Ambassador Eric Whitaker’s Remarks for Industry Day

Good morning everyone.  I am honored to participate in today’s Industry Day as hosted by our colleagues from United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA).  This event reinforces our work with partners within Niger to find the best possible ways to promote private sector activity such as our efforts at the Nigerian Air Base in Agadez.  It is also an invitation for Nigerien businesses to learn about the process of contracting with the U.S. government, and to engage on opportunities that lie outside of Niger.

First, let me touch on the goal to spur economic growth, which is directly related to our event here today.

We believe in government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people.  This means the people of Niger need to be active participants in carrying out their governance, including in funding it.  In order to fund the services that they want to receive, be it education or health care, security services or market support, Nigeriens need a better economic base.  They need jobs for the rising generation.  They need meaningful work for heads of households to support their families.  With the high rate of Niger’s population growth, economic development is vital.

Strengthening Niger’s economy is an important part of our strategic focus.  Another part is strengthening Niger’s institutions.  In part, to achieve this goal, we have launched the 437 million dollar Millennium Challenge Compact, which will improve millions of lives through better access to water, improved agricultural practices and enhanced roads for market access.

Additionally, through USAID and our local partners, we promote health services, literacy, agricultural practices, and economic development throughout Niger.  USAID is also leveraging private sector investment and innovations to increase and sustain household incomes, assets, and adaptive capacity.  Strengthening public-private partnerships, which the U.S. Embassy supports, to improve the business environment and expand economic opportunities will be critical to Niger’s future.  For example, under the 12/12 Alliance, USAID is partnering with Airtel, Lutheran World Relief, Ecobank, Société Henri Biaugeaud, Margaret A. Cargill Foundation and other partners to promote market-driven investments in agriculture value chains, strengthen farmer associations in Tahoua and Maradi, introduce mobile information sharing platforms for farmers, and help the private sector sustainably meet its business objectives.

We further work through our public diplomacy initiatives and my self-help program, to collaborate with Nigeriens to strengthen civil society and the institutions of government.  Our projects build the capacity of leaders and their teams, supply needed training and capital, and develop strategies for long-term success.

I also want to highlight that our commitment to Niger is longstanding and will remain so.  The United States helped build the Kennedy Bridge in 1970.  The new Embassy, which should be completed next year, is a clear indication that our friendship with Niger remains strong and that we look to continue our joint efforts.

As you may know, I am fortunate enough to travel throughout Niger in an effort to understand the struggles and triumphs of Nigeriens and to evaluate better, how the U.S. Government can help.   It is through these revelations and journeys that our government has been able to develop a set of objectives for our relationship and implement the programs already mentioned.  We are continuing to integrate these discoveries with our policy in Niger that focuses on strengthening institutions; spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; advancing peace and security; and promoting opportunity and development.  My travels have shown me that working with the Nigerien government on the base in Agadez is yet another way to engage.  For example, my team worked closely with the Niger Chamber of Commerce and government of Niger representatives to promote today’s event, relying on Nigerien expertise for the best outcome possible.

   Our goal of promoting peace and security is a key reason for the U.S. presence in Agadez.  Besides expanding and renovating the military base at Agadez, the U.S. military conducts training for the Nigerien Armed Forces, and supplies needed tools and materials to help the FAN accomplish its vital mission of keeping Nigeriens safe.  Revived in 2011, our military-to-military relationship allows us to have an open dialogue and focus on some priorities like regional security, humanitarian assistance, and development.

Today you will hear from our experts on contracting and on the specific needs for our efforts not only here in Niger, but also in Turkey and Spain.  Today continues an ongoing process to engage with Nigerien enterprises.  In addition to spotlighting the efforts of our military colleagues, I would also like to highlight that the U.S. Embassy’s Economic Office, headed by Jason Wemhoener-Cuite, is actively working with colleagues from the Government of Niger and with the U.S. Department of Commerce to find opportunities for both nations to prosper through private investment.  We continue to support programs such as the African Growth and Opportunities Act and are in regular discussions with U.S. companies considering possible future investment.

Today’s Industry Day is one part of a broader spectrum of engagement to spur economic growth, trade, investment, and general development.  Mohamed Boubacar Gaoh, our Economic Assistant at the Embassy, is with us now and looks forward to discussing with you any issue that you may have.

Thank you for your attention and I encourage you to optimize the opportunities that are being presented to you here.