United States Agency for International Development
Office of Press Relations
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2019
USAID Administrator Mark Green’s Remarks on Prosper Africa at the Corporate Council On Africa Conference
Joaquim Chissano International Conference Center
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you for that kind introduction, and thank you for your great leadership. And a special thanks to Florie Liser, President of the Corporate Council on Africa for inviting me to join you today. As many of you know, I served as America’s Ambassador to Tanzania, Mozambique’s beautiful neighbor to the north. My time there, helping lead initiatives like PEPFAR and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, taught me so much of what I know about development in Africa. But, what taught me even more, what shaped it even more, was the time I spent in Africa some twenty years before that. Back then, I taught school in a small Kenyan village not far from the Ugandan border. Most of my students were poor. Most of my students were barefoot. Our school lacked reliable water and electricity. We didn’t have lights, only windows. In some classes, we had one textbook for every dozen students. Americans are sometimes surprised when I tell them that, in the entire year I served at that middle school not one of my students ever asked me for money. They might have asked to borrow books; they often asked for extra lessons, but they never asked for a handout. They really wanted a hand-up, a chance to make their own way. I often think of those days, those barefoot kids, with big eyes and even bigger dreams. There are many millions and millions of young people just like them, all across this magnificent continent. More and more every day. The median age of the Mozambican is just over 17. Across the continent, it’s just under 20.
Sixty percent of Africans are under 25, and a decade from now there will be about 320 million Africans between the ages of 15 and 24. Every one of them with bright eyes and big dreams, eager to make their own way. And, I think the challenge of our generation is to ensure that those opportunities are there. It won’t be easy. By some estimates, Africa will need 18 million new jobs per year for the next 20 years just to match these new entries into the job market. So, can government create these jobs? Even if they could, I doubt they would be exciting opportunities that those young Africans dream of. In terms of help from the outside, will those opportunities come from authoritarian donors? Most of the time, their help looks more like predatory financing than honest-to-good assistance. A mortgaged future instead of a springboard to economic vibrancy, shackles instead of self-reliance. But, we’re here because we know there’s an answer. There is a way. It’s the path that led to the South Korean miracle, the Indian miracle, and so many others. Private enterprise is the single most powerful force on Earth, lifting lives and building communities.
Our mission at USAID is to foster the journey to self-reliance. And, we know that private enterprise is the force that gets countries there. In terms of creating those opportunities, sustainable opportunities for those rising young Africans, nothing else comes close. That’s why the Trump Administration’s Prosper Africa matters. It’s not a program; it’s a new approach. A new framework. A framework that seeks to liberate and mobilize private enterprise. I believe it gives us an opportunity to double two-way trade and investment in the years ahead. Prosper Africa pulls together, harmonizes, and harnesses our foreign assistance tools in ways that will promote stability and good governance, and an enterprise-friendly, enabling environment. Prosper Africa is different because it is demand-driven and private-sector lead. It aligns the tools of our public sector to leverage the innovation, resources, knowledge, and networks of our private sector.
So, what’s in it for America? Well, Prosper Africa will advance America’s prosperity and security, it will fuel economic growth and jobs creation, and it’ll demonstrate the superior value proposition of markets and private enterprise. What’s in it for Africa? Prosper Africa will help break the debt-trap, the trap that authoritarian funders have planted like landmines in too many parts of this continent. Prosper Africa creates options and alternatives for African leaders, who are seeking just a little bit of help with their plans for the future. It will help Africans seize the power of investment and enterprise, and it will accelerate their journey to self-reliance.
Okay, the nuts and bolts of the Administration’s plan. Prosper Africa will increase and prioritize U.S.-governed personnel and programs to do the following, and this is where it gets real: First, facilitate transaction by providing blended finance, loan guarantees, market intelligence, advocacy, and a range of services to de-risk investments. Second, will expand U.S. private sector knowledge and utilization of available U.S. government deal-facilitation services. Third, it will develop and deepen markets by tapping into local ventures to provide matchmaking services with U.S. companies, and African supply and value chain departments. Fourth, it will level the playing field for U.S. businesses by identifying and removing policy regulatory and logistical trade barriers in ways that increase transparency and lower the cost of doing business in Africa.
Fifth, it will expand U.S. trade and investment hubs into multi-agency platforms. Sixth, it will integrate technical advisors into those hubs to create an easily accessible trade and investment support package. Seventh, it will create an additional trade and investment hub in North Africa. And eighth, it will increase the foreign commercial services of USAID private sector catalysts in Africa to serve as “Deal Facilitation Teams” in strategic markets. Prosper Africa will create real, concrete strategies country by country for improving the private investment and financing. It will get there by removing the restraints to grow and invest analyses in select countries that will create to-do lists for lowering barriers for American business investment.
I think you can tell Prosper Africa is not a new program. It’s a new way of doing business. It capitalizes on the reauthorization of EXIM Bank and the new Development Finance Corporation. And, it makes the full suite of U.S. government networks and resources available and accessible to importers, exporters, and investors. I’ll understand if some of you were skeptical, after all, as Ronald Reagan used to put it that the 10 most frightening words in the English language are, “Hello, I’m here from the government and I’m here to help.”
But, we have seen in recent years what thoughtful, pro-business initiatives can do. Like Power Africa 2.0, where we’re helping to connect government, financiers, and private enterprise projects that will one day power an entire continent. Like Feed the Future, helping farmers overseas become more prosperous and better connected to global markets, bridging the divide between their needs and American enterprise.
In each of these efforts, we’ve married the ingenuity and enterprise of American and African businesses with the desire of governments to achieve lasting development results. That’s precisely what Prosper Africa will help to achieve, and I believe on a larger scale than we have ever seen before. So, I began today by telling you that my most memorable time in Africa was serving as a teacher. I’d like to close today by giving you my second most memorable moment. It was from my very first overseas trip as Administrator. I visited the Somali region of Ethiopia, an area that was then going into its fourth consecutive year of drought.
Part of the program was to participate with our partner, the World Food Programme, in food distribution. And, I remember walking along a path where we had sacks of grain that we were providing to families that desperately needed it. As we were walking through, there was a wonderful Ethiopian lady who approached me. She said, “I have a question.” And I said, “Yes, ma’am.” “First off, thank you for this food.” “We needed it.” And my question is, ‘can you help us with irrigation so that we never have to ask for food again?'” It’s that spirit, it’s that drive, it’s that human dignity, it’s that innate desire to want to lead themselves. Build their own bright future. That’s what we must tap into.
Nothing will meet their needs, nothing will harness that spirit like private enterprise. And, nothing will accelerate, in my opinion, private enterprise better than pulling together our tools in Prosper Africa. It is a collaboration between government and all of you. We have work to do. The sky’s the limit. Thank you.
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Press Contact: USAID Press Office