Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ambassador Robin R. Sanders' Remarks at the First National Employment Summit

Remarks of U.S. Ambassador Robin R. Sanders

On the Occasion of the First National Employment Summit:

"Meeting the Employment Challenges of the Global Economic & Financial Crisis"

Remarks as delivered.
April 23, 2009, Transcorp Hilton
Abuja, Nigeria

All protocols duly observed.

Good morning. The timing of this summit is very appropriate. Today, we are experiencing a global economic and financial crisis that is challenging our confidence, creating insecurity in world markets and disrupting the lives of those who make up the backbone of our global economies –the men and women who make up the global work force. This also includes the workforce of tomorrow--our youth-- who face a bleak employment outlook and are at risk of not realizing their full potential.

The U.S. Government's efforts to ease the burden of the financial crisis are not just aimed at home. To assist those countries hit hardest by the crisis the United States and its global partners are moving to increase significantly the resources available to international financial institutions, and to modernize the governance of these institutions to better reflect the realities of today's world economy. Just two days ago, President Obama asked the U.S. Congress to increase U.S. contribution to the International Monetary Fund to one hundred billion dollars ($100 Billion).

In Nigeria, through our Framework for Partnership with the people and government of this country, my team at the U.S. Mission is investing in the people of Nigeria by emphasizing the rule of law and accountability of government to its people, and by supporting diversified economic growth so that people can support themselves and their families. I want to highlight for you a few examples of how we are working with you on job creation in Nigeria:

First of all, the U.S. Government's Africa Growth and Opportunities Act, or AGOA, provides trade preferences for duty-free entry of more than six thousand five hundred (6,500) different goods into the United States. By accessing AGOA, Nigerian companies have the opportunity to drastically increase exports to the United States, which in turn creates real jobs and real opportunities for real people.

Over the last two years, our Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites program, or MARKETS, created nearly forty-five thousand (45,000) jobs along the value chains for rice, sorghum, and cowpeas. This program generated revenues of over $75 million and leveraged $20 million in credit. Productivity in these sectors increased by an average of 118%.

Another project of the U.S. Government, the Cassava Enterprise Development Project, created more than 7,000 jobs during the first nine months of 2008. It increased incomes by an additional $800,000 over the same time period and boosted productivity to over 25 tons per hectare from a baseline of less than 10.

One of the major roles of the U.S. Government's Commercial Service is to facilitate entry and participation of American companies into the Nigerian economy. In one example, at the end of last year the American company Cisco Systems had established 75 academies across Nigeria that trained over 6,000 Nigerians in technologies that will help them find and create jobs, to secure their livelihoods and their family's future.

As you develop your National Employment Program of Action, I encourage all of you to focus not only on creating employment opportunities but more broadly on promoting opportunities for decent and productive work in conditions of freedom, equality, security and human dignity —for both men and women. These same fundamental rights apply to Nigeria’s children as well, who are especially vulnerable to the worst forms of labor as well as child trafficking. I urge you to not only prosecute and punish those who commit these horrible abuses, but also urge you to provide opportunities for children to enjoy their right to a good education and a bright future because, after all, they are your future.

I encourage you to reach out to all sectors of society to hear about their issues. In this way you can ensure that what is being done is what you as Nigerians truly want, need, and desire. The ultimate success or failure of an initiative depends on the buy-in of the people it aims to support.

This also includes organized labor. In closing I want to say that organized labor has a key role to play in the development of your National Employment Plan. Although in the past few months we have witnessed frustration from several of Nigeria’s unions, organized labor and management must come together to work toward mutually beneficial solutions for all Nigerians. And government must be a partner in development, fundamental to extending and strengthening your economic growth. The U.S. Mission to Nigeria is also ready to work in partnership with the people of Nigeria as we move together toward a new era of increased trade and investment, improved transparency, the transfer of best business practices, and support for government organized labor, and the private sector so that all Nigerians can realize their right to dignified and decent employment.

Thank you.