Friday, February 28, 2014

Sec. Kerry and Mr. Feingold’s Remarks With Founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative Ben Affleck

State Department Photo
Secretary of State
Russell D. Feingold, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Washington, DC
February 26, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Thanks, all, for coming in. Just want to say how much I appreciate Senator Russ Feingold’s efforts with respect to the Great Lakes region, and I’m particularly grateful to Ben Affleck, who’s had a longtime engagement on this. He testified before us in the Senate. We worked on this issue for some period of time. And they’ve just – have you already testified or –

MR. AFFLECK: This afternoon.

SECRETARY KERRY: He’ll be testifying this afternoon before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But Russ did a superb job working with Mary Robinson of the UN to help bring about the Kampala Accords and a diminishment in the violence, hopefully, when we get it fully followed through on, the disarming of M23, and a movement forward towards some stabilization and economic development and other issues. It’s been a terrific effort, and I’m appreciative to both for their leadership in that regard.

So do you want to say anything, Russ?

MR. FEINGOLD: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Your willingness to be involved with this every step of the way has made a huge difference. Each time you’ve given me an additional thing to get done with good guidance and always willing to make the calls that need to be made. And it makes a huge difference when the Secretary, obviously, calls people. We try to use it sparingly, but when we do it, it’s effective. So I’m grateful to you for your support on this, and we are making some progress.

SECRETARY KERRY: Ben, do you want to say anything?

MR. AFFLECK: Well, yes. I’m very grateful to be here in this esteemed company and particularly grateful to the Secretary, whose purview is the entire world, has taken time to focus on this issue and to recognize that this is a moment where we have a window where we can really effect change. And I’m grateful that he appointed Senator Feingold, who’s an extraordinary man of great influence, to be ambassador to – or Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region. And finally, it’s just a pleasure to be back here in the State Department after – the real State Department – I had to fake it for Argo. (Laughter.) I get to see the real thing here, so it’s quite intimidating. Thank you again, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Happy to have you here. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

QUESTION: Is it better or worse than what it was like in Argo?

MR. AFFLECK: Well, this part’s much better. In fact, this was – this area was too fancy to try to recreate so we just recreated white hallways with colored stripes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What’s your message to the Senate today?

STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, everyone. Thank –

MR. AFFLECK: Well, you have to come to the testimony to talk about it, but in short it is in fact that while – this is a region that’s suffered enormous damage and trauma. And this fire is now abating a little bit, and we have a window where engagement on the part of Secretary, the President, the Congress all collectively can make a real difference. And I think historically, there’s an instinct to sort of put out one fire and go to the next fire. And this is a point where we can act to prevent the fire from igniting again.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you all. Appreciate it very much.

U.S. Presidential Delegation to Attend Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Centenary Celebration

Office of the Press Secretary
February 25, 2014

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to attend Nigeria’s Centenary Celebration, February 27-28, 2014.

The Honorable Thomas Shannon, Jr., Counselor of the Department of State, will lead the delegation.

Member of the Presidential Delegation:
The Honorable James Entwistle, United States Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Department of State.


Monday, February 17, 2014

U.S. Asst. Sec. of State Thomas-Greenfield Travels to Nigeria

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC
February 16, 2014

Today, Assistant Secretary of State Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Bureau of African Affairs, made her third trip to Nigeria since becoming Assistant Secretary in August. After spending the day in Kano, she travels now to Abuja to lead the United States delegation to the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission (BNC) meeting February 17-18.

While in Kano, the Assistant Secretary met with Governor Kwankwaso as part of her continuing discussions with Nigerian officials, politicians, civil society groups, and community leaders on ways to strengthen the U.S-Nigeria bilateral relationship and partnerships.

The BNC is a valuable forum for frank, high-level conversations on issues of bilateral concern and a means to turn common cause into creative thinking and coordinated action. BNC working groups have convened ten times since the creation of the BNC framework in 2010. The BNC reflects the strong U.S-Nigeria bilateral relationship to work together on a broad range of goals, including good governance, transparency, and integrity; regional security; energy and investment; agriculture and food security; and the Niger Delta.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Carter Center Helping to Improve the Mental Health Care System in Liberia

Benedict Dossen, a native Liberian and program administrator for the Carter Center’s mental health work in Liberia, helps hand out diplomas during the graduation of the fifth class of Carter Center-trained mental health clinicians in August 2013. (Photo: The Carter Center)
Story Source: The Carter Center Blog

Benedict Dossen, a native Liberian and an administrator for the Carter Center’s Liberia Mental Health Program, explains what it is like to watch and help his country heal.

Liberia is a West African country nearly the size of Mississippi with a population of 3.8 million. But unlike many other countries, Liberia only has one practicing psychiatrist. The need for mental health services becomes even more pressing in the context of the nation’s recovery from a brutal civil war spanning from the early 1990s through 2003.

Like many of my Liberian colleagues, I have devoted my professional career to helping my nation rebuild.

We face many hardships living in a post-war country — from unemployment to mental illness. I often think about the challenges facing other young people today and find myself asking, “Why is the world so tough?”

As an administrator for the Carter Center’s Liberia Mental Health Program, I have seen first-hand how diagnoses and treatments can benefit not just the patients, but the country as a whole.

Roughly 300,000 Liberians are thought to suffer from some type of mental illness — with up to 40 percent believed to suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, alone, as a result of our civil war.

In Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city, I collaborate with many partners, including the Liberia Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, to expand access to mental health treatment for all those who need it and to help train a new workforce of mental health clinicians.

To date, each of the 15 counties (similar to states) in Liberia has trained clinicians, and eight counties have five or more clinicians. These locally trained nurses and physicians assistants play an important role in helping to integrate mental health care into primary care systems and communities.

The most rewarding part of my work, however, is seeing the direct impact increased access to mental health care has had on the Liberian people. I once met a mother who brought her daughter to the clinic after trying everything she knew to help her daughter’s serious mental illness.

No traditional treatments, no number of prayers, and no amount of help from her neighbors seemed to work on her daughter’s condition.

Yet, after seeking mental health treatment at their local clinic, the daughter’s health improved drastically, so much so that she was hardly recognizable to those who knew her.

This is what we work for. This is the example people need to see. If we can help people address the issues that they have and get rehabilitation, then those people can contribute back to their communities.

Despite the significant challenges my nation faces, I believe there is hope for Liberians facing mental illness. Even the staunchest critic would agree that from one psychiatrist in Monrovia, alone, to 100 mental health clinicians in all 15 counties with more to come — this is a good bridge. This is increasing access.

U.S. Issues Statement on Togolese Efforts to Combat Wildlife Trafficking

Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 6, 2014

Secretary Kerry called Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe today to commend his government on the major strides being made to combat international wildlife trafficking, including the recent arrest of three major illegal wildlife traffickers in Togo.

Togo has sent a strong message to the world about its commitment to protecting Africa’s elephant populations. In the last month, Togolese authorities have made multiple seizures of illegal ivory, totaling more than four tons. Individually and collectively, these are the largest seizures of illegal ivory in West Africa’s history. In a separate incident in August 2013, the Government of Togo arrested notorious wildlife trafficker Emile N’Bouke. Togo’s efforts contribute to the worldwide struggle against illegal wildlife trafficking and the U.S. continues to partner with Togo in combating this transnational threat.

Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that has expanded from a conservation concern to a security threat. The increasing involvement of organized crime in poaching and wildlife trafficking promotes corruption, strengthens illicit trade routes, destabilizes economies and communities that depend on wildlife for their livelihoods, and contributes to the spread of disease.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Call Between President Obama and Prime Minister Jomaa of Tunisia – Readout

Photo courtesy of AP
Office of the Press Secretary
February 3, 2014

President Obama called Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia today to congratulate him and the Tunisian people on the ratification of their new constitution and on the inauguration of PM Jomaa’s independent government to lead the country to elections. The President commended the efforts of all of Tunisia’s parties to work together to secure the gains made since the start of Tunisia’s revolution, which inspired people around the world. The President invited the Prime Minister to visit Washington later this year to continue to build the U.S.-Tunisian relationship. The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Tunisia to support its democratic transition, to bolster security, and to promote a more peaceful and prosperous future.

TechWomen Delegation in Rwanda to Expand Network of African Women in STEM Fields

STEM = Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC
February 3, 2014

Fusing technology with efforts to empower women and girls, the U.S. Department of State announced today that a delegation of 30 U.S. TechWomen mentors is meeting in Rwanda February 2-7 to collaborate and connect through workshops and visits with local organizations. An innovative public-private partnership, TechWomen pairs emerging women leaders in technology from the Middle East and Africa with American women mentors from the greater Silicon Valley area.

TechWomen, has brought almost 80 women from the Middle East and North Africa and the United States together for month-long mentorships. This year, TechWomen expanded to include women from sub-Saharan African countries. Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan will join the TechWomen for this first meeting in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The U.S. TechWomen mentors traveling to Rwanda represent 23 companies in Silicon Valley and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area including: Blackberry, Calix, Citrix, Cisco, EMC, Ericsson, Fairrer Samani Group Ventures, Families Without Borders, Genentech, Intel Corp., Juniper Networks, Katy Dickinson Consulting, Law Offices of Patricia Bovan, NestGSV, Nisum Technologies,, Santa Clara University,, Shakour Marketing, Sun Run, Symantec, and Twitter.

While in Rwanda, the TechWomen will meet with nonprofits, innovation centers, and girls’ schools that focus on expanding technology networks and careers for women and girls in STEM fields. They will also meet with Rwandan Minister of Youth and Information & Communications Technologies (ICT), visit the University of Rwanda’s College of Science and Technology, and attend a Science and Technology fair hosted by the U.S. Embassy Kigali.

Rockefeller Foundation Tackling Youth Unemployment in Africa

Rockefeller Foundation president Judith Rodin appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box to talk about our goal to tackle youth unemployment through our Digital Jobs Africa initiative.

“In most countries in the world, youth employment is at least twice the percentage of the overall unemployment rate. More importantly, the data show that if a young person is unemployed for more than a year, it affects the trajectory over their life course…The youth population in Africa in the next 30 years is going to grow from 200 million to 400 million. That’s a recipe for economic opportunity or for real social unrest, and we’ve got to get ahead of it.”

Impacting One Million Lives in Africa
The current pace of job creation in Africa cannot meet the demands of the world’s fastest growing youth population.

Digital Jobs Africa aims to impact 1 million lives in six countries in Africa by catalyzing sustainable Information Communication Technology-enabled (ICT) employment opportunities and skills training for high potential but disadvantaged African youth, thereby generating social and economic opportunities for those employed, their families and communities.

The Foundation will work in close partnership with other stakeholders – private sector, government, civil society and the development community – to leverage significant funds and align complementary programs in order to achieve the impact goal.

Our Strategy
Digital Jobs Africa will seize the opportunity presented by the youth bulge in Africa and the phenomenal rise of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) sector to bring about sustainable impact, through job creation. To achieve its goal, Digital Jobs Africa will focus on three targeted interventions:
• Grow the Impact Sourcing sector by encouraging and enabling the private sector to incorporate the practice into their business model and identify other digital job opportunities beyond Impact Sourcing
• Skills development and training to prepare young people for digital jobs such as data entry, service center support, online research, tagging audio and video files, and learning Android and iOS platforms
• Support an enabling environment for digital jobs

Key Outcomes
Digital Jobs Africa will seek to:
• Impact 1 million lives in six countries in Africa
• Generate greater social and economic benefits for youth, their families, and their communities
• Increase demand for African youth in the workforce
• Create an enabling environment for digital jobs

The International Labor Organization in Skills For Employment Policy Brief: Increasing The Employability Of Disadvantaged Youth defines disadvantaged as “not just to economic factors, such as income poverty, or lack of experience in and poor understanding of the formal job market, but also social factors such as gender, racial, ethnic or migrant background, and geographical isolation with poor access to quality education and job opportunities.” Most of the direct beneficiaries of this work will probably be within the narrow World Bank definition of youth, i.e. ages 15 to 24. However, we recognize that many stakeholders in Africa capture the adjacent age group of 26 to 35 in their characterization of youth. We will start with the broader definition to reflect the usage in Africa, but will review that as we learn more during the initiative.

Digital Jobs Africa will focus on six African countries where the Foundation believes our efforts will have the greatest impact— Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa.

Egypt has the second largest service sector in Africa—$250 billion—comprising nearly half of the Egyptian economy for output and employment. Egypt has been ranked very high as a promising BPO market.

Ghana’s service sector has grown rapidly over the past decade—now representing over 50% of the country’s GDP. Ghana is rated highly as an attractive Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) location by the AT Kearney index for attractive BPO locations, and is promising for the growth of the Impact Sourcing sector.

Kenya has a track-record of yielding ground-breaking innovations such as MPESA a mobile money transfer service which employs over 50,000 people. Kenya is the regional hub for trade and finance and has largest service sector in East Africa which has added 500,000 jobs since 2005.

Morocco has one of the largest service sectors in Africa, representing over half of the country’s overall GDP, and employing around 40% of the labor force. Already a well-established BPO destination, there is an opportunity to expand this work to include Impact Sourcing.

Nigeria is home to 50% of Africa’s largest corporations, and is now the second largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa. With an economy that is expected to surpass South Africa as the largest during the next decade, Nigeria already has a strong service sector – making up about 30% of the country’s overall outputs.

South Africa is the largest and most well developed economy in Africa—home to many large corporations and a GDP of over $560 billion. South Africa has the largest service sector in the continent, and represents one of the largest markets for Impact Sourcing in the world today.

For more information about Digital Jobs Africa, visit

U.S. Asst. Sec. for Educational & Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan Travels to Uganda and Rwanda

Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
Washington, DC
January 31, 2014

Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan will travel to Kampala, Uganda February 2-3, and Kigali, Rwanda February 4-5. While in Uganda she will sign an entrepreneurship grant in support of President Obama’s Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI), a signature effort to invest in the next generation of African leaders. The YALI initiative will train young African leaders in skills to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent. She will also visit the Uganda Wildlife Education Center and meet with government officials, U.S. Fulbright scholars, and other exchange participants.

Assistant Secretary Ryan will then travel to Kigali, Rwanda to meet with government officials and to join the TechWomen delegation at the U.S. Embassy. The TechWomen’s visit and participation in a U.S. Embassy girls’ technology fair in Kigali is TechWomen’s first in Sub-Saharan Africa. TechWomen is a State Department signature program that empowers, connects, and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa and the Middle East. The program provides women the opportunities needed to advance their careers and mentor other women and girls in their communities. This event brings U.S. mentors together with TechWomen alumnae from the region.