Saturday, March 19, 2016

Ambassador's Sanders Keynote Speech- Medgar Evers College

Ambassador Sanders - Medgar Evers
College Keynote Speaker for International
 Women's Day 2016.
Theme: Women Empowerment
Working with African Communities Toward Sustainable Development & the Key Role of Gender Equality

Keynote Speech
Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders
Medgar Evers College, March 10, 2016
Good morning. I am delighted to be here today, and in particular this week on the dawn of celebrating this year's International Women's Day, which was March 8. The theme the United Nations had given to International Women's Day this year was – "Planet 50:50 by 2030" -- meaning global positives for women and girls should be on the same footing as they are for males by the year 2030. This "2030" date is going to feature a lot in my remarks today because it also the seminal date agreed to at last year's UN Session by 197 world leaders, including President Obama, to achieve these "five" main global Sustainable Development Goals, or SDG's.

So what do these two things really mean -- Gender Parity and Sustainable Development Goals;  

What are the key elements therein that African Communities face; 

What are some of the things donors, like the United States can help do to address Africa's development needs as outlined in the global  SDG's; and,

Why should "helping' be important to us given the range of issues we face here at home– such as black lives matter, poverty in many communities – be they Black, Latino, White (proportionally more so for the former two); a fractured criminal justice system, and are own economic challenges right here in America.  

 Africa Emerging Continent, African Leader Nations:

--  So let’ start with answering these questions – why is this region of the world  important, and what does this region mean for and to the United States of America as a strategic political, economic, investment and cultural partner. In other words: What are the elements of the US-Africa relationship?

-- If we look at the main themes of current US-Africa relationship, I believe you will see why the Region is vital to the U.S. now and for the foreseeable future:

The overarching themes of the U.S. Government -Africa relationship are:

-- Investing in Africa’s future;

-- Peace and Regional Stability; and,

-- Governing for the Next Generation (meaning focusing on Africa's youth and its future leaders)

-- In the end, it's all about demographics, really. But let me be clear when I say demographics I am not talking strictly about population figures (although key), but I see regional demographics as a national security and national strategic foreign policy issue. Thus, what I mean by demographics is – everything that is both measurable and non-measurable (e.g. perceptions) that impacts outcomes and geo-political relationships – this includes:
       ·       Population sizes and breakdowns by age and gender to;

·       World resource locations (where the oil, timber, jobs, lack of jobs, etc., land and water resources are to;

·       In-country regional and religious differences or groups that might impact world views, encourage conflicts, affect perceptions of an action or statement/cartoons (French, Danish examples); and,

·       The “Singularity” of individual influences (e.g. Pope Francis=positive, Putin=challenge, Malala=young Afghani women; Graca Michel=African women)

These are the basket of demographic elements that require the U.S. to see Africa today as an important Region to engage with properly and to cultivate positive partnerships.

A Closer Look @ SSAfrica's Geo-Political Demographics:

 Taking a closer looks at the specific figures here are some to help put the basket of Africa's demographics into perspective as to the …. what, … the why, …. and the good news and the challenges as regards to the 48 countries in the Sub-Saharan Region. 

 Let's start with the population figures and go from there:

-- Africa’s population today is reportedly 1.1 billion people and it is on course to reach 2.4 billion people by 2050Its current average yearly growth rate is 2.45 per cent, which will likely be higher than that over the next decades.

--The most significant sub-figure, in the Continent-wide population numbers I just cited, is the figure on youth/young people (ages 10-34), representing about 50 percent  (or 600 million people). This figure will continue to grow over the next two decades. I am emphasizing this sub-figure because I see it as Africa's "population dividend." Meaning for me it is a positive (but of course it has the potential to be problematic if certain development issues are not addressed more).

These population stats will move Africa, in the next decade, from the third most populated region in the world to the largest. But, most of its people, particularly women and girls, could remain below the poverty or extreme poverty level if current development efforts do not triple between now and  that seminal date of "2030," where both the parity effort (Planet 50:50) in support of women/girls, and the five main Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's), I mentioned earlier are supposed to dove tail.

So what are these "Five Key SDG's" (with their 167 targets) all about and where do women and girls fit in and what are their needs. I am sure you can guess many of them, but I do want to give you the current context.

I was a delegate at the 2015 United Nations session, and participated in discussions on the roadmap for the success of the SDG's over the next 15 years to further cut the pillars of extreme poverty.

Keep that term in mind – the focus is on extreme poverty, so it is unclear to me if a distinction is being made between "extreme poverty" and "poverty," but if you have travel around the United States and overseas, as I have, and probably many of you, extreme poverty and/or poverty are relative terms for people struggling every day to have affordable, adequate shelter and access to health care, feed their children and provide them with an education, have potable water to drink, and fundamentally feel and be safe in their living environments. 

Hence, the Five Key SDG Pillars are:

1.) Leave No One Behind. No person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status, should be denied basic economic opportunities and human rights.

2.) Put Sustainable Development at Core -integration of social, economic and environmental dimensions (includes-slowing climate change, environmental degradation)

3.) Transform Economies for Jobs & Inclusive Growth – includes improving livelihoods, harnessing innovation, technology, diversified economies, providing equal opportunities, drive social inclusion, especially for young people. (Entrepreneurship)

4.) Build Peace and Effective, Open and Accountable Institutions - Freedom from conflict and violence –a basic human entitlement, which includes honest, responsive & accountable governments. And;

 5.) Forge New Global Partnerships - Shared humanity, mutual respect, inclusion (especially for poor & at-risk people (e.g. women, youth, aged, disabled persons & indigenous people). New global partners include expanding outreach to civil society organizations, multilateral institutions, local and national governments, scientific, academic, business communities & philanthropic persons or organizations.

With these new pillars from my perspective there was a realization that for women/girls more needed to be done to address their specific challenges and also more need to be done in turn for regions like Africa and South East Asia home to some of the world's most serve human index indicators.

The SDG's added:

-- A New emphasis on gender,

-- A New emphasis on well-being

-- A New emphasis on climate change

-- A New emphasis on freedom from conflict

-- A new emphasis on how conflicts and natural disasters affect women/girls more.

Furthermore, the key backstory and some factoids you need to know as to why this new emphasis on women and girls is so important is because:

-- Women make up large portion of the developing world labor force, 50 percent in Africa alone;
-- Women farmers, who do most of the agricultural work world-wide, would be more productive if they had more access/ownership of land, tools, credit; and, 
-- Because if women had land, agricultural tools, and access to financial credit they could do 2 things: increase agricultural  yields by 20-30 percent which in turn could reduce world hunger by 150 million people;
-- Women are the majority out of the financial/economic sector estimates are this represents about 1 billion women. 
-- For example in East Africa and South Africa only 24-30 percent of businesses are women-owned or operated [VI];
-- Women face at least one legal restriction against them in 90 countries around the world [VII];
-- Global figure of girls out of school is about 121 million, 60 % of that figure is in SSAfrica. And, many countries still do not  consistently implement gender-focus education efforts, although policies might be in place.
-- On Financial Literacy Only about 15% of women (15yrs+) world-wide have a formal bank account (World Bank);
-- On Health maternal mortality and child marriages (12-14yrs) are still high;
-- Living Wage - Most of the worlds poor make 1-2 dollars a day, and women most often make less.

So in sum: Women/girls in the world are the most at-risk, least educated, most affect by conflict, makeup the greatest refugee, migrants & IDP's, have the least access to education, and have the least access to financial literacy and jobs.
Turning to Africa here, here are some of the specifics stats that will put these extreme poverty issues into perspective and why the SDG are important for this region and its challenging human index indicators.

-- 75 million – current number of young Africans looking for work now, out of the 1.2 billion working age population world-wide looking for work; Unemployment is also a world-wide youth issue.

 -- 10 million – number of young Africans of working age added yearly to the 75 million already seeking jobs(employment according to the African Union, Political Body of African States);

 -- 547-600 million – number of Africans living without electricity and energy;

 -- $1.25 – average amount many Africans live on per day, with no hopes to change this, [and few opportunities to improve the quality of life for their families, have access to education, clean water, and face challenges of poverty every single day;]

 -- 847 million/1.2billion – is the current number of hungry people and/or people living in fear of hunger in the world today (this includes those in the U.S.);

-- 239 million of those who are hungry everyday live on the African Continent. (A bit of good news is this 847 million figure is 209 million less than two years ago when 1.1 billion people were facing daily hunger);[i]

 -- 3 per cent – number of African adults with credit cards; only a quarter of young African Adults have accounts at a formal financial institution.

Remember I am providing the context as to why Africa communities are important and that comes with explaining the challenges, which I have just done, but also sharing with you the positives:

Here are Some of The Positives:

 -- 7 out of the 10 fastest growing economics in the world between 2012-early 2015 were in Africa, although the economic gains did not  reach the masses. Although, the lives and prospects of some have changed, and there is a growing middle class), trickle-down economics must come into play in order to change the lives of the masses;

-- 31 of the top 1000 Banks in the World on the “This Is Africa,” list are African Banks;

-- 39 African countries are democracies or evolving democracies, using U.S. Government's  AGOA guidelines, out of the 48 countries in the Sub-Saharan Region;

 -- 90 million people in the middle (or consuming) class, largest number the region has ever had, up by 31 million in last 10 years;

-- 736 million – represents the number of mobile phones in Africa of which Nigeria has 100 million.  Africa is the most mobile-ly connected region in the world.

(One billion mobile phones on the Continent (NB: World Bank notes six billion mobiles world-wide of which 5 billion are in the developing world, combining Asia, Africa, and Latin America);

 -- 18 countries have GDP’s of 3-5 per cent on par or higher than the U.S which is estimate to reach about 3.6 per cent;

-- 250 million Africans have bank accounts; and,

 -- Last but not least, the region has collectively and potentially a $50 trillion[iii] dollar economy – making it one of the largest potential markets for U.S. goods, services, investment, trade, and business relationships.

-- In addition, today there are key Africa nations that see the U.S. in a positive light, particularly key economic and political powerhouse leader nations such as South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, and many others.

 -- As noted above, I am arguing that these demographics are strategic issues for the United States as it looks forward in the 21st Century. The types of relationships that the U.S. forges with the Continent over the next decades will be increasingly more important given the global context we live in today. And how we help address extreme poverty issues at home and abroad will be important.  As abroad, we will need:

·      New Partners on Policy, Partners to build coalitions;

·      Support in International arenas such as the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Organization of Islamic States, African Union, APEC, G-77, and G-8;

·      New markets for business and investment

·      Expand and deepen cultural and educational ties

·      And, most importantly the right thing to do not only here in the U.S., but also abroad wherever and whenever we can aid in reducing poverty

-- Africa is the new frontier now for building a stronger and better relationship and helping African communities on many of the poverty and human indicator issues can and should be important elements of our geo-politics, diplomacy, counter-terrorism, emerging markets, cultural exchanges, and building new partnerships.

 -- Thus, the U.S. leadership is now focusing more on the region in a way that it never did before – comprehensively and strategically but most importantly in partnership. Actions and steps over the last 10 years - in my estimation – have truly laid a better foundation for the positive footing between the U.S. and Africa Today.

-- Today we have a range of U.S. programs, strategic partnerships, and educational program, economic and investment relationships laying the foundation for greater and more comprehensive relations, which are helping to address the extreme poverty issues on the Continent on one hand, and supporting the positives I noted above, which are also going on in the Region.

-- We have a range of new, innovative, and creative economic development programs (Global Development Lab to help SMEs and entrepreneurs), education (Young African Leaders Initiative), food security (FEED the Future) and health initiatives (PEPFAR for HIV/AIDS, Malaria Initiative, and Post Ebola efforts to create an African-Center for Disease Control) as part of our contribution to helping to address the SDG issues for the Continent, with a particular emphasis on women and girls.

-- As many of you know President Obama hosted in summer 2014 the first-ever U.S. Africa Summit (never done by any U.S. President, sitting or otherwise), inviting all the African heads of State to the United States for a comprehensive forum to discuss democracy, economic, human rights, and investment issues. He will also hold another business summit with African nations on September 19, 2016 on the margins of the upcoming United Nations session.


-- So what are the next steps?  How do we expand the elements highlighted above and  build on the current US-Africa relationship to secure a positive relationship with Africa’s  large "basket of demographics," particularly since half of the Continent will be under the age of 35  – in prime education years, prime wage-earning years, prime years to be influenced by new partners.

-- Given that Africa has this growing "population dividend" that I described above, we have a role to ensure as much of a "quality of life level playing field" on helping to address these SDG's issues for the Continent.

-- Rest assured I am not diminishing the need for us to address our own domestic issues of extreme poverty right here at home (which, includes things from inadequate healthcare-to-unemployment-to-education-to-food security and affordable housing).  And, I would argue we probably need to have a similar SDG-like initiative focused just on our domestic poverty challenges, but unfortunately that is not the case right now.

In the end, I want you to keep these 4 things in mind:

·      Appreciate the range of demographics I have shared on Africa's "population dividend," and the positives on economics, political and natural resources areas;

·      Note that how the U.S. is viewed is connected to the assistance we provide to Africa's on its development issues.

·      Ensure that the next generation of young Africans sees the U.S. as a friend even if differences may arise on some policy points from time-to-time.

·      Remember that there are 1.6 million Africans in the Diaspora here in the United States, who are here because they connect in some way to our values but are still very much connected back home.

Thus, this is my list of "why" it is importance for the  focus on assisting Africa, particularly at the community-level.

-- However, we need to understand and respect Africa's (and other region) human cultural differences and their “new global think” on issues.  We have to keep in mind it is a two-way street --meaning we need to listen better to Africa's perspectives in times of policy disagreement and on how best to help their communities, and recognize that  each country may have its own path to further solidifying its own democracy.

-- We can seek to share our values and principles without appearing heavy-handed, and unconcerned about the plight that everyday people face with the searing demographics I just mentioned.

Where we could do more:

-- Using Information Technology to develop more “work around solutions" to address social, health, financial literacy, and educational access by  using IT innovation as well as the 736 million mobile phones on the Continent to do so;

-- Assist with climate smart agricultural/food security solutions, and developing climate smart energy answers to bring electricity and energy to the 600 million Africans without it today; President Obama's Power Africa, and solar solutions are efforts in this area;


-- Work with governments to continue to improve transparency in political and economic processes to ensure good governance, reduce corruption, and increase the capacity of government institutions to handle their nation's social sector needs; 

-- Assist with access to education, including more educational exchange and training programs, particularly vocational training;


-- Help with the housing deficit (if you are poor you are also likely not to have good shelter);


-- [Then One of my biggest issues is] Expanding the number of Small and Medium Size Enterprises (SMEs) as this will help build the Continent’s middle class from its current 90 million, and increase the number of SMEs from the current 331 million.


-- We all have heard that there are 28 million SMEs in the US, which help make up our middle class and are the backbone of our society; for Africa that role for SMEs would be no different.


-- Neither the United States, nor any other country, is going to be able to provide enough formal jobs for the large number of African youth looking for jobs – remember I said the current figure is 74 million today, with 10 million more people added to that figure every year, so SMEs, entrepreneurs, and vocational training are going to be key.

-- I believe strongly that having a living wage through being an entrepreneur or owning a SME, or having a vocational skill is fundamental to changing these SDG's for the Region. When one is able to securely provide for one’s self and/or one's family—this changes the trajectory of a life and of a nation. Remember this will be 600 million young people in the 10-34 years age group over the next several decades.

   Thinking Ahead/Think In Time  on The US-Africa:

-- In sum, as we in the United States lean forward on these challenges I have highlighted, or look out ahead… at the "basket of Africa's demographics" and the "array of today’s geo-political issues,"  we need to ensure that Africa continues to move up on our list of key places to be fully engaged at all levels.

So, on my "Lean Forward," list I have these five things:

1.    [Number One] Think about building more relations based on partnerships (country-to-country, community-to-community, people-to-people);


2.   Think about the strategic long term with these emerging African nations, its leaders, and its people, particularly its young people; this also applies locally. As you look at your communities and what long term strategic planning you would/could do?


3.    [Number Three] Think in TimeThink in parallel and also strategically about the times in which we live; [What is happening now that is impacting lives, “what” remains the same, and what changes have long term implications.]

And last but certainly not least

4. Think about History - Draw on lessons learned from history in the process [of doing 1, 2, and 3].

5. Think about the SDG framework for our challenges here in the U.S. We have these same challenges and maybe some of the examples and initiatives noted here are useful to those of you focused on domestic communities and our national next step.

Here is a "Quick List Check" of some of the main issues I have talked about this morning. People (no matter where they are in the world) want to:

-- be able to feed, clothes and house their families;

-- live with dignity and have respect for their human rights;

-- have access to affordable health care, housing, and education opportunities for their children;

-- earn a living wage through job creation or through entrepreneurial, SME, or vocational expression;

-- live in a country with political transparency, a free press and good governance within recognized legal and regulatory frameworks, have strong domestic institutions; and, have a reduction/elimination in corruption.

In concluding,

I hope in the midst of your time here integrity, fairness, and respect for other cultures are also key “Take-Aways.”  I hope that what I have shared with you today on the SDG's and their context for women, Africa and even here in the U.S. about global development needs and human dignity expand your thinking about the world stage and the domestic front, and particularly about why Africa and its communities are important to the U.S. THANK YOU

A FEEEDS Series Blog Post


[i] 9/19/14 CCTV TV live newscast, Miriam Kalma reporting)

[ii] CCTV 9/19/14 live TV newscast Africa Live Report

[iii] UN Week 2014, McKinsey Session on Nigeria, Remarks by Director Richard Dobbs, New York Palace Hotel, N.Y.

[iv] U.S. Small Business Regional III Advocate Official Speech, July 10, 2014, Gallup Headquarters, Washington, D.C. at the FEEEDS-Gallup & Partners,US-Africa Summit Forum

[v]  2012 speech, Commandant Eisenhower Resources College, National Defense University, Washington, D.C. on occasion of ICAF College name change

[VI-VII] CCTV March 8, 2016 AfricaLive News Report for International Women's Day 2016