trajectory. Liberia has moved up the democracy ladder and it is moving toward a more prosperous future.
Despite this impressive progress, Liberia continues to face daunting challenges, and real risks of backsliding remain – we cannot let that happen.
The Ebola epidemic exposed the fragility of Liberia’s heath sector and economy.
Over 50% of Liberia’s population is under 18. This presents great opportunities, but significant challenges as well. To accommodate this population bulge, Liberia must create jobs, it must develop infrastructure, it must diversify its economy, and improve its education system. More importantly, it must remain stable.
All of these things are going to be a challenge to Liberians given depressed economic conditions and in particular the global slump in commodity prices, which impacts Liberia’s principal exports and contributes to low economic growth.
While the government can do very little to affect commodity prices, much more can be done to improve the country’s investment climate. According to the World Bank 2016 Ease of Doing Business indicators, Liberia was ranked 179 out of 189 countries surveyed. As you yourselves undoubtedly feel, this is not good enough, and as a result, Liberia is being left behind by some of its more dynamic regional neighbors such as Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
One of the major challenges to the private sector in Liberia and Africa writ large is corruption.
We must fight corruption if we want to see the country progress. As President Obama said last year in Ethiopia, “Nothing will unlock Africa’s economic potential more than ending the cancer of corruption.” Corruption robs countries of vital resources needed to move forward on development. Liberia cannot afford to lose these resources, so all of us must commit to working together to stop corruption at all levels and stop people from using their political connections to fill their bank accounts and build their mansions.
Liberia must also stay focused on maintaining peace, enforcing the rule of law, and providing security – now, more than ever, as Liberia prepares for the challenge of taking on sole responsibility and the reins for the security of its people. I am confident that Liberia is ready for this challenge, but it will require resolve, ingenuity, and agility in the face of challenges – the same attributes that have brought Liberia so far from its darkest days.
Adding to the challenges facing Liberia, West Africa, and Africa — a persistent terrorist threat. I have just come from Nigeria where we discussed with your neighbors and partners how to tackle Boko Haram, which is having a devastating impact on Africa’s most populous country. We have seen terrorists strike not just Nigeria, but Mali, Burkina Faso, and Côte d’Ivoire – targeting Africans and tourists and threatening to undermine many of the gains the region has made over the past years. People, let me tell you, Liberia is not exempt from the threat.
Capacity building and commitment by Liberia’s security services must be a priority.
These are just some of the current challenges, and they are challenges that Liberia’s current and next administration must be prepared to address as well.
But in the face of numerous obstacles, Liberians have remained incredibly resilient, and that’s why I know that, ultimately, Liberia will succeed.
As Liberia moves forward, the United States will continue to be a dedicated partner. The U.S.-Liberia relationship dates back nearly 200 years. Since 2004, the United States has contributed over $1 billion in foreign assistance to this country. We are fully invested in Liberia’s promise, and like you, we want to see that promise realized.
Liberia has one of the lowest electricity access rates in the world. In Monrovia, only 6.7% of the population has access to electricity. By 2030, Liberia aims to connect 70% of Monrovia to the electricity grid and provide access to 35% of the rest of the country. The United States, through Power Africa, is committed to continuing to support Liberia’s efforts to meet these goals.
President Obama’s Power Africa initiative is making a major impact by supporting energy sector development through the expansion of the grid in Monrovia and the construction of small-scale, renewable pilot projects. Power Africa is also building government capacity and providing training and advisory support to key energy sector institutions.
We’re also making progress in implementing the $257 million Liberia Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact. The MCC Compact aims to improve road infrastructure as well as support the expansion of access to reliable and affordable electricity. To achieve those goals, the compact includes funding for the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydroelectric Plant, development of a training center for technicians in the electricity sector, and support for the creation of an independent energy sector regulator. This is a big deal.
We continue to help Liberia recover from the devastating Ebola outbreak. Ebola killed thousands, drained vitally-needed resources, slowed economic growth, and delayed key development projects. The United States led a worldwide response that has helped Liberia bring Ebola under control.
And our commitment endures; we are working with Liberia to build resilient health systems, continuing research on Ebola and other emerging diseases, and beginning programming through our Global Health Security Agenda to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats.
Through our commitment to Liberia’s peace and security, we have supported the development of the Armed Forces of Liberia. As we enter into a new phase of collaboration with the AFL, I want to congratulate the officers and soldiers who have truly developed into a professional force for good. These dedicated men and women have proven capable of safeguarding Liberian sovereignty.
President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative has been a tremendous success. Through YALI, we have brought 31 Liberians to the United States over the past two years for six weeks of academic and leadership training. This year, we are doubling the size of the program Africa-wide and will have 25 YALI Fellows from Liberia.
These YALI Fellows are simply outstanding. I meet with them whenever I visit Africa, and later today I’m excited to meet Liberia’s 2016 Fellows. YALI Fellows are already making major contributions to Liberia. Recently, YALI alumni from Liberia founded their own NGO, the Mandela Washington Fellowship Liberia. They are implementing a program called iMentor, which engages and mentors young community leaders in four counties through a train-the-trainers program on leadership and community activism. Just this past weekend, the group conducted an iMentor program in Brewerville for 400 local youth.
These are just some of the examples of the benefits that the strong U.S.-Liberia partnership is providing to Liberia. They demonstrate the rapid progress Liberia is making. But ultimately, Liberia needs to be in the driver’s seat for its ongoing development.
The same goes for democracy. Only Liberians can determine the course of Liberia’s democracy and the kind of democracy you want. And a strong, inclusive democracy is absolutely essential to secure the progress Liberia has made.
This brings me to upcoming elections.
For the U.S., democracy and governance are a key priority. There are more than a dozen elections on the continent in 2017. Liberia’s 2017 elections are an opportunity for it to create its own destiny and a strong democracy. Showing great respect for the constitution and the people of Liberia, President Sirleaf is stepping down after two terms in office. This is a big deal given what we have seen elsewhere. She is committed to a peaceful transfer of power in accordance with the law, and I applaud her for that crucial decision.
That decision gives you, the people and youth of Liberia, an historic opportunity. You will really be the first generation to see the peaceful transition of power from one living, sitting president, to another, both elected by the people. When this happens, Liberia will be an example of a true democracy in Africa, and for you to elect a leader for other countries on the continent to emulate.
The elections are well over a year away and it is far too early to turn away from the business of governing. It is not, however, too soon for you to think about what shape you want your country’s future to take. The upcoming elections, rather than being a challenge, are an opportunity for you to demand that presidential candidates put forward a vision of unity, peace, and democracy and elect a leader who will carry Liberia towards that future.
For many of you young people here today, this will be your first opportunity to vote for president. Look carefully at the candidates, their platforms, their records. Ask them what their vision is for Liberia. Ask thoughtful questions and demand responses. This, men and women, and I stress women, is your opportunity to help shape the future of the country.
You must get away from personality politics. Stress issues. Thus, politicians must stand on platforms and not personalities.
Once the political season begins to heat up, politicians must be conscious in their actions and their words that they don’t contribute to violence. I say to you, do not allow yourselves to be used as political pawns. Politicians must actively work to promote national unity and demand a peaceful process even while competing to earn votes. They need to think about others, and not just about themselves. And they must think carefully about their policies. Those who would take the country backward should rethink their strategy. Liberia’s elections will be on the world stage.
On election day, get out and vote! You will reaffirm your commitment to peaceful change through democratic processes, rather than riots and taking to the streets. Candidates, likewise, will need to accept the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box.
If your candidate does not win, do not immediately assume fraud or rigged elections. Liberia has very good procedures in place to handle electoral disputes.
Recognizing that significant challenges remain with respect to the organization of the elections, we are still confident that the National Elections Commission will run free, fair, and transparent elections, just as they have done in the past. We are also certain that the Liberian security agencies will be able to secure the polling stations and ballots and work alongside the NEC to ensure these elections are a success.
Let me stress, violence must be avoided at all cost. No one should die in an effort to express their political beliefs. Politicians should be clear on that.
And finally, as important as the 2017 elections will be, it bears repeating that they are still more than a year away, and Liberians can’t afford to focus solely on elections. Elections are just one milestone in a democracy. Democracy is a constant process requiring consistent, continued efforts to move forward.
When I think about Liberia’s future, I think first of all the hard-working, resilient, intelligent, and kind Liberians I got to know during my years here of working in this country. Because of you, I have tremendous confidence in Liberia’s future. I know that Liberia will continue to grow into its role as a leader in Africa.
To the students here today, and to all Liberians, I urge you to listen to the words of your president, who said at a Harvard University graduation ceremony, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” Dream big, and believe in yourselves and your country.
We know that as Liberians, you can take charge of your fate. We saw this in your response to Ebola. And the United States stands with the people and the government of Liberia as you chart your path toward a peaceful and prosperous future and become an example of democracy and prosperity for the rest of Africa to follow.
Thank you so much.
Department of State
May 13, 2016
Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield will travel to Monrovia, May 15-17, 2016, for high-level meetings and to deliver a major speech. Her trip to Africa started in Abuja, Nigeria, where she attended the second Regional Security Summit with Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken and Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell.
In Monrovia, Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield will meet with senior representatives of the Liberian Government, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to discuss bilateral and regional issues. She will deliver a speech focusing on the challenges facing Liberia and the 2017 presidential elections at the African Methodist Episcopal University. She will also tour a school named after her at the Edward Binyah Kesselly military training facility and barracks. The Assistant Secretary previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Liberia.
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
May 12, 2016
The following is attributable to Spokesperson John Kirby:
Secretary Kerry met today in London with Federal Republic of Nigeria President Buhari. They met on the sidelines of the Anti-Corruption Summit hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron.
The Secretary thanked President Buhari for his efforts to address corruption issues and for his decision to join the Open Government Partnership. He urged Nigeria to continue to make necessary reforms that further improve government transparency and accountability.
The Secretary also expressed a firm commitment to continue working closely with Nigeria on a range of issues, including the shared threat of extremism and the struggle against Boko Haram.
The President and the Secretary discussed the challenges facing Nigeria’s economy and U.S. interest in encouraging private sector investment, which will be enhanced by the success of economic reforms being pursued by President Buhari.
Finally, Secretary Kerry offered continued U.S. support to help locate, track and investigate the whereabouts of looted funds, as we have done for Nigeria in the past. He also expressed appreciation that Nigeria will work with the United States on the Global Forum on Asset Recovery.
Secretary of State
May 11, 2016
I am deeply concerned by the Government of Kenya’s decision to close refugee camps in Kenya, dismantle the Department of Refugee Affairs, and expedite the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees who have sought protection in Kenya.
We strongly urge the Government of Kenya to maintain its longstanding leadership role in protecting and sheltering victims of violence and trauma, consistent with its international obligations. We call on Kenya to uphold these international obligations and not forcibly repatriate refugees.
We deeply appreciate the hospitality and commitment that Kenya has shown over decades of hosting refugees. We have long supported Kenya in shouldering this significant responsibility, including through significant contributions in humanitarian assistance and by resettling many refugees to the United States.
We call on Kenya to continue its support for refugees and voluntary return efforts, and to continue to work with UNHCR and partner nations to find durable solutions that respect humanitarian standards and uphold international law. We also urge the Government of Kenya to honor its responsibilities, including the 2013 Tripartite Agreement on the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees living in Kenya.
We remain committed to working with Kenya to support voluntary returns that are safe, dignified and consistent with international law, as well as helping Kenya to address security concerns presented by al-Shabaab and other extremist groups.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Office of the Spokesperson
May 11, 2016
Deputy Secretary Antony Blinken will travel to Abuja, Nigeria, May 12–14, to lead the U.S. delegation to the second Regional Security Summit and for bilateral meetings. The Deputy Secretary will be joined in Abuja by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Acting Coordinator for Counterterrorism Justin Siberell.
At the Regional Security Summit, the Deputy Secretary will deliver the U.S. national statement and meet with senior leaders to discuss efforts to support Nigeria and the other Lake Chad Basin countries in the fight against Boko Haram. Participation is expected to include heads of state from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and France. The Deputy Secretary will also review with Nigerian leaders progress on commitments made during the March 30, 2016 Binational Commission meeting in Washington.
Finally, the Deputy Secretary will meet with innovators and entrepreneurs to discuss how transformations in science and technology in West Africa can shape and promote the advancement of economic opportunity through innovation, and with civil society leaders to discuss the ongoing fight against corruption.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Catherine A. Novelli
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
May 6, 2016
Thanks, John. Good morning. It is great to see so many friends and colleagues here today. I’d like to recognize my co-chair, Minister of Employment Ladhari, along with the rest of the Tunisian delegation. I’d also like to welcome our private sector representatives, and thank everyone who has worked so hard over the past few months to organize this event.
It is an honor to co-chair the first full meeting of this Joint Economic Commission. When President Obama and President Caid Essebsi agreed last year to establish the JEC, it was a testament to the strong partnership between the United States and Tunisia. They envisioned a mechanism to support Tunisia’s economic reform priorities and encourage private sector ties between our countries, in a manner that would promote economic development in both our countries.
Tunisia has a strong partner in the United States. We have provided Tunisia with more than $750 million in foreign assistance since 2011 and underwritten nearly $1 billion in loan guarantees.
It is worth taking a step back and recognizing what Tunisia has been able to accomplish since 2011. In the face of immense challenges and overwhelming odds, Tunisia has managed to build an accountable, representative, and inclusive democracy.
On the economic front, we commend the Tunisian government for completing a number of significant reforms, such as the bankruptcy law, the competition and prices law, the public-private partnership law, and public bank recapitalization. We recognize that other reforms are in the works: an investment code, a banking sector reform law, a tax code, and customs modernization. We applaud these efforts.
This morning, you may have noticed a large screen at the front of this conference room. It was playing a video of interviews with Tunisian business owners and entrepreneurs.
There’s Khaled Doulami, a young entrepreneur who has founded two radio stations and two IT companies. And there’s Ramzi Ben Hedi, who runs Chili’s and Papa John’s franchises. There’s also Badreddine Ouali, who operates a Tunis-based financial software supplier. And Abdelaziz Makhloufi, representing C.H.O. Group, one of Tunisia’s major olive exporters. Each one has created jobs and opportunities within Tunisia. I encourage everyone to take a look at the video and hear these amazing stories.
We know that they and similar entrepreneurs operate in the face of many challenges. They describe a lack of access to credit, uncertainty about registering a business, complicated customs processes, and licensing delays. Business owners and entrepreneurs have told us about the regulatory, legal, and other barriers that stifle innovation and economic growth.
Finding practical ways to address these challenges is what the JEC is all about. The JEC is our only bilateral dialogue with Tunisia that includes private sector participation. This is what makes it unique and so important.
The JEC is also about building Tunisian partnerships with U.S. firms and finding tangible ways to unlock the potential that already exists in the Tunisian economy. This includes creating the right business environment to attract foreign investment, including from U.S. companies. Concrete steps to improve the business environment, which make it easier for Tunisian and U.S. firms to operate, will help create jobs for Tunisians. Boosting trade and business links between our two countries will also benefit the U.S. economy and help to strengthen U.S.-Tunisian relations.
Improving Tunisia’s business climate will also help to move more workers from the informal to the formal sector. In an economy where approximately 40 percent of non-agricultural workers are employed in the informal sector, this is a critical objective. This is will also boost economic opportunities for women, as women are hit particularly hard by being excluded from the formal economy.
Today’s agenda reflects the input of private sector representatives – groups like AmCham, Partnership for a New Beginning, and Tunisian American Young Professionals. Over the past few months, we’ve talked to hundreds of people – including many of you in this room – and we’ve received suggestions on where and how to focus our efforts.
In our break-out sessions today, we’re going to focus on three areas: 1) new opportunities in the agriculture and food sector, 2) strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises, and 3) growing the ICT sector. Let me say a few words on the outcomes we hope to achieve in each of these areas.
We know that Tunisian firms would like to trade and partner more with U.S. companies. Agriculture comprises almost ten percent of Tunisia’s GDP and provides jobs for roughly 15 percent of the labor force, and this is a sector ready for increased cooperation.
Today, we will focus on steps to increase opportunities for Tunisian farmers and agricultural exporters to find U.S. partners. We will assist the Tunisian government, in coordination with our private sector colleagues, in the creation of a road map to boost bilateral trade.
SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises)
We will also focus on Small and Medium-sized Enterprises – SMEs – which are the lifeblood of economic growth in most countries. In Tunisia, new job growth comes predominantly from businesses in their start-up phase, which is to say businesses that are less than four years old. SMEs comprise more than 80 percent of Tunisia’s economy.
Yet Tunisian entrepreneurs face a complex process for registering a business, involving multiple ministries. By some estimates, it takes up to 40 days and costs an average of $500 to register a business. This prevents many entrepreneurs from registering companies in the first place, which is why so many businesses remain in the informal sector. This is not just an isolated phenomenon. It is a systemic barrier to economic growth and job creation.
The World Bank estimates that the financing gap for Tunisian SMEs exceeds $2 billion. And nearly 50 percent of Tunisian SMEs are unserved or underserved in terms of access to credit.
So today, we will look at ways to improve the environment for SMEs within Tunisia. We will focus on concrete steps to simplify the process for starting a business, including through the creation of a one-stop shop for online business registration. We will work together on ways to enable small business owners to use assets – such as equipment or accounts receivable – as collateral to access financing, thus bringing down borrowing costs significantly.
We will share best practices on developing legal and regulatory frameworks that expand access to finance for SMEs. We will also look for opportunities for Tunisian SMEs to partner with U.S. firms.
ICT (Information and Communications Technology)
What’s so encouraging is that all of these changes – increasing transparency, moving more Tunisians from the informal to the formal sector, and making it easier for SMEs to partner with U.S. firms – are within reach as a result of Tunisia’s commitment to building out its ICT capacity.
Last May, Tunisia launched “Digital Tunisia 2018,” which includes nearly 1 billion Tunisian dinars for its “Smart Tunisia” initiative. And Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Economy Fehri just announced plans to connect every Tunisian school to the Internet by 2017, and all Tunisians by 2020.
The Tunisian government is already moving forward on updating its Telecom/Digital Communications Code and establishing a comprehensive National Broadband Plan. These are important steps that will help attract increased private sector investment in Tunisia’s ICT infrastructure.
These are ambitious efforts. And today we will identify ways to mobilize public and private sector support for these efforts.
One specific way to advance Tunisia’s ICT strategy is through our Global Connect Initiative. The State Department launched this initiative last fall to bring an additional 1.5 billion people around the world online by 2020. Our strategy is to mainstream the view that Internet connectivity is as fundamental to economic development as roads, ports, electricity, and other traditional infrastructure.
As you may know, we are coming off our very successful Global Connect High Level Event several weeks ago. Secretary Kerry and World Bank President Kim hosted more than 100 participants, including representatives from over 25 countries, including Tunisia, as well as representatives of civil society, the ICT industry, international organizations and multilateral development banks.
Participants announced more than 65 new and ongoing initiatives valued at more than $20 billion to expand global connectivity infrastructure. The public-private partnerships that underpin these initiatives are entirely consistent with Tunisia’s connectivity strategy. In fact, Finance Minister Chaker, who attended the event, proposed that Tunisia serve as a model country for the initiative.
Moving forward, the United States will work through the Global Connect Initiative to support Tunisia’s ambitious connectivity goals.
Although I’ve spoken about each JEC theme separately, all three of the breakout sessions are closely linked together. Simplifying the process for registering businesses and making it easier for SMEs to access finance will also help agricultural firms hoping to export to new markets.
Bridging the digital divide and connecting more Tunisians to the Internet will make it easier for innovators and entrepreneurs to create new businesses, hire new workers, and bring new efficiencies to the market. It will also make it easier for U.S. firms to invest and find new opportunities in Tunisia.
Achieving these inter-connected goals will require a multi-stakeholder approach – which is what makes the JEC so important. Governments have an important role to play, but it is the private sector that will drive our economic relationship and create greater prosperity in both Tunisia and the United States.
We have a tremendous opportunity today to expand our economic relationship and bring our countries closer together, creating jobs in Tunisia and the United States. I look forward to working with each of you to do so today and into the future.
Department of State
May 6, 2016
At the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) held today in Washington, Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine A. Novelli and Tunisian Minister of Vocational Training and Employment Zied Ladhari acknowledged the growing economic partnership between Tunisia and the United States, as well as the engagement of the private sector in building Tunisia’s economy. Both governments and the private sector made commitments to support initiatives in three key sectors for this Commission: Agro/Food, Small and Medium Enterprises, and Information and Communications Technology. Both governments reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion of social and economic development in Tunisia in the framework of strategic partnership between the two parties.
Bringing Opportunity to the Agro/Food Sector
The U.S. Departments of State and Commerce committed to sponsor agricultural and trade roadshows within 12 months that will increase knowledge of U.S. agro-trade opportunities and promote market access. These will complement the set of workshops in Tunisia planned by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on the requirements of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program.
The U.S., through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Business Reform and Competitiveness Project (BRCP), committed to provide targeted training and technical support to facilitate high-potential exports.
The Tunisian Ministries of Agriculture, Industry, and Trade committed to collaborate with the private sector to create a three-year roadmap to increase market access and bilateral commercial engagement. USAID committed to contribute technical assistance.
AmCham Tunisia/Partnership for a New Beginning (PNB) pledged to create three centers of excellence for cereals, olive oil, and fruits and vegetables, and to use expertise gained from agribusiness AmCham Days to promote increased trade.
The Tunisian American Young Professionals committed to conduct a webinar training on export readiness within 12 months.
Strengthening Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) The Government of Tunisia, through the Ministry of Employment, agreed to form and lead an inter-ministerial/private sector coordinating committee to create a website within six months describing administrative processes in support of SMEs, starting with business registration. The website will evolve into an online business registration portal and one stop shop with links to financial resources and mentoring opportunities provided by the private sector. USAID will offer funding from the BRCP to assist.
The Tunisian American Enterprise Fund committed to initiate an ease of doing business report within six months. The Government of Tunisia pledged to consider the report’s recommendations.
USAID announced creation of 6,015 sustainable private sector jobs in the last year, and committed to create 6,500 more in the next 12 months through the BRCP.
AmCham Tunisia/PNB pledged to create an SME Export Lab within six months and hold another series of AmCham Days supporting SMEs.
Growing the Tunisian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sector
The Tunisian Ministry of Communication Technologies and Digital Economy committed to submit a new Telecom/Digital Communications Code to Parliament within six months, build a coaching program with the private sector to help U.S. investors enter the Tunisian market, and establish Smart Tunisia representation in Silicon Valley.
The Government of Tunisia committed to connect 60% of Tunisians to the internet by 2018.
The U.S. Government committed to identify technical expertise through the Global Connect Initiative to support implementation of the Digital Tunisia Strategy, and identify partnership opportunities in helping the Government of Tunisia connect all of its citizens.
AmCham Tunisia/PNB pledged to open a chapter in Silicon Valley by the end of 2016, replicate the Tunisian Business School Smart Center training concept at other Tunisian universities, and implement a three-month skills development training program within 12 months.
Conclusion The Joint Economic Commission concluded with Under Secretary Novelli and Minister Ladhari’s pledges to deepen economic ties and cooperation between the United States and the public and private sectors of Tunisia. As a follow up mechanism, both parties agreed to appoint two focal points each in the U.S. State Department and the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They looked forward to the next U.S.-Tunisia Joint Economic Commission in Tunisia in 2017, when they will build on the progress of this year’s commitments.
Final Results of the Presidential Elections in the Republic of Chad
Mark C. Toner
Deputy Department of State Spokesperson
May 5, 2016
The United States notes the announcement by Chad’s Constitutional Council that President Deby Itno won re-election for a fifth term, and we applaud the Chadian people for their strong commitment to democracy as evidenced by the historic voter turnout. Their continued peaceful involvement in the political process is vital to the development of democratic institutions in the Republic of Chad. We also congratulate the political parties for their active and full participation during this election cycle and look forward to their continued involvement leading up to next year’s legislative elections.
The United States welcomes the technical improvements to the electoral process this year, including the introduction of biometric voter identification cards, and encourages the government to correct remaining deficiencies. We further call on the government to demonstrate its commitment to democracy by opening more civic and political space, which will bring greater credibility to future elections.
We are concerned about reports of abuse and kidnapping targeting opposition supporters and urge the Chadian Government to fully investigate and account for these allegations. Those found responsible for any misconduct or abuses should be brought to justice through a credible, transparent process in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Chad.