Ambassador Michael C. Gonzales’
Statement to the Press
During a Press Conference at the U.S. Embassy
(As prepared for delivery – April 13, 2023)
Good morning and thank you all for being here. The U.S.-Zambia relationship today is stronger than ever. We have had a lot of senior visits and meetings between our countries over the past year. As our governments work for the people, I believe it is imperative to be transparent so that the public knows what the headlines are all about and what our governments are doing on their behalf. As members of Zambia’s media community, you all play an incredibly important role in informing the public and safeguarding democracy in Zambia, and I want to thank you for the work you do each and every day.
The United States strongly believes in – and is investing in – Zambia’s democratic and economic renaissance. If you need proof of this, just take a look at the many senior-level U.S. government officials who have recently visited Zambia. In the past year alone, two Cabinet-level officials, a 22-member delegation of Congressional leaders, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), myriad other high-level U.S. government officials, and the Vice President have all traveled to Zambia to promote Zambia and show the United States’ continued investment in Zambia’s success. In my 20+ year career, I have never seen such sustained, senior-level U.S. government engagement in any country I have served in compared to what I am seeing now in Zambia.
In addition to these visits, the United States and Zambia co-hosted the Summit for Democracy just last month, in which nations from around the world gathered to recommit to advancing democracy in their countries. The Summit highlighted free, fair, and transparent elections as foundational to democracy, but emphasized that elections alone do not make a democracy. Instead, it is accountable and responsive democratic governance that meets the needs and expectations of those governed that defines a democracy. Zambia’s record of free and fair elections and peaceful transitions of executive office…, the New Dawn Administration’s focus on redoubling investment in health care, hiring 30,000 new teachers, attracting investment that creates jobs, reforms to laws long used to suppress dissent, and sustained action to fight corruption all demonstrate that democracy delivers for the people. And so, it was clear why Zambia was the African regional co-chair for the Summit for Democracy.
But, I want to stress that this is not just a series of visits and meetings for their own sake. In fact, the pattern of engagements we have seen over the past year is proof that the United States believes in—and is investing in—Zambia’s success. We are investing in the future that the Zambian people have called for. A future that is punctuated by inclusive and sustainable economic development, the impartial application of the rule of law and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, an end to the cultures of corruption and impunity that have prevailed for too long, and equitable delivery of public services to enable all Zambians to envision and realize a better future. These visits reflect a sustained cadence of consultation and collaboration among our senior-most leaders, as partners, to find shared solutions to challenges that impact Zambia, the region, and the world.
The American and Zambian governments recognize that the private sector, not governments, are who will drive economic growth and job creation, but governments must create the conditions to attract business. In that spirit, the Zambian government has made notable reforms to improve the business enabling environment. President Hichilema says “Zambia is open for business,” and soon after he came into office, the Zambian government removed what was effectively a double taxation on mining. It established the Public Private Dialogue Forum, and set a new target of exporting three million tons of copper annually within 10 years.
The United States trumpeted those reforms and, in response, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December, U.S. company KoBold Metals announced a $150 million investment in the Mingomba mine. Just a week ago, KoBold appointed Mfikeyi Makayi as CEO of its copper unit in Zambia, making her the first Zambian woman to head a mining exploration company. And KoBold has already sunk three exploration holes and generated over 40 Zambian jobs within just the first few months of closing the deal. More than double that number is expected over the coming year.
When Vice President Harris addressed African young leaders at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in December, she said that Africa is in the future business. She said that the creativity and ingenuity of Africa’s young leaders will help us shape the future, and that their innovations will benefit the entire world. This future-focused approach to Africa helps guide the U.S.-Zambia partnership. During the recent high-level visits I mentioned – and as a tangible outcome of these visits – the United States has made several commitments to Zambia. These aren’t just photo-ops, but meaningful actions that drive positive change on the ground. When the United States makes a commitment, we deliver on it. Let me tell you about just a few of these commitments, and the progress that has already been made.
Zambia represents Africa on the international stage in climate negotiations and President Hichilema established the Ministry of Green Economy specifically to prioritize climate solutions. Climate resilience is a shared priority for the United States and Zambia, and that was made clearer than ever when Vice President Kamala Harris, during her visit two weeks ago, announced over $7 billion in U.S. government and private sector commitments for climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation across Africa. One of these commitments – announced by the Ministry of Green Economy just two weeks ago – was a brand-new agreement between the Zambian government and U.S. companies Wilderness, an ecotourism pioneer, and Carbon Ark, a carbon offset developer. Through this agreement, millions of hectares of land will be protected, reforested, and “rewilded” to generate an estimated $500 million in operational investments back into Zambian communities and government while creating more than 1,000 community jobs. Wilderness has already begun engaging with local communities around the intended project.
Another example is related to one of Zambia’s most pressing issues – debt. In a December meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, President Hichilema urged Secretary Yellen to support an expeditious conclusion to Zambia’s debt restructuring negotiations. Six weeks later, on her way to her historic visit to Zambia by a U.S. Treasury Secretary, she met with her Chinese counterpart to do just that. We continue, at the highest levels, to press all of Zambia’s creditors on the need for speedy resolution on debt treatment for Zambia.
And remember when I spoke about the $150 million investment from KoBold Metals? When President Hichilema and KoBold announced this investment at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, our Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo told President Hichilema, “I want to be Zambia’s spokesperson to the business community.” Two months later, the Under Secretary of Commerce Marisa Lago came to Zambia to begin negotiating a commercial memorandum of understanding between our countries. Just last week, six weeks after that visit, the United States and Zambia signed a Commercial MOU to expand trade and investment between our two countries leveraging the entire U.S. government. This was only the sixth MOU of its kind to be signed in Africa, and we know it will lead to further reforms to attract international trade and investment with Zambia – not just with American firms, but firms from Zambia and around the world – that will drive job creation and a stronger, more inclusive, and diversified Zambian economy.
Zambia signed this Commercial MOU to benefit, and on behalf of, the Zambian people. Some countries insist on non-disclosure agreements and perpetuate opaque deals that the public has to pay for, but may never know about. Zambia and the United States, however, recognize that transparency holds us accountable to the people and is critical to accountable governance in a democracy. That is why the MOU is available on the Commerce Department’s website. The MOU will provide a framework to expand and build on U.S. support to Zambia’s business environment and promote business linkages in priority sectors. For example, USAID’s TradeBoost activity is already connecting Zambian firms with international markets, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency funded last week a $1 million feasibility study for a utility-scale battery energy storage system to support Zambia’s clean energy expansion, and the U.S. Treasury Department has begun providing technical support to transparent and responsive public-private partnerships.
Zambia is at an historic moment in its history, seizing opportunities to transform the economy and find innovative climate solutions. The United States is committed to advancing these goals, along with increased investments in democracy and governance programming and expanded global health efforts. I am excited to see how our relationship continues to grow and how Zambia’s role on the continent, and in the world, grows alongside it.
With that, I will now be happy to take your questions. Thank you.