TRALAC - Trade Law Centre

Remarks at AGOA Business Roundtable by Secretary Colin Powell

Thursday, 07 November 2002

Source: U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC)

Remarks at African Growth and Opportunity Act Business Roundtable by Secretary Colin L. Powell

Thank you very much, Tony, and thank you all. It's a great pleasure to be with you this morning and -- I've been up in my office all morning working on a number of issues, the most pressing of which is the resolution before the United Nations. And we're making progress, but it has been very, very intense negotiations and I started out on the telephone at roughly 6:30 this morning and it hasn't stopped -- but always in the background I've had our little internal network focused on this room. So I knew what was going on. Now, who runs this fund that gets the 30 percent rate? (Laughter.) See me after, in my office. (Laughter.) We'll worry about the resolution later. I want to hear more about this. (Laughter.)

But this is a busy time here at the State Department. There are a number of things we're working on, a number of crises we're working our way through, but at the same time, I can think of no more important activity taking place here today than this, this conference. And I know that Secretary O'Neill and Secretary Evans and my other colleague, Ambassador Zoellick were here earlier with you and I thank them for participating in not only this conference, but all the work that they do with respect to Africa.

All three of them are deeply committed to a stronger US relationship with Africa. And each and every one of them in their own way and so many of my colleagues in the administration, other colleagues in the administration, have demonstrated their commitment to the continent. And we're all doing it because our President made it clear to us that he has a personal commitment in the continent, that he understands the responsibilities that America has to help the people of Africa toward a better life for all Africans.

Paul O'Neill traveled earlier this year to Ghana, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Africa, and while he was there he got a first hand look with a wonderful traveling partner, Bono, on some of the problems that exist and brought attention through his relationship with Bono to the problems that he encountered there.

Don Evans spoke to you earlier today about the trade mission that he will soon be leading to Africa. And last February, Bob Zoellick made the first ever trip by a United States Trade Representative to Sub-Saharan Africa. Their actions are a welcome reminder of the opportunities that Africa offers and of our determination to help businesses capture those opportunities. I hope you will find it obvious from these high-powered speakers and from their consistent message that Africa is very important to the Bush administration, very important to America.

The President addressed the first AGOA forum that we had here at the State Department in 2001. He sent a strong message that economic freedom and political freedom go hand in hand and that America supports both freedoms. And if you look at the new National Security Strategy document that was recently issued, a lot of attention was focused on preemption and whether America should be a military superpower or not, but in that same document it also said, "American interests and principles lead in the same direction. We will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace and growing prosperity. It is a central tenet of our National Security Strategy."

But these words are just not words of principle or resolve -- they really are a call to action -- action of the kind that is being answered here today. We're answering this call in so many ways: with programs to fill African schoolrooms, to lay food on African tables, to put clean water in thirsty African mouths. President Bush has stated his conviction that literacy and learning are the foundation for development.

Our African Education Initiative will double funds for basic education support over the next five years, ensuring that millions of young African students will have the knowledge that they need to build a hopeful future for themselves and for their families and for their countries.

Our initiative to end hunger in Africa will support African farmers and consumers by helping farmers gain access to the tools they need, to the technology they need and to the transport resources they need to move and market their crops in a more effective way.

At the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, I was privileged to announce on behalf of the American people, an initiative to invest nearly $1 billion over a three-year period, largely in Africa, to give more people access to clean, healthy water. I don't know if Paul O'Neill focused on it this morning, but it's become a passion for Paul. As he traveled throughout Africa he could see that one of the most basic requirements for any kind of development is clean water. And we are committed to doing as much as we can to help young children, to help family members, to help Africa develop the clean water resources needed for sustainable development.

These programs I've just touched on and other programs we have underway show that there is much we can do to support Africa's journey to a better future. But as President Bush has pointed out, development must begin at home with governments that rule justly, invest in their people, and governments that encourage economic freedom. We make the point over and over to all nations that visit us -- not just from Africa, but other nations from other developing parts of the world -- that the rule of law has to be at the center of every society, every government, that corruption is corrosive -- don't ask business people or the American taxpayers or taxpayers in any other nation to invest in those societies and those nations with those governments that are not doing what they can to root out corruption, where there is no transparency in the government, when there is no transparency in the financial system, when the society exists to perpetuate poverty among the people and prosperity only for the privileged. We are committed to helping countries fight corruption. And in this regard we need your help.

We need you to continue to demand a high standard of integrity in your business practices in Africa and around the world. The simple fact is that good government is the foundation for economic growth and lasting poverty reduction. It opens the way to effective assistance such as our programs to help Africans participate more fully in the global economy. Good policy also opens the way for private business to invest, trade and lead the way to greater prosperity. It encourages the most important investors of all, Africa's own venture capitalists, to seek out opportunities in their own back yards and not see money flow out of the country to other places.

These two strands are so important: public policy, private enterprise. They come together in President Bush's Millennium Challenge Account Initiative. This is an exciting initiative. I'm so proud of this program and I'm confident that the Congress will support it fully when we have a chance to present it to them and give them the metrics we will be using to implement this program. $1.5 billion, roughly, we're asking to get it started. And then when it comes into full swing in about three years, it will represent another $5 billion a year in assistance funds for nations that are on a path to democracy, on a path to market freedom, that are governed wisely and fairly, that are fighting corruption, that have put in place the rule of law, have made a commitment to improve their infrastructure, their educational infrastructure, their health infrastructure, clean water, and are committed to the kinds of things that will be needed to create conditions for sustainable development.

This single initiative represents a 50 percent increase in the funds that I normally have available in the course of a year to deal with development activities and economic support funding. We see Millennium Challenge Account resources as an investment fund through which we will join with committed partners to achieve lasting development returns. It implies, however, that there has to be shared risk and responsibility as well as a mutual commitment to helping as many people as possible as quickly as we can.

These same strands: public policy and private enterprise also join to make the African Growth and Opportunity Act such a powerful force for human advancement in Africa as represented by your presence here today. With AGOA we open the vast American market and African market to private businesses -- private businesses in both places that can trade with each other, they can exchange with each other. There is no question that it is this private investment, this private activity that is the true engine of growth as opposed to just aid activities.

AGOA is a perfect example of what we're trying to do. And I give credit to the previous administration under President Clinton's leadership and the leadership of dedicated individuals in Congress for having put it in place. We have embraced this program totally. We want to see it enhanced. We want to see it grow, and above all, we want to congratulate those nations who have done so well already with only two years of experience with AGOA. Lesotho -- since AGOA came into effect, the country has added 15,000 new manufacturing jobs. For the first time, more people are working in manufacturing than in the government bureaucracy. This small country of just 2 million people is now the third largest Sub-Saharan exporter of manufactured goods to the United States.

But the Millennium Challenge Account, AGOA and programs like these are a two-way street. Policy alone cannot capture opportunity. That takes private businesses which trade and which invest. Not just domestic businesses, foreign firms, American companies, like yours. By doing business, you capture profitable opportunities for yourself, as has already been illustrated by speakers here today, even as you expand the circle of development far beyond your immediate partners or your immediate workforce. This is Adam Smith for the 21st century. We see this new invisible hand working its wonders in Africa today.

There are many American companies, some of which are represented here today, doing good work as a part of making a profit in countries throughout Africa. One American manufacturer has provided safe drinking water to hundreds of villagers in rural Chad. Other companies across the continent are educating girls -- the most deprived population, improving healthcare, building infrastructure as part of their business activities.

Of course, all of fine work, all of this noble work, will come to naught unless we deal with the major crisis affecting Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa. All of it will come to naught unless we do something about the scourge, the tragedy, of HIV/AIDS. Unless we act now, the long-term consequences for Africa will be catastrophic and all of the pretty programs we talk about will be for naught.

Governments must do their part with education, prevention, and treatment. But some actions cost nothing, and all of you should be involved in these actions and these activities. As government, business and civic leaders, we must set an example by speaking out forcefully and consistently against discrimination of individuals living with HIV and AIDS.

Other initiatives take money, and we are leading the way in providing assistance. It was President Bush's initiative last year that created the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and that was put in place through the good offices of Kofi Annan. And so far, America has pledged $500 million to this effort, and I'm quite confident that Congress will continue to make a significant investment in this effort every year.

We are also the largest contributor to bilateral programs to fight AIDS worldwide. Just last June, for example, President Bush announced another initiative, a $500 million initiative that deals with mother-to-child HIV transmission. And I think this will be a very successful effort.

Businesses must also step up, and a number of US, European and African firms are already doing so. Far-sighted companies have established model programs to educate their workers about risks, to promote behavior change, and to support those who are affected by HIV/AIDS.

And I hope that all of you, in whatever way you can, take a shot at this problem, do something about it. For all of you who, I assume, have traveled to Africa; you have seen this close up. I have. I'll never forget the experience of traveling in parts of Africa with my wife last year on my first trip to Africa [as Secretary of State] and seeing families devastated, seeing a whole level of society removed as young parents pass on, die through HIV/AIDS, leaving their children to the care of grandparents who are incapable of taking care of these youngsters. A class of individuals who are the managerial class -- the teachers, the hospital workers, government workers -- all being decimated by this disease with infection rates that blind the imagination to the impact -- 38, 39 percent infection rates, destroying societies. This is an obligation that we all have, an obligation to work on this problem to do everything we can -- the government sector, the private sector -- and, I submit, the private sector businesses doing business in this countries have a particular obligation to reach out to your workforce and beyond into the communities.

Despite such perils as war and poverty and disease, Africa is still clearly emerging as a continent of promise. But seizing Africa's opportunities is hard work. It takes information. It takes relationships. It takes networking. That is why I am so pleased that you have made time to join us today at this AGOA business roundtable. I hope you will be able to use what you learn to expand your opportunities in Africa.

I am also delighted that Mauritius will host the next AGOA forum in January. Mauritius is an African success story where democracy and literacy and free trade are working together to attract investment, to raise incomes, create opportunity, and to give hope to people. Alongside the ministerial meetings, the business community of Mauritius, in cooperation with the Corporate Council on Africa and other groups, is organizing a parallel private sector event, and hopefully I'll see many of you there. The program will include a trade show and sessions on doing business in Africa. The organizers are inviting businesses from all 36 AGOA countries and the United States, and this event promises to be another excellent opportunity for you to meet your counterparts from Africa, to do some networking, and to perhaps even find a future business partner. I urge you to consider attending.

My good friends, we all share a commitment to Africa, its present and its future. If you didn't, you wouldn't be here and I wouldn't be doing what my President has charged me to do. From top to bottom in the Bush Administration we are all committed to doing everything we can to realize Africa's potential. I am asking each and every one of you, in turn and collectively, to bring your enterprise, your know-how, your experience, your capital, to bear on the challenge of helping Africans develop the continent's enormous human and natural resources. It is an obligation we have. It is part of America's destiny to reach out to people in need, to reach out to all the members of our human family. And nowhere is this more important than in Africa.

And I thank you for your support and I thank you for being here today. Thank you very much. (Applause.)