Remarks by U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Sean J. McIntosh During the Step Afrika! Sponsor Reception

Remarks by U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Officer Sean J. McIntosh
Step Afrika! Sponsor Reception
Neelkanth Sarovar Premiere Hotel
September 12, 2019

 (as prepared for delivery)

Ms. Bethany Baxter, Acting Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy
Mr. Adrian Chipindi, Director, National Arts Council of Zambia
Mr. Ranjeesh PK, General Manager, Neelkanth Sarovar Premiere Hotel
Mr. Shankar Shiva, General Manager, Yash Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
Ms. Mary Sikaneta, Head of Marketing, Prudential Life Assurance Zambia
Ms. Mwiinga Ngondo, General Manager, 3@1
Mr. Wallace Tembo, National Coordinator, Umodzi Arts Organization
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

Good evening.  A huge “thank you” to Neelkanth Sarovar Premiere Hotel for hosting tonight’s special reception to welcome U.S. dance company Step Afrika! to Lusaka.  They arrived this morning from a successful two-day program in Kabwe, and I know we are all looking forward to the big performance on Saturday at the New Government Complex.

Step Afrika!’s visit to Zambia is a special one for several reasons.  First, it represents a unique nexus of cultural and health programming.  As one of the most experienced and effective representatives of the U.S. Department of State’s Arts Envoy program, Step Afrika!’s dynamic mix of American and African dance traditions exemplifies the close cultural ties between the United States and Zambia.

Step Afrika!’s program in Zambia is about more than cultural exchange.  It is also about engaging youth to step up and take an active role in achieving an AIDS-free Zambia.  Through its performances and workshops that we just concluded in Kabwe and are continuing here in Lusaka, we are encouraging young people to know their HIV status and, if positive, to start and stay on treatment.

Young people, and particularly young men, remain the group the least likely to get tested, the least likely to know their status, and the least likely to start and stay on lifesaving treatments.  This is why Step Afrika!’s engagement with youth on this subject is so important—this needs to change for Zambia to reach HIV epidemic control.

This brings me to another reason why Step AFrika!’s visit is so special; it represents a truly special model of partnership.  In addition to the U.S. Embassy’s organization of this program, our implementing partners for the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) have provided the value-added knowledge, skills, and outreach needed to capture the attention of our target audience.

Also, our collaboration with Umodzi Arts Organization enabled us to identify the right audiences and shape a very culturally, inclusive program.

But that’s not all.  We could not have accomplished this program without critical public-private partnerships.  The Neelkanth Sarovar Premiere Hotel has provided complimentary accommodations for Step Afrika! and is quite generously hosting this reception.  Also, Yash Pharmaceuticals Ltd., Prudential Life Assurance, and3@1/Post Dot Net provided either in-kind or financial support that made this program possible.  I want to express the U.S. government’s deepest thanks for your sponsorship of this important event.

Increasingly, we recognize that public-private partnerships are key to solving entrenched societal problems such as poverty, disease, and homelessness.  They are also an important tool in modeling good governance.  I thank you all again for your generosity, and we look forward to collaborating with each of your organizations again in the future.

At this time, I would like to invite Mr. Adrian Chipindi of the National Arts Council of Zambia to offer some remarks.