As prepared for delivery
Remarks by Ambassador Michael Gonzales
Launch of USAID Business Enabling Project and TradeBoost Project
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Thank you very much, Peter, for your introduction.
Good morning, your Excellency President Hichilema,
Members of the media, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
The Zambian people have spoken. In August 2021, the Zambian people delivered an unmistakable message at the polls. They rejected widespread corruption and called for bold and systematic democratic reforms to revitalize this country and provide citizens with new economic opportunities. They want their kids’ lives to be better than their own. They want to provide for their families with dignity. They want jobs.
But, governments and development partners don’t create jobs to drive growth on the scale of economies, that kind of progress only comes from the private sector: businesses and entrepreneurs. Governments, however, are crucial in that they can enable business to thrive. So, a government’s “jobs strategy” at its core, really has to be a “business enabling strategy.”
We are honored to have you join us here today because the light of the New Dawn shines bright! Your commitment to ending corruption, championing democratic principles, and realizing the will of the Zambian people has captured the world’s attention making Zambia an inspiring beacon on the African continent. President Hakainde Hichilema’s bold vision and unyielding political will to forge a vibrant Zambia – combined with the energy and dynamism from Zambian business leaders and workers – has positioned this country to attract private sector investments and will dramatically accelerate the country’s economic growth.
While I was pleased to host the Inaugural US-Zambia Business Summit last month, bringing dozens of American firms to Lusaka, I was thrilled to see them conclude their visit with an excitement even more palpable than that with which they came about Zambia’s potential and the opportunities they see here. The U.S. government and the American people are dedicated to collaborating with the people of Zambia to realize the Zambian Dream.
But one cannot eat “opportunities.” “Potential” does not fill a belly. The world’s attention span is short, and so too is public patience. With Zambia’s current renaissance, now is the time to realize Zambia’s economic potential. Today is the day to unleash the Zambian economy. At this moment, the American people stand forward alongside you to actualize Zambia’s opportunities.
Today’s joint launch event represents an investment of over $44 million – over 730 million Kwacha – through two new commitments the United States has made to the government and people of Zambia. These two projects illustrate the American people’s commitment to deepening our partnership with the people of Zambia to increase trade and investment between our two countries, to play our role in fostering the environment that will enable businesses to thrive, to create Zambian jobs and expand this country’s influence in the broader regional economy.
Over the next four years, USAID TradeBoost – under the Prosper Africa Initiative – will increase domestic, regional, and international trade and investment. This project will help Zambia generate inclusive growth, particularly by working with women and youth, and taking climate-friendly approaches.
In addition, over the coming five-years, the USAID Business Enabling Project will bring together government, industry, and civil society organizations to identify impediments and devise policy and process remedies to empower business to thrive. BEP will not just support the environment for businesses to flourish, but it will be catalytic in helping Zambia better leverage the assets of a critical-yet-underutilized segment of the economy: women! By facilitating economically-viable, gender-balanced rural enterprises, the USAID Business Enabling Project will increase not only gender equality in the economy, but also inclusive private sector investment and trade in rural parts of Zambia.
Our intention is to be a true and thoughtful trade partner. We aim to drive down rural poverty and provide a more economically-viable future for the women and youth of this nation. Enabling their potential is critical for realizing the success of the nation.
Sustainable economic growth can only be achieved through focused and determined reforms that address the policies, the processes, and yes, even the politics that hinder inclusive growth and prevent private sector engagement. These new projects, working together, will support Zambia in creating a policy environment that tackles challenges, provides women and youth with greater access to finance and capital, incentivizes “green” or environmentally-friendly growth, and builds out value chains that link rural areas to larger markets. I encourage you to view these projects for what they represent: America’s endorsement of, and investment in, your vision for the Zambian economy.
But, they will only succeed – your vision will only succeed – through staunch accountability that ensures that the reforms are enacted. Good ideas, international best practices, and world class technical assistance is meaningless if that last mile – implementation – does not take place. But if it is…, no, no, let me say when it is, when the reforms are implemented, the effects of these projects will create jobs.
Now, the Public-Private Dialogue Forum – or PPDF – is a vital mechanism to forge and promote those very reforms. And so, I call on private sector actors to believe in the process and participate in the PPDF. I call on the African and global investment community to recognize the potential of Zambia. And, I call on the Government of Zambia to listen and devise policies in response to what industry and Zambia’s civil society have to say, so that the business environment may be conducive to responsible and climate-friendly growth and that is inclusive of women and youth.
The projects launched here today, and the reforms that they catalyze, will increase incomes for millions of Zambians in agriculture, clean energy, ecotourism, and trade. They will contribute to the realization of the Government’s commitment to the Zambian people and they will add to the constellation of stars that make up that beacon that Zambia’s renaissance represents to the region and to the world.
Both projects will focus on the agriculture sector to address rising food insecurity across the African continent caused by multiple shocks such as COVID-19, climate change, and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.
Increasing Zambia’s food production and exports will vastly improve food security locally, regionally, and beyond. Moreover, it will also help to prevent malnutrition by providing a more nutritious and diversified menu of foods to Zambians and our brothers and sisters throughout the continent. By prioritizing value addition to agricultural commodities for export, these projects will promote skilled labor, higher-paying jobs, and higher wages and revenues from Zambia’s resources staying here within the Zambian economy.
These new projects will also help to enhance Zambia’s potential to grow renewable energy sources – especially hydro and solar power – to literally power the national and regional economy. In the tourism sector, they will drive growth and job creation by capitalizing on the treasure of travel opportunities across the country which have for far too long been hidden. And, they will foster Zambia’s sustainable economy of the future by focusing on green growth and climate smart practices.
Zambia’s potential is evident, and today’s launch demonstrates the U.S. government’s confidence in its realization through our investment in this true trade partnership which will mutually benefit both of our countries.
As I have said publicly before, working with the Zambian government to improve Zambia’s business enabling environment is one of my top objectives as Ambassador of the United States; because I, too, see Zambia’s extraordinary potential.
I envision a Zambia which is positioned to attract capital in every sector to become a thriving commercial hub for all of Southern Africa and a significant trading partner with the United States and across the global economy. Let us all commit to working together to make that vision a reality.