Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at AFRICA ENDEAVOR 2008

Remarks of U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

Delivered at the Closing Ceremony of Exercise AFRICA ENDEAVOR 2008
(As prepared for delivery)
Nigerian Air Force Base, Abuja
July 23, 2008

Minister of State for Defense Njeze, Chief of Defense Staff GEN Azazi, representatives of the Service Chiefs, representatives of the Service Directors, Heads of Delegations of the 26 nations participating in the African Endeavor exercise, As the U.S. Ambassador I would also like to recognize the Head of the U.S. Delegation, General Ward, All Delegation senior officers, Member nation participants, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen, all other protocols duly observed:

I want to begin by thanking the host country – Nigeria – for its leadership role and dedication in continuing the African Endeavor exercise. This is the second time that this exercise has been held on the African continent, (in South Africa in 2006), and all of us appreciate the support that the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly the Minster of Defense and Chief of Defense Staff General Azazi, have provided over the last few days to make this exercise truly a resounding success. In the global environment in which we all live today, partners and friends like Nigeria are key to moving international military-to-military cooperation forward. I personally recognize the importance of mil-to-mil cooperation on several fronts, not only because I am a product of a U.S. military family, but also because I have recently served as the Deputy Commandant at the U.S. National Defense University just prior to my arrival here as the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria.

I also would like to recognize and congratulate every participant who took part in Africa Endeavor 2008. Without your professionalism and commitment to the interactions and activities over the last several days, the goals of this exercise would have not come to fruition. Together, you made significant progress in integrating shared military communication systems and improving not only the hardware capability, but also the importance of military networks on an international level.

As you all know, good communication is the backbone of any successful undertaking, whether it is a United Nations Peacekeeping operation or a humanitarian relief mission in response to a natural disaster. Good communications, during joint operations, begins with interoperable equipment, systems and procedures that permit military units not only to speak to, but also to share information with units from other nations and organizations, such as the 21 African nations and two key regional organizations – ECOWAS and the African Union -- represented here today.

One of the great deliverables – which I like to call the intangibles -- from exercises such is this – is another important element -- building mutual understanding among militaries -- as communication among the people behind the systems you used in the exercises this week is also so very, very critical. I know that the relationships you have developed during this exercise will remain part of your professional experiences throughout your careers, and the knowledge you have gained over the past six days of intense testing and collaboration will pay dividends many times over as you, your countries and organizations continue to work together to ensure continued peace and security – on this great continent of Africa in general, and the sub region in particular.

The United States Government and the people of America – through the Department of Defense - are honored to be a sponsor of this event along with our host, the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Africa Endeavor is a groundbreaking venture, which you all should be proud of. It embodies the growing military and civilian cooperation among the nations of Africa—both at the bilateral as well as multilateral levels. The standards and procedures you have established during this exercise will serve as a touchstone for improved, coordinated responses to the myriad security challenges facing Africa. As the lessons learned from these exercises take hold throughout your respective organizations, I hope increased communication will serve as the catalyst for developing strategies to prevent conflicts before they escalate, as well as the catalyst to continue to build mutual understanding, and respect between the militaries of our nations.

Economic and social progress cannot occur without physical security, just as operations to improve physical security cannot occur without cohesive communication. Through your participation in these exercises, you have demonstrated the collective commitment of the countries and organizations you represent to improve the lives of the people of Africa by cooperating to ensure their peace and security and exercises like this one do just that.

Once again, thank you to the Government, Military, and people of Nigeria, and to all of the participants, facilitators and Exercise Directors Brigadier General Kwabe and LTC Dollesin.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at AGOA Product Launch

Opening Remarks – Ambassador Robin Sanders
AGOA Product Launch

F&D Garment Manufacturing Co. premises – Lagos, Nigeria
10:00-11:00, July 17, 2008

Good Morning and Bon Voyage!

Today is another step forward in Nigerian SME's taking advantage of duty free exports under the African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA. The F&D Garment Manufacturing Co’s newest shipment of clothing and apparel to the United States is being exported under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

AGOA as many of you already know provides trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry of 6,500 different goods into the United States. Non-oil exports constitute only a very small fraction of Nigeria’s AGOA exports and I would like to see that changed, particularly as I have worked on AGOA for many years, including being at the White House when AGOA was signed into law in 2000.

This event is a direct follow-on from the June 12-13 workshop in Lagos held with our public-private partners Bank of Industry and First Bank.

Recognizing the talents of the Nigerian business community it is very important to me particularly seeing you take increased advantage of AGOA trade opportunities. Also I want to underscore the importance my government places not only on the existing business linkages between our two nations but also on creating new ones like this one under our framework for partnership with Nigeria.

As part of that commitment right now senior members of the Nigerian government and private sector are participating in a high-level AGOA Forum in Washington DC

The theme for this year’s AGOA forum is “Mobilizing Investment for Trade and Growth” in order to strengthen the linkages between private investment and economic growth and accelerate the exchange of ideas and information that is critical for AGOA’s success and indeed Africa’s continued economic success.

During last month’s export credit and finance event in Lagos with co-sponsors Bank of Industry and First Bank I asked participants to think creatively to nurture and expand existing partnerships work to build new productive partnerships and take positive steps to improve the paradigm between U.S. business-related programs and Nigerian businesses.

As I stated then our work to further build U.S. – Nigeria business relationships and enhance Nigerian SMEs’ export readiness to the U.S. would not be a quick fix, but rather one of many steps. Today is another step in that direction to change the paradigm of business linkages that now exist.

I am pleased to be here with F&D’s Managing Director Prahbu Dorai as this non-oil AGOA export embarks on its way across the Atlantic to expectant U.S. buyers. I also want to use this opportunity to mention the work that F&D is doing with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council at the AGOA Center to help train and build the capacity of a new cadre of emerging SME garment manufacturers in an effort to expand and most importantly to diversify Nigeria’s exports more into the non-oil sector. This is an important step on the Nigerian side.

I also want to recognize the presence of Frijay Consults’ Managing Director Mrs. A. S. Uwheraka who is also exporting seafood products (on display here) under AGOA to the United States.

All areas of AGOA duty-free exports are important and what Mrs. Uwheraka is doing with aquaculture and seafood products is just another example of the diversity of export potential for SMEs under AGOA.

In addition as part of the follow-up emanating from the June 12-13 workshop recommendations the U.S. Mission Bank of Industry and our other private sector partners here in Nigeria will soon be conducting a series of detailed state-level and zonal AGOA training programs focusing on developing the capacity of Nigerian businesses at the State level. These workshops will cover the provisions and procedures for exporting under AGOA and how to get export ready. I am pleased that the first zonal workshop will take place at the end of this month.

We are also moving ahead to expand and improve access to AGOA information and services here in Nigeria. The U.S. Mission is in discussions with Federal Government and State-level stakeholders to improve access to AGOA information and we are looking into the possibility of making the AGOA-proprietary software available here in Nigeria through our partnerships and will announce the details of that when the proposals are finalized.

In closing let me assure you that my goal and that of my team at the U.S. Mission to Nigeria is to work in partnership with you to move into a new era in U.S.- Nigerian business relations which includes AGOA but also involves a new bilateral investment treaty currently under discussion between our two countries.

In addition, we will continue to work with both government and private sector entities on this new potential for a new era that improves trade and investment but one that also has a synergy with improved transparency and the adoption of best business practices which will help both the U.S. and Nigeria change the business paradigm between our nations.

Thank you for joining me on this next step toward that goal.