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Remarks at Launch of U.S.-Zambia chamber of commerce

Published date:
Monday, 13 June 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: I didn’t realize I was walking right into the room. (Laughter.) Please, everyone, be seated and thank you so much for the very warm welcome. We’ve had already a wonderful day yesterday and today, and I think we will continue that streak. I want to start by thanking our ambassador, who is working very hard to strengthen the partnership between our two countries. And I am especially pleased to be here today – I ran up the stairs – (laughter) – especially pleased to be here with ministers of the governments and so many distinguished business leaders here in Zambia to celebrate the launch of the new Zambian-American Chamber of Commerce. I want to thank Ambassador Ron Kirk. No one works harder to promote business and opportunities around the world.

And it is for me an exciting moment because we see so much potential. And by building our relationship, we want a relationship of partnership not patronage, of sustainability not quick fixes. We want to establish a strong foundation to attract new investment, open new businesses, as the minister said yesterday, create more paychecks, and do so within the context of a positive ethic of corporate responsibility. We think it’s essential that we have an idea going in that doing well is not in any way a contradiction of doing good, that we can do both. We can do well by the people of both our countries. We can do well by creating businesses that will be profitable and therefore create more jobs. And we can do good by establishing an even stronger base for prosperity.

So I think that as we look forward, certainly I felt a strong sense of commitment yesterday from the government, both from the president, from Minister Mutati and others. But the real work is done by all of you. You’re the ones who are on the ground making the difference.

And I want to just highlight a few of the stories that I was told. Chris and Agatha Beckett, where are they? Chris and Agatha Beckett. Chris is American. Agatha is Zambian. Together they started an organic fertilizer business that now already employs 80 people here. And since agriculture is one of our targets for working with you through our Feed the Future Program, we think that any investment in value-added products and inputs into agriculture is going to be extremely important.

Where is Rashmi Sharma? There she is. She and her brother used – are you her brother? Oh, good. (Applause.) She and her brother used the AGOA trade preferences to expand their local jewelry business all the way to the United States. Now, that’s good for Zambia, but it’s also good for American consumers who want high-quality, beautiful jewelry, some examples of which I saw yesterday at the exhibition at the convention center.

I also outlined a series of steps that African governments can and I hope should take and will take to unleash the potential of their own people. And I think as we look to the future, there is such an amazing set of opportunities, but business can’t do it without a supportive government policy framework, and governments can’t do it without entrepreneurs and business people who are really going to take advantage of all of these opportunities.

I also want to recognize Joyce-Ann Wainaina. Where’s Joyce-Ann? There you are, Joyce-Ann. (Applause.) As you know, she’s the managing director of Citibank Zambia and she’s helping Citibank expand on its more than three decades of experience in business here and putting financial tools in the hands of small businesses, medium size businesses, families, entrepreneurs. And when a company like Citibank makes a commitment to a country, it’s because they do see an opportunity for growth. But it’s also important to note that Citibank is giving back through community projects and scholarships, because we want to seed the ground and we want to fertilize it – (laughter) – with things like scholarships and internships, which I know you are also doing.

The United States will do what we can to help American and Zambian companies do business together. We want to help work toward lowering trade barriers, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, because, unfortunately, the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa trade at a lower level than any region in the world. And there are so many opportunities for growth just within the region: lower trade barriers; invest in infrastructure, health, health and education, cut down on corruption, which I addressed yesterday both publicly and privately and I will continue to address across the world, not just here and not just in Africa. Because we know very well that corruption is a hidden tax on businesses, and you can’t expect to be able to do business if at every stage along the way of setting up and producing and then distributing and marketing, you have to pay somebody who is not a productive member of your team. So we’re going to do everything we can to try to help on that. (Applause.)

I don’t know how many of you have met the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs in the State Department, but Johnnie Carson, a longtime – Johnnie, why don’t you stand up so that people can – (applause). Johnnie has been working in Africa for a long time and has seen all of the ups and downs. We think we’re on an up. Forty years ago, we had a lot of hope for Africa at the time of independence, and then things didn’t quite move as quickly as people had hoped for. When AGOA was passed, when my husband signed it back in 2000, we had a lot of problems on the continent – at least 10 conflicts, not a good system of electoral selection for leaders and people then moving on if they weren’t elected, and so many other problems.

But we’ve seen tremendous progress. In these 10 years, American trade with Africa has quadrupled, and that doesn’t include oil. If we take oil out, we’ve still quadrupled from 1 to 4 billion, but we want to quadruple again and then quadruple again and keep on going.

The ambassador is very committed, along with his team, to support this Chamber of Commerce. And we want you not only to succeed, we wants you to flourish. So I am thrilled to be here. I’m like the parsley on the plate. All the hard work has been done. I don’t pretend to be the main course because I come and go. The people who are going to be working will be here tomorrow and the next day. But I am thrilled. I have a deep personal commitment to and belief in the future of Africa. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind. And of course, we do have a President and a First Lady who care deeply about the continent as well. Next week, Mrs. Obama and her daughters and her mother will be in Botswana and South Africa.

So we are going to continue to have a sustained focus on what we can do together. We think we’ve learned a few lessons in our 235 years of independence that might be of some use to those here and elsewhere, and we are eager to be a friend and a partner.

Now, I was told that the last thing I had to say was we have to have a photograph, so I think I was told I have to move out in the front here. I don’t have any idea who’s supposed to be in this photograph – (laughter) – so don’t blame me if you’re not in the photograph. All I’m doing is delivering the message that we’re going to take one. (Applause.)

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