Malawi: President Banda's Address to U.S. Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

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Photo: Tami Hultman/AllAfrica
Malawian President Joyce Banda delivers a keynote address at an event hosted by the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY HER EXCELLENCY MRS. JOYCE BANDA PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI AT A RECEPTION HOSTED BY THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS FOUNDATION, WASHINGTON, D.C.

  • Honourable Karen Bass, Member of the US Congress
  • All Members of the US Congress here present
  • Members of the African Diplomatic Corps
  • African Policy Experts here present
  • US Governmental Officials
  • Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me start by thanking Representative Karen Bass and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation for holding this event in my honour and that of African Ambassadors accredited to the United States. I wish to thank you most sincerely and for inviting me to make this keynote address.

I do not take this honor for granted and want you to know how grateful I am for the opportunity to speak at this event.

Let me also thank the African Ambassadors for working closely with the US administration and US Congress in pursuit of issues of common interest.

For example, the extension of the AGOA "third country fabric provision" would not have been possible without the cooperation of the African Ambassadors, members of Congress and their staff, and members of the administration. I would like to thank you all for this.

By extending the validity of the provision to 2015, Congress has demonstrated a resolve to assist the people of Africa, especially the thousands of women employed in the textile industries in Africa, to lift themselves out of poverty.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen Allow me to pay special tribute to the late Congressman Donald Payne who passed on early this year. Congressman Payne was a trusted and dedicated friend of Africa. We shall remain grateful for his leadership in advocating for Africa's development in the US Congress.

Honourable Bass and the organisers of this event, I applaud you for the theme that you have chosen for this occasion: "Africa Rising: A Continent of Opportunities." This theme cannot be as appropriate as at this time. Africa is indeed on the rise and its opportunities are continuously saying "Africa, your time has come". There is increasing optimism about Africa due to the continent's promise and consistently rising levels of investment over the past decade. It is therefore important that America's highest interest, politically and economically should be to increase their private investment in Africa, particularly through much stronger cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in this vein I am encouraged by President Obama's challenge to Africans and Americans alike that: Africa needs partnership, not patronage. I was happy to see that President Obama's challenge was echoed by Secretary of State Clinton when she made her trip to Africa recently and talked about a model for sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it. Africa appreciates the current US administration's comprehensive strategy on Sub Saharan Africa based on the four pillars: first to promote opportunity and development, second to spur economic growth, trade and investment, third to advance peace and security; and fourth to strengthen democratic institutions.

The destiny of Africa is in the hands of the Africans. Africa is rich with minerals and plants that can be found throughout the continent.

Africa is rich in rain forest and virtual absence of emissions and effluents that harm the global environment. Africa has fertile land and archaeological sites containing a wide variety of flora and fauna. In east and southern Africa, there have been great discoveries of minerals like gold, platinum, coal, oil and gas, among others.

In Africa, 26 of 32 least developed countries had liberal or relatively liberal regimes governing the repatriation of dividends and capital. Furthermore, since 1990, profit levels of foreign companies in Africa had averaged 29 per cent. Since 1991, these levels have exceeded all other regions of the world. More positively, however, a number of African states managed impressive economic growth rates of over 4% since the 1990s. Return on investment is among the highest in Africa today.

The World Economic Forum has also reported that in much of Africa progress had been made in other areas that are important for the creation of a climate conducive of foreign direct investment. These include trade liberalization, the strengthening of the rule of law, improvements in legal and other instruments as well as the telecommunications and transport infrastructures.

Africa has now acquired skills, knowledge and a vast network across the world. This resource in the Diaspora provides connectivity to many cultures and opportunities in Africa.

Hence, it is pleasing and encouraging noting that there are success stories in Africa that we can boast about. Africa has successful business people, men and women, across the continent who have demonstrated that it is possible to succeed in Africa. Africa has successful governments that have demonstrated that it is safe to invest in Africa. Africa has successful leaders that can be engaged, supported and promoted to set the development pace for Africa.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen Malawi is among such examples. The people of Malawi have joined me on the journey to leading the way on a new vision for leadership in Africa, one that prioritizes good governance and empowering all Malawians, especially women.

Malawi is the seventeenth-fastest growing country in the world, with a population of 16.3 million. We are a largely rural country--with only one-fifth of our population living in a city. We are a young country--with 45 % of Malawians below the age of 15. Malawi has seen economic growth above 7 % since 2005, well above the average for Sub Saharan Africa. While we were challenged by poor political and economic governance for the past three years, and macroeconomic policies that hindered our growth, we are now poised for strong growth in the years to come.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen Upon assuming office in April this year, I immediately set out my vision to eradicate poverty through economic growth and wealth creation; and my desire to see Malawians enjoy their freedom, dignity and sense of pride; and maximise their capacity to realise their social, political and economic empowerment.

My administration then established an Economic Recovery Program to deal with political and economic governance challenges that I found in government. The program seeks to create sustainable and progressive monetary and fiscal policies to stabilise the economy and it also introduced austerity measures to cut on waste and promote prudent fiscal management.

I further convened a National Dialogue on the Economy to develop diversified and productive economic model which is able to reinstate traditional drivers of growth that can generate foreign exchange. My Government has decided to promote a private sector-led economic growth with the following priority areas: Agriculture, Tourism, Mining, Energy, and Infrastructure Development.

Further more, I established two initiatives in my office: The Presidential Initiative on Maternity Health and Safe Motherhood; and the Presidential Initiative on Hunger and Poverty Reduction to fast track the interventions needed to address the social needs of the disadvantaged groups especially women and youth who bore the blunt of the financial crises that My Government found.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen My Government has also identified three projects in each of the priority sectors which we will focus on in the next two years. In the energy sector, we have thermal power generation project, hydropower generation projects and solar power generation projects. In mining, we have Bauxite, Rare Earth Minerals, Uranium, Titanium and Heavy Mineral Sands; and Oil and Gas. We will invest in our hopeful and young population, and we will lead the way for the new Africa.

Women are at the center of our hopes for Africa: we will build a new Africa based on good governance, transparency and accountability of government, values of safety, security and opportunity.

As a country, we will invest in Malawi's human capital to take advantage of the demographic dividend of our large numbers of young people in Malawi. I personally believe that if we invest in health, especially women's health, education, and skills building, we can use this "people power" to transform Malawi into a medium income country, as Ghana and other countries have become. My goal is to take Malawi into the top 100 countries of World Bank Doing Business rankings in the next two years.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen Now is a hopeful time for Africa, an opportunity to transform the continent by recognizing the interconnectedness of agriculture, security, the environment, health, and a strong youth population.

For a woman living in a village in Malawi, the issues of food security, the challenges posed by climate variability, population pressures, and economic challenges all meet this woman on the doorstep of her house.

As we look to new ways to implement programs to develop Africa, we must look at the interconnectedness of interventions in health, education, economy and population. This woman wants to ensure that her agricultural work provides enough food so that she can feed her family, and provides needed income. She wants her children to be able to get medical care when they are sick. She wants all her children to be able to go to school, and she wants schools and hospitals to be safe, accessible from her village and staffed by well-trained teachers and doctors.

She wants to raise her children without the fear that she will die giving birth to the next child. She wants to be able to choose the size of her family so that she can provide each of her children with everything they need for success in life. But we realize that to achieve this vision, we cannot do it alone and we need your help. We need continued investments in women's and children's health and in new approaches to agricultural development. While Malawi is one of highest recipient of aid in Africa - and we are grateful for this support - my government is committed to turn Malawi from being an aid dependent to being a trade and investment dependent nation.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen I am immensely thankful for the renewal of a strong relationship between the US and Malawi. For the past three years, that relationship was strained but the US has come back strongly as a friend to the people of Malawi, and we appreciate this and look forward to a continued strong relationship.

I am very pleased to say that the cordial relations between Malawi and the USA have been restored, and the successful visit by the Secretary of State, Madam Hillary Clinton, to Malawi in July, 2012, bears testimony to this.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

The US Government remains one of the most trusted development partners for Malawi. Malawi has benefited a lot from her cooperation with the United States, through, for example, Peace Corps program, the President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief Program, the Feed the Future Initiative. Further more, Malawians welcome the reinstatement of the MCC Compact with Malawi, release the frozen resources, in recognition of my sound political and economic policies. The US$350 million investment in the power sector, will lead to the improvement of the energy sector in Malawi and thereby encourage investors into the country.

I want to re-assure the United States Government, and other esteemed dignitaries here present, that my administration is committed to the consolidation of democracy, protection of human rights, respect of the rule of law, and most importantly, improvement of the living standards of Malawians.

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen Africa is the emerging market. Africa's economies have proven their resilience when the world faced an economic down turn. Africa's democracy is maturing. Africa is developing its own solutions to its challenges. Africa has embraced leadership that is accountable to its citizens and seeks to deliver on its mandate. Africa has embraced women's leadership. Africa is asserting its place in the global world.

Africa is a continent on the rise!

I want to conclude once again by thanking Honorable Karen Bass, Member of the US Congress from California, and the organizers of this function for the honour bestowed upon me to address you. I look forward to the continued partnership between of the people of the United States of America, the People of the Republic of Malawi, and the African Continent.

Thank you for your attention!

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