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An Interview with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton

Source:U.S. Dept. of State
Source Date:2011-06-11
Publish Date:2011-06-13 22:39:30
Times Read:2442 reads

From the interview with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Lusaka, by e.tv Africa 360 host Chris Maroleng (via AllAfrica):

MR. MAROLENG: Pennipher, one of the things that we have seen particularly here in Zambia has been the growing influence of China in terms of foreign direct investment and trade. We've heard the Secretary of State saying that what the American Government is looking to is a more sustainable form of investment.

In your view, do you believe that the participation of China in Zambia has been one that can be described as sustainable in other parts of the African continent?

MS. SIKAINDA: Well, Chris, you see Chinese trade with Africa remains a contentious issue and we all continue to ask the question whether it is actually benefiting the continent. But Madam Secretary, I'd like to get it from you. Do you think Africa (inaudible) actually a fair trade, and not just China but even the U.S., on a platform that has its benefits (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Pennipher, I do think so. And I think we are beginning to see more of that. Just in the last day, I have met Zambian business people who have been helped by American technical assistance to do business plans, to learn how to market into the American market. And our trade ambassador, Ambassador Ron Kirk, announced at the AGOA conference that we will be spending $120 million over four years in Sub-Saharan Africa to help more companies get their products ready for the American market.

There are certain standards, to go back to one of Chris's questions, both for the EU and the U.S.. it's odd; sometimes certain products get into the EU that don't get into the U.S., and sometimes they get into the U.S. that don't get in the EU. So we have to, between the U.S. and the EU, better standardize our requirements so that there's not these differences. But ultimately, what we want to do is to help African businesses improve their ability to export.

But I would also reiterate the point that getting into the American market is great. Getting into the EU is great. There are tens of millions of consumers right next door here in Sub-Saharan Africa. And I made a very strong plea at the AGOA conference for governments inside of southern Africa to trade more with each other, because it's a huge consumer market. And so I think the potential is unlimited, whether it goes to the U.S., EU, or even within Southern Africa.

MR. MUTUBILA: Chris, let me take up with the Secretary of State (inaudible) back to the issue of trade. We've seen that this trade is enhanced in various economies in Africa. But how do you (inaudible)? A lot of people, the majority, are still living in abject poverty, even with this economic growth being registered. (Inaudible) Africa is the (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: There are many stages to development, and I think Africa is doing a lot of things right, but here are some of the areas where I would like to see more effort and more change.

Let me start with women. Women small business owners, women small farmers are actually the backbone of a lot of the economic development that can and should occur inside Africa. More than 60 percent of the farmers in Africa are women. They are often denied credit because they are women. Their property is often taken away from them even though they have labored on the same land for decades if they are widowed. They sometimes are denied the very tools of improving their production because they are women. Similarly with small businesses, we see the same.

So the United States has started a program called African Women's Entrepreneurship Program. And what we are doing is helping African women, who are among the hardest working people on the planet, to get their own businesses in order, to learn how better to achieve what they're hoping for. And I'm very proud that the headquarters will be right here in Lusaka.

Now, secondly, we can look around the world and see what governments are doing to make it easier to do business. I'll give you an example. This one comes from West Africa, but I used it in my speech. There was a basket maker who made beautiful baskets in West Africa. A very large American company gave him an order for 5,000 baskets. He had never fulfilled an order bigger than 500, but he worked day and night. He brought in everyone he knew to help. And he produced for the company.

The next year they came to him and said we can get those baskets for half the price in Vietnam. So he came to our trade experts, who we have set up these hubs around Africa to help. So here's what we found. Number one, the reason that Vietnamese basket makers could produce more cheaply is the Government of Vietnam had set up a smooth supply chain for straw. So the government in the West African country had never thought about doing that. And we went to the government of the West African country and said if you want to compete with Vietnam and employ, literally, hundreds, maybe thousands, of people making these beautiful baskets, here's what you have to do.

So there are governmental lessons that have to be learned in order - we have to knock down legal, cultural barriers, but we also have to learn from what's working, particularly in Asia. If governments here literally took the lessons and said here's what we need to do to improve distribution, infrastructure, supply chains, marketing, I think within 10 years you would see a very different story.

MR. MAROLENG: Let me follow up on that question, Madam Secretary, because one of the things that you pointed out is that the East offers a model in terms of an efficient form of governance. This raises the question around whether countries like China, in terms of their (inaudible) government, become an example for African states, as opposed to the notion of good governance which is largely seen in Africa as being imposed by the West. Do you believe that China is an important role model in terms of governance?

SECRETARY CLINTON: In the long run, the medium run, even the short run, I don't. And I will explain why. No one will argue with the economic success that China is having. They have a top-down command economy, and it is certainly lifting tens of millions, hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty. And I am the first to say we want to see China succeed.

But their culture is very different and their approach to how they solve problems is very different. And I believe that we're beginning to see a lot of problems that you're going to pay more attention to in the next 10 years.

The internet goes across all borders. They are doing everything they can to stifle the internet. I think the internet is one of Africa's great opportunities, not just for freedom of expression but for trading information and networking about how to do better.

So are there lessons we can learn from what governments do all over the world? I think I would argue that there are more lessons to learn from the U.S. and from democracies, but I'm open to lessons from anywhere. But at the end of the day, in the 21st century, as we are seeing in the Arab Spring, young people in particular are not going to accept being told what to do. They want the freedom and the education and the opportunity. (Applause.)

And Africa is a continent of so much vitality, so much energy. When the earthquake struck in Haiti and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people were trapped, it was a young African entrepreneur who came up with the app that enabled the United States Government and the authorities in Haiti to actually locate people who had been lost. We ran a contest recently in Africa out of the State Department asking for apps for economic development. Unbelievably creative responses.

So, see, I think good governance unleashes human potential. Authoritarian regimes try to put everybody into the same mold: you've got to do this, that, and only it, because that's what you're told to do. I want to see an African renaissance that provides opportunities of all kinds for people, because I am confident you can compete with anybody anywhere.


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