Remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry on “Commitment to Africa” Policy Speech

Remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry

For Immediate Release May 3, 2014


Secretary of State John Kerry

“Commitment to Africa” Policy Speech

 May 3, 2014

Gullele Botanic Park

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


SECRETARY KERRY:  Hallelujah, thank you very much for a spectacular introduction.  Thank you for even getting out of the city and up into the mountains.  And everything is so beautiful.  This is an extraordinary building, and I just had the pleasure of walking out on the veranda here and enjoying the view.  I understand this is the first green building, totally green building.  So I congratulate the Gullele Botanical Gardens, and I particularly congratulate the University of Addis Ababa.  Thank you, Mr. President, for being here.  And thank you, all of you, for treading up the hill to join me this morning.  I saw a couple of donkeys out there.  Did some of you come up on the donkeys? (Laughter.)  But a lot of buses and cars, and I am very, very appreciative.


It’s really good to be back in Addis, and I want to thank the Prime Minister and — Foreign Minister Tedros and Prime Minister Hailemariam for a very generous welcome.  And I want to thank them particularly for their terrific support in efforts not just with our development challenges and the challenges of Ethiopia itself, but also the challenges of South Sudan, the challenges of Somalia, the challenges of leadership on the continent and beyond.


I was here last spring to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the African Union and it was an appropriate time to take note of the meaning behind the AU’s significant emblem, the red rings that remind us all of the blood that was shed for an Africa that is free, and the palm leaves that remind us of the fact that the blood was not just shed for freedom, but it was shed for peace.  And then the gold that symbolizes the promise of natural resources and economic potential.  Today, as I come here to this hilltop, it’s important to understand how we will fulfill the promise of still another symbol of the African Union’s crest, the interlocking rings of green that embody all of Africa’s hopes and dreams.


These are the dreams I believe absolutely can be realized if we are, all of us, together, prepared to make the right choices.  And it is a matter of choice.  There is no pre-determined destiny out there that pushes us in a direction; this is up to the will of the people, and the will of leaders.  We need to make certain that we grab the choice that seizes the future, and we need to refuse to be dragged back into the past.


I have absolutely no doubt that this could be an inflection point for the new Africa, a time and a place where Africans bend the arc of history towards reform, and not retribution; towards peace and prosperity, not revenge and resentment.  And it’s important to acknowledge — at least I feel it’s important to acknowledge candidly — that for too long the ties between the United States and Africa were largely rooted in meeting the challenges and the crises of a particular moment. But we’re discovering that, at the beginning of the 21st century, we both want a lasting and more grounded relationship, one that is not reflective, but visionary and strategic.


And for many Americans, Africa was too long a faraway place on a map, a destination for philanthropy, an occasional and harrowing image on the TV screen of starvation and war, a place of distance and some mystery.  The fact is that today Africa is increasingly a destination for American investment and tourism, that African institutions are increasingly leading efforts to solve African problems. All of this underscores that dramatic transformations are possible, that prosperity can replace poverty, that cooperation can actually triumph over conflict.


But even as we celebrate this progress, we are also meeting at a time of continued crisis. Conflicts in South Sudan, which I visited yesterday, Central African Republic Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the events that we’ve just seen in Nigeria, these are among some of the things that are preventing millions of Africans from realizing their full potential.  And in some places they are plunging the continent back into the turmoil of the past.


Now, some things are absolutely certain as we look at this panorama:  Africa has the resources; Africa has the capacity; Africa has the know-how.  The questions that Africa faces are similar to those confronting countries all over the world: do we have the political will, the sense of common purpose, to address our challenges?  Are we prepared to make the hard choices that those challenges require?


The continent’s course is ultimately up to you.  It’s up to Africans.  But we firmly believe that the United States is Africa’s natural partner.  One thing we know for sure, the United States could be a vital catalyst in this continent’s continued transformation, and President Obama is committed to that transformation.


The United States is blessed to be the world’s epicenter for innovation. Africa is home to many of the fastest-growing economies in the world. There is no limit to what we can accomplish together by working together, and cooperating, and setting out a strategy, and agreeing to have a vision, and join it in common purpose.  And though we never forget — we never forget — how our first ties were forged in some of the darkest chapters of human history, we still start from a strong foundation.


Now, I’m sure that some of you have seen that in your travels, hopefully across the United States. Whether it is Little Senegal in Los Angeles, or the Somali community in Minneapolis, or the Ethiopian community in Washington, DC, Africans are making American culture richer, and our economy stronger, and contributing to the future chapters of American history.  It’s time to make sure that we build on this deep connection; it’s time that we take these connections to the next level by investing in the future of this continent.


And when we know, as we do, that Africa will have a larger workforce than India or China by 2040, then it is time for us to get ahead of the curve, to invest in education for the vast numbers of young people, and the increasing numbers of people demanding their part of that future.  It is time to build a more open exchange of ideas and information that leads to partnership and innovation.  President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative — I had a chance to meet a number of them, they will be coming to Washington in August — YALI, is designed to harness this energy, and it’s one example of how some of these efforts are already well underway.  YALI is bringing leadership and networking to thousands of young people across the continent.  And I am very, very pleased that many of you who are here today are participating in YALI, and that four of you will come and join us this summer as part of the first class of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.


I was particularly impressed, frankly, by one of the stories of these young women, Haleta Giday.  Perhaps it’s because Haleta is a prosecutor, and I used to be a prosecutor in my early career.  But she graduated from Jimma University, which you all know is one of the best schools in Ethiopia.  And the fact is that she had her pick of any lucrative job that she wanted to do, right here in the capital.  Instead, she chose to represent women and children who were victims of violence.  And when Haleta saw how many widows went bankrupt after they lost their husbands, she began a campaign to educate women about their legal and financial rights.


Just consider what Haleta has witnessed over the course of her young life: she spent her first years in a nation traumatized by famine.  Today, Ethiopia is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Since Haleta arrived on her first day of school, the number of democratic governments in Africa has tripled.  Since she left high school, banking assets have more than doubled.  And since Haleta graduated from university, Africa’s telecommunications market has doubled in size.  She has already lived a remarkable life, and she’s doing amazing work here in Ethiopia.  What’s more remarkable is she is one of many young leaders across this continent who are proving their mettle by taking on some of the toughest challenges.


So this is clearly a moment of opportunity for all Africans.  It is also a moment of decision, because it’s the decisions that are made or the decisions that are deferred that will ultimately determine whether Africa mines the continent’s greatest natural resource of all, which is not platinum, it’s not gold, it’s not oil, it is the talent of its people.  Africa’s potential comes from the ability of its citizens to make a full contribution, no matter their ethnicity, no matter who they love, or what faith they practice.  This continent is strong because of the diversity and the dynamism of the people.  The nations in Africa, like nations all over the world, are strongest when citizens have a say, when citizens’ voices can be a part of the political process, when they have a stake in their nation’s success.


Over the next three years, 37 of the 54 African nations will hold national elections, including 15 presidential elections.  Millions of Africans will be going the polls, selecting their leaders in free and fair elections, and that will have a dramatic impact and show the world the power of this moment for Africa.  These elections, I promise you, are vitally important.  But elections cannot be the only moment, the only opportunity, for citizens to be able to help shape the future. Whether a citizen can engage with their government, not just on Election Day, but every day, whether or not they can engage with their fellow citizens in political discussion and debate and dialogue every week, every month, these are the questions that matter profoundly to Africa’s future.


The African Union is working to answer “yes” to all of these questions. “Good governance, democracy, and the right to development,” these are enshrined in universal rights, and the African Union’s charter represents that and reflects that.  The AU has also gone to great lengths in order to highlight the corrosive effect of corruption, both in the public square, as well as corruption in the marketplace.  To the AU’s great credit, they have reported that corruption costs Africans tens of billions of dollars, if not more.  And that money — every one of you knows that money could build new schools, new hospitals, new bridges, new roads, pipes, power lines. That’s why it is a responsibility for citizens in Africa and in all nations to demand that public money is providing services for all, not lining the pockets of a few.


And that is why it is so important for all of us everywhere, in our country, your country, and elsewhere, to fight against public corruption and corruption in the marketplace.  Our cooperation is essential in order to protect economic growth that is shared by everybody in order to provide opportunity for all individuals in Africa.  And, as you well know, fighting corruption is difficult.  It takes courage.  It sometimes has its risks.  But fighting corruption lifts more than a country’s balance sheet.  Transparency and accountability attract greater investment.  Transparency and accountability create a more competitive marketplace, one where ideas and products are judged by the market and by their merits, and not by backroom deals or bribes.  That is an environment where innovators and entrepreneurs flourish, I promise you.


The United States has learned through its own experience that entrepreneurship is an essential driver of prosperity and of freedom.  That’s why President Obama launched the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which this fall will bring some of the world’s brightest minds to Morocco.  Last year I had the pleasure of being in Kuala Lumpur for that meeting, for the same meeting.  And I was stunned by the 15,000 young people screaming like they were in a rock concert or something, all challenged by the prospect of themselves becoming or being the next Steve Jobs or the next Bill Gates.  It was unbelievable to feel their energy and enthusiasm.


And they are all connected, all these kids are connected.  Everybody shares everything with everybody else in the world, all of the time.  And that changes politics, and it changes business, and it changes perceptions.  It changes hopes and dreams and aspirations.  And every political leader needs to be tuned in to that reality, because that’s what we saw in Tunisia, that’s what we saw in Egypt.  That’s what we’re still seeing in Syria, where young people came out, asking for a future.


We want to make certain that every country can provide young people the ability to be able to take an idea and turn it into a business.  And we know beyond any doubt that the places where people are free not just to develop an idea, but to debate different ideas, to transform the best ideas into a reality, those are the societies that are most successful.  Now, this success is not a mystery, and it’s not something that is hard to achieve, if you make the right choices.  This success is possible for all of Africa.  This new Africa is within everybody’s reach.  But a new Africa will not emerge without becoming a more secure Africa.


In too many parts of the continent, a lack of security, the threat of violence, or all-out war prevent the shoots of prosperity from emerging.  The burdens of past divisions might not disappear entirely, my friends.  But they must never be allowed to bury the future.  The African Union’s commitment to silence the guns of Africa by 2020 is an ambitious goal.  It is the right goal.  It is a vision worth fighting for, and one that we will do everything in our power to help you achieve, and that’s why we will continue to provide financial and logistical support to African Union-led efforts in Somalia, where al-Shahaab is under significant pressure.  That’s why we will continue to support the African Union Regional Task Force against the Lord’s Resistance Army, where LRA-related deaths have dropped by 75 percent, and hundreds of thousands have returned to their homes.  And that’s why we are working to strengthen Nigeria’s institutions and its military to combat Boko Haram, and their campaign of terror and violence.


Let me be clear. The kidnapping of hundreds of children by Boko Haram is an unconscionable crime, and we will do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to hold the perpetrators to justice.  I will tell you, my friends, I have seen this scourge of terror across the planet, and so have you.  They don’t offer anything except violence.  They don’t offer a health care plan, they don’t offer schools.  They don’t tell you how to build a nation, they don’t talk about how they will provide jobs.  They just tell people, “You have to behave the way we tell you to,” and they will punish you if you don’t.


Our responsibility and the world’s responsibility is to stand up against that kind if nihilism.  That is the reason that we have committed up to $100 million to support AU and French forces in Central African Republic to push back, as well as $67 million in humanitarian assistance.  It’s why we support wholeheartedly the Framework Peace Process and the leadership of Angola and the 10 other African nations to resolve the root causes of conflict in the Great Lakes.  Through our Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, a former Senator, a friend of mine that I appointed, Russ Feingold, the United States has been supporting the burgeoning dialogue that is now taking place, and we have already helped to broker the demobilization of M23.  We stand ready to support all efforts that help the parties stay on a peaceful path.


Yesterday I was in South Sudan.  I was there at the birth of the nation, at the referendum.  I know President Kiir, I know the hopes and aspirations of the people there.  And I saw yesterday how a nation that once had a hopeful vision for the future can be challenged by old grudges degenerating into violence by personal ambition, by greed that gets in the way of the hopes of all of the people.


I expressed my grave concerns to President Kiir about the deliberate killings of civilians on both sides of the conflict and he agreed to embark on negotiations to form a transitional government that can lead the nation back from the abyss.  I congratulate him for his willingness to do that, and I look forward, as the world will, to watching him lead the nation back from this abyss.  I also called the former Vice President, Riek Machar, and I urged him to do the same, to come to Addis Ababa in the near term, and to engage in these direct talks in order to move South Sudan to its rightful future.


If both sides do not take bold steps to end the violence, they risk plunging South Sudan into greater desperation and even famine.  And that famine could be right around the corner if we don’t turn the corner ourselves in the next days.  They will completely destroy what they claim they are fighting for if we do not make a difference now.  Both sides must do more to facilitate the work of those providing humanitarian assistance.  The UN, UNMIS, and all organizations that are urgently providing aid must be supported and protected and not demonized, the way they have been.


Once again, African nations are all working hard to try to forge a regional solution through the AUs Commission of Inquiry and IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanisms.  And in the days to come I will continue my personal engagement with both sides, and it is imperative that both sides abide by the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and implement it as fully as possible.  The international community must stay committed to the people of South Sudan and see them through this time of incredible difficulty.


Preventing new conflicts also requires coordination to confront the causes of conflict, including food insecurity and famine and, obviously, poverty.  Africa has 60 percent of the world’s arable land.  Just think about that.  That is a tremendous opportunity for the future, not just to feed Africa’s people, but to feed the world.  The United States wants to help Africa seize this opportunity by making investments in agribusiness and in crops with greater yields and greater resistance to extreme weather.


With Feed the Future, which was built on the foundation that was laid by the African Union with your own Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program, the United States is investing several billion dollars to improve seed quality, to enhance farming methods, to protect against soil erosion, and link small farmers to the marketplace.  To underscore the importance of these commitments, the AU has made 2014 the year of agriculture and food security.


But it is no exaggeration to say that the greatest risk to African agriculture, and even to our way of life, not just in Africa but on this planet, comes from the potential ravages of climate change.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, portions of Mombasa, Dakar, Monrovia and dozens of other coastal cities could be under water by the middle of this century.  Yields from rain-fed agriculture in parts of Africa could decline by 50 percent. An additional 100 million people or more will be living without water or under greater water duress as a result of the changes from climate.


When 97 percent of scientists agree that the climate is changing, and that humans are responsible for much of the change, and that it is happening faster than predicted, let me tell you something:  we need to listen to that 97 percent, and we need to act.  And when this continent produces less carbon than almost any other nation, when the continent produces less carbon than almost any other nation, but has the most to lose climate change, it is true there is an inherent unfairness to that equation.  And there can be no doubt about it: greater prosperity in Africa is going to demand greater energy supply.  So, citizens in Africa will have to make certain that the mistakes that we make, the mistakes that other developed nations have made, that those are not repeated, that the mistakes that created this moment of urgency for the world are not repeated on this continent.


The United States wants to support Africa’s efforts to develop more sustainably, even as we move to do so ourselves, and move to curb our emissions.  And that’s why, as part of the President’s bold Power Africa Initiative, a partnership that will pump billions of dollars into the continent’s energy sector, we are working with programs such as the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative.  We’re leveraging public resources and private resources to support $1 billion in clean energy investment from the private sector.  Climate change is a global challenge, and it’s going to threaten this continent and all continents in profound ways if it is not matched by global cooperative action.


We will — we face this challenge remembering that we’ve come together before to confront a borderless, generational crisis, one in which I am proud to say we are now winning.  So when someone suggests that we are impotent to combat climate change here on Africa’s soil, remind them that we already turned back armies of indifference and denial in the fight against AIDS.


I’ve worked with some of you in this battle since the 1990’s.  It was 15 years ago when I co-authored the first Africa AIDS legislation which later became the foundation for PEPFAR.  Back then, what I saw this week at Gandhi Memorial Hospital that I visited a couple days ago, that would have been unthinkable back then.  Because of the commitment of local doctors and healthcare professionals, and with PEPFAR’s sustained support, we have dramatically reduced the number of young children infected with HIV.  And the fact is that we have — we are — I think we were about, what, 15,000 children were receiving antiretroviral drugs back in 2004.  Today, there are more than 330,000 receiving them. The number of people living with HIV has been reduced by one-third.  And, remarkably, we are on the cusp of witnessing the first generation of children who will be born AIDS-free because of what we have learned to do.


There was a sign I saw yesterday at the hospital — or the day before yesterday.  It was — it read, “Ethiopia and the United States of America investing in a healthy future together.”  My friends, that sign tells it all.  It tells us what’s possible, it tells us what we’re doing together.  It tells us what’s possible in all of our endeavors together.


Achieving President Obama’s goal for an AIDS-free generation would have been the most distant dream.  I tell you it was back when we first started talking about doing something about AIDS.  Back then it was a death sentence, and back then it was almost a death sentence for politicians talking about it.  They didn’t want to hear about it.  But despite the difficulties that lie ahead — and there are still difficulties — this goal is now within our reach.  So don’t let anybody tell you we can’t do something about climate change or these other things.


In fact, in so many ways, Africa is on the move.  And that is why investment is moving here from all over the world.  IBM has invested $100 million in Big Data on the continent.  IBM’s initiatives are helping Africans to find ways to streamline the work of their businesses and governments, to provide more effective and efficient services.  Microsoft is investing in what it calls “Mawingu,” the Swahili word for cloud, to develop cloud computing and storage in Kenya that could be expanded to additional African nations.  Google is exploring ways to develop underused spectrum in order to deliver broadband Internet access to remote communities.


And it was here in Addis Ababa that we launched a formal review of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, in order to determine where to take AGOA for the future.  President Obama is committed to a seamless renewal of AGOA, as it continues to serve as a vital link in order to facilitate trade between our countries.


I say this unabashedly, too: we want more American companies to be here, to invest, both to unleash the power of the private sector in Africa, and, yes, to create jobs in America at the same time.  Now, we’ve seen time and again: when we help nations stand on their own two feet, we share in their success.  Out of our 15 largest trading partners today, 11 are former recipients of American aid.  They are now donor countries.  That is the transformation that can be made.


The transformation from aid to trade has been a powerful driver of American prosperity, as well as global growth.  And that’s what we saw take root from our partnerships in Europe after World War II, when America came in and we helped to rebuild Germany (inaudible) before the war, helped to rebuild Japan (inaudible) before the war, helped to rebuild Europe that was crushed by the war.  We have seen this same kind of resurgence in Asia, where American investment and partnership helped underwrite their incredible rise.  And today, that’s what we’re beginning to see here Africa.


When people say that the kind of development that happened in Europe and Asia can’t happen here, we just plain disagree: it’s already happening.  Africans are shaping their future for themselves.  You are shaping it for yourselves.  And we want to share in your effort and help to provide and drive for a shared prosperity that reaches these millions of young people who need education and jobs.  That’s one of the reasons I’ve come to Addis today, and why I’m traveling across the continent from the Horn of Africa to the Atlantic coast in the next couple of days.


So this is a very important time for us both.  This summer we will further advance the vital work that we are undertaking together with the Africa Leaders’ Summit.  This summit will be the first of its kind.  Never before will so many leaders from such a diverse cross-section of the African Continent come together with the President of the United States and leaders from all across American society in the United States.  It’s an historic gathering that matches the remarkable importance of this particular moment.


The theme of this Summit will be “Investing in the Next Generation.”  And I am pleased to see that generation is so well represented here today, with the younger participants from YALI that I mentioned earlier.  These young African leaders are the future.  And I have to tell you, when we introduced YALI, we were stunned by the response.  We put out this notion of young African leaders and invited people to come to Washington.  And guess what, 50,000 young people responded and applied to be a part of this program.  We could only take 500.  So, what we need to do is make sure those other 49,500, and for millions beyond them, are able to be reached.


That is the kind of commitment that actually inspired a young Bobby Kennedy.  Some of you may remember when he came to South Africa during some of that country’s darkest days.  And he challenged the young audience at Cape Town University to muster the courage and the determination to confront their generation’s most daunting challenges.  He said: “The world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life, but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.”


It’s that spirit, it’s those qualities, it’s that appetite that I guarantee you will propel the next generation of Africans to tackle today’s greatest challenges.  And as they do so, the United States of America will stand beside them, bound together by a shared future, a common purpose, and a shared destiny.


So, I say to you, thank you