Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

FEEEDS & Operation HOPE Co-Host CSO Panel @ 2014 World Bank Spring Meetings

Press Release
 

FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative & Operation HOPE

Co-Hosting Key 2014 World Bank Civil Society Forum

 Focus: New Technologies & Financial Literacy Tools for Global At-Risk Communities
 
 
Dr. Sanders, Former Surgeon-Gen Benjamin,
OperationHOPE Govt Affairs VP Roscoe, CSO panelists
Washington, DC, April 8, 2014  -  The FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative and Operation HOPE will co-host a Civil Society Workshop  on Saturday, April 12, 2014, from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm under the auspices of the World Bank's 2014 Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C. The joint session, entitled “Agile Innovation and Technology: Lessons From the Developing World,” is FEEEDS first co-hosting opportunity alongside the world renown NGO Operation HOPE, which leads the way on implementing financial literacy programs and tools for at-risk communities world-wide.

The FEEEDS-Operation HOPE session will bring together leading subject matter experts to highlight new technologies, which FEEEDS CEO Ambassador Robin Renee Sanders calls "agile," and unique programs being used to address education and poverty, while Operation HOPE will highlight  its ground-breaking financial literacy projects and tools from business in a box, to banking on our future.  Co-Host, FEEEDS CEO Ambassador Robin Sanders, and Operation HOPE Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Jena Roscoe, will also provide key presentations on the role that young people can play in changing the world's wealth inequalities.  Ambassador Sanders will kick off the session with a presentation examining Africa’s Youth Bulge as an asset to economic development for the region, while Ms. Roscoe will present the latest financial literacy tools that Operation HOPE has launched to encourage financial well-being for young people, encourage entrepreneurship, particularly its 5117 project with the goal of changing the financial lives of 5 million at-risk youth.
 

Other speakers will highlight ways to better address development, best practices to overcome conflict, and the elements of leadership that are vital for progress in the 21st Century. This workshop, conducted under the auspices of the World Bank 2014 Spring meetings, is inspired by the work that all of the committed activists who focus on development and making the world a more inclusive place for everyone, particularly the next generation.
 
Other panelists include Bill Knapp, Manager African Technologies in Education – a FEEEDS Strategic Partner, Patricia McCants, Founder, African Diaspora Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Ditu Kasuyi, UFSC International, Advisory Board Chair & International President Emeritus, and  James H. Parks, Founder, The Parksonian Institute & Advisor SHADOKA.
 
The FEEEDS Advocacy Initiative focus on food security, education, environment, economic, development, and self-help projects (The FEEEDS pillars), particularly in Africa, and also provides business solutions in this areas. It supports a range of agricultural, educational, and affordable housing projects, and  also provides business solutions in these areas. For more on FEEEDS go to http://www.ambassadorrobinreneesanders.com, or www.blogitrrs.blogspot.com

Operation HOPE hosts an annual Global Financial Dignity Summit, http://summit.operationhope.org 
in November and welcomes global citizens focused on financial inclusion, dignity, and capability initiatives to attend.  To learn more about Operation HOPE Initiatives, please review our website:  https://www.operationhope.org/Global-Initiatives


 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Security Sector Reform: Dr. Sanders Highlights Key Issues at NDU's African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS)

Speaking to a group of Security Professional in Washington D.C. at the National Defense University's ACSS Center, Ambassador Sanders highlighted the following key points as regards to strategic issues that need to be viewed as part of a new framework on security sector reform (SSR):

  • Today's security landscape is very different from 10 years ago, and we as security sector professionals need to look at the issues differently and be more innovative;

  • Key human cultural elements need to be thought through when addressing/reforming current the SSR framework;

  • There are an array of possible demographics (gender, regional and  world view differences) that are playing a role in how we respond and should address any new SSR Framework;

  • Expand and include other non-traditional players/actors  in the SSR discussion and SSR framework (e.g.judiciary, media, local NGOs, national assemblies, private sector).

  • Don't try to define SSR, be more open as to what the elements of SSR might be as adhering soley to a definition might cause you to miss a strategic change or nuance. Stay away from the "cookie cutter" approach as each country is different.

  • New elements of SSR operations should include more specialized components to address the new framework of SSR such as: small specialized flexable forces that an adapt to rapid on-ground changes; separate communications components looking at both implicit & explicit communications issues; and, expand the network of sectors included in SSR as noted above.

  • The success of any SSR should be measured differently than in the past (i.e. what will be the new performance indicators, past goal=professionalizing military, para-military & police/participate in joint exercises, democratic leadership of military) but what are new performance indicators today)? How should we be measuring the success of any new SSR Framework?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Advocacy Initiative called FEEEDS/FE3DS®

There are several key global issues of our day that require constant advocacy and dialogue to ensure that we as a nation and as a global community are doing our utmost to make the world a better place for the next generations. I believe that some of these issues are: Food Security, Education, Environment-Energy, Economics, Democracy- Development, and Self Help, or FEEEDS.
What does FEEEDS/FE3DS® mean?
-- Food Security – meaning availability and access to not just food but nutritional food;
-- Education – representing the entire range of education from knowledge learning to knowledge management to knowledge usage, which also includes training, retraining , entrepreneurship (SMEs), and formal education;
-- Environment-Energy – enabling environments for communities to thrive, as well as a focus and realization of the importance of renewable energy and alternative energy resources;
-- Economics – enhancing living wages, and on the macro level, ensuring governments, and community leaderships manage budgets and tax payer dollars not only effectively, but efficiently in order to address social service needs;
-- Democracy-Development – linking these two symbiotic issues are key to improving life-quality, especially for people of color; and,
--Self-Help – realizing that identity for anyone provides self esteem, but for nations and people of color this also represents both power and empowerment.
In Pursuit of Change:
What and how do we proceed in communicating or educating our diverse world population (now@7 billion) on the challenges of these global human FEEEDS® issues? How do we overcome or shift the paradigms that have been pre-scripted for our families, our communities, and for some nations? There are things that are pre-destined, but the negatives on FEEEDS® are not; thus we can help change these negatives. Let’s begin with communicating and educating about the challenges:
Food Security Most of the world population, particularly of color, and especially women and children, fail to get enough nutritional food to eat every single day. Most of us have heard the adage that many things in life are about “quality not quantity;”thus, this adage also applies to food security. There is a lack of consumption of the key food groups not just daily, but at every meal for many global communities. What we seem to be missing is the focus on and access to good nutrition. The examples seen around the world in communities, particularly those of color are similar as regards to food security, with the seminal issue being: access to nutritional food.
The FEEEDS/FE3DS Enabling Platforms: What are they?
1.) Education: Although many global challenges are connected to FEEEDS/FE3DS®, the way forward on many issues is education, specifically training (also vocational), retraining, formal education, entrepreneurship (SMEs), knowledge sharing, usage and management, discussion, and creative and enterprising development and design solutions, particularly for youth and women. We need to think of education as our new Frontier Enterprise where dynamic development design strategies are created to respond to FEEEDS. Education is not static, and includes more than just basic and/or formal education.
2.) Environment-Energy: These two issues are linked, and we should focus on the need to improve both sectors. Simply put – they are symbiotic and affect quality of life. Here community is being used in the big “C” sense -- meaning at the family, local, state and sovereign levels. The environment is both where you live, and how you live in your community. Where one lives must provide an “enabling atmosphere” where one feels safe and confident to thrive as a person or a culture. We must also take the responsibility to treat the living nature around us with more respect. This includes using and advocating for renewable energy, particularly using alternative resources for daily living. Here knowledge sharing will be important even on the simple things like knowing which action is greener than another. Here is a simple test: Is plastic or glass recycling greener; is flying at night greener than day flying; and, is wearing organic cotton greener than wearing recycled bamboo? (answers appear at the end)
3.) Economics: Economics plays a key role in everything – personal, family, community, and government. If the economic sure-footing is not present then it detracts from progress, vision and future planning. Enhancing living wages, ensuring government leaderships manage budgets and tax payer monies effectively and efficiently to address social service needs – are part of the fundamentals. A reliable, stable economic environment is not only empowering, but powerful and is a pillar of both a strong government, and personal identity, where self-reliance and self-esteem are the order of the day.
4.) Development-Democracy: There is also a linkage of these two themes because democracy – as defined as transparent rules, regulations, stable institutions, and equal access to social services – are a “must-have” to develop communities and address global human values, and improve life-quality – all hallmarks of democracy.
5.) Self-Help: Self-help, a pillar of leadership, is the center-beam. Countries should not always want (or expect) outsiders to always provide, guide, direct, or frame (meaning explain and resolve through their world lens) what the responses to FEEEDS® are. These issues for many nations will need to be driven by country-specific self-help by way of innovative, creative, and sometimes culturally-specific means.

Green answers: Recycled glass over plastic requires less energy as recycled plastic continues to degrade in quality; flying during the day; organic cotton over bamboo (Source Washington D.C. NBC local news 9/25/2011).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Africa’s Voice on Global Environment Issues: Why It’s Important

A FEEEDS™ blogspot

As Cancun ends with environmental issues and policies still on the table that will affect not only how future generations live, but how the planet copes with the enormous carbon foot print (greenhouse gases produced by humans measured in units of carbon dioxide, CO2 equivalent or CO2-eq), the voice of sub Saharan Africa needs to be front and center in the global debate. The world’s current per person CO2-eq is about 4 tons per person and the average North American generates about 20 tons of CO2-eq each year ( http://www.eoearth.org/article/Carbon_footprint).

Sub Saharan Africa and the rest of the developing world have a key role to play in leading, designing, deciding, and shaping environmental policy for the coming decades. Why? Because of several key factors that should not be underestimated or overlooked. Global environmental policy is the macro picture and sets the stage for how we will live together in the future. It will be important for Africa to keep the macro elements of population, economic growth, water and land use, food availability, pollution and last, but certainly not least, managing energy resources in a more efficient and effective manner. Africa needs to be one of the leading regions in the world shaping these policy issues -- developing practical, innovative solution that will help the Continent better provide for future generations. Here are some key factors as to why Africa should be one of the primary voices on how global environmental policy unfolds:

Sub Saharan Africa’s Population
Sub Saharan Africa’s population is young, with more than half of it under the age of 25. With current continent-wide population growth rates averaging 2.45 per cent, and the trajectory estimated to remain the same over the next 40 years (www.data.un.org/data), Africa is on track to be home to 1.9 billion people by 2050. In addition, although Africa is the third largest continent, it is reportedly the fastest growing with the billionth person born there this year (
https:// www.overpopulation.org/Africa.html).

With half its population being under 25 now and if the trajectory remains the same, Africa would be host to 29 per cent of the people in the world of that age group. This means they will need to not only be adequately and nutritionally feed, but have access to education (particularly vocational), training, housing and resources to have a good quality of life. Thus, the affects of climate change and resources management will be vital for the Continent. Now is the time for sub Saharan Africa to be out front on global environmental issues. With this large population, the affects of climate change will likely hit Africa harder than any other region. To sustain this population several things must change from how energy resources, and water and land use are managed. The affects of climate change such as drought, famine-related diseases, and poverty cannot be underestimated.

In addition, oil-producing countries should not see alternative energy usages such as solar and wind as a threat to economic development. There will be enough need for all environmentally-friendly forms of energy well into the future. With proper planning, the right democratic leadership, and transparent resource management, economic growth for many African countries can be realized. The future does not have to be bleak for the Continent, but the time is now for Africa to be seen as one of the leaders in the global debate on how large populations cope and plan the use of their resources.

Water Management and Land Use
These are the next two issues that must move to the top of the agenda for sub Saharan Africa. Not only is the management of these resources key to supporting the population, but water and land use also affects economic growth and development. Although these two resources are often discussed in Africa, they need to be addressed in terms of continent-wide environmental policy, and regional cooperation. Leading activists, academics, and experts such as Hernando de Soto (http://www.ild.org.pe/),
Dr. Zuberi of the University of Pennsylvania, and the World Bank’s Deininger during a 2010 Tanzanian water and land use conference, noted that most of the world’s water resources and arable and agricultural land are in the developing world. For example, according to de Soto, about 1.7 billion hectares today produces most of the world’s food, and with a bump from technology this could rise to 2.4 billion hectares. These hectares are mostly in Latin America and Africa.

Furthermore according to GRID-Arendal, a collaborating center of the United Nations Development Program (UNEP), Africa has the potential now to raise its current 160 million hectares of arable and agricultural land up to 300 million hectares (http://www.grida.no).

The importance of improving the management of both these resources is evident. For water, better management will provide more access to potable water and avert water scarcity and water stress (water scarcity and stress generally refers to environmental problems caused by unmet water needs). For land, better management will improve usage of arable and agricultural areas to improve food production.

This means that current and future use of these two precious resources must be done with realistic planning. If not, the likelihood increases for food insecurity, and of course, conflict over these two vital resources. About 70 per cent of people living in sub Saharan Africa depend on agriculture (http://www.eoearth.org/), and according to Water System Analysis Group, 64% rely on limited water http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16042282?dopt=Abstract).

When talking about land, it is important also to keep in mind FAO’s definition of both arable and cultivate land. Arable land includes land defined by FAO as areas under temporary cultivation; cultivated land is that which is under permanent crops for long periods of time such as cocoa, coffee, and rubber. For sub Saharan Africa this means about 8.3 per cent of the land (http://www.tradingeconomics.com/sub-saharan-africa).

There are numerous examples in the world were ethnic and religious differences or tensions arise because of pressures on either land use or water rights -- or lack of access to either. If you add these challenges to the ever-expanding desertification in the Sahel, the importance of managing these resources in an environmentally sound manner is even more evident. Sub Saharan African leaders will need to continue to actively and effectively participate in the climate change debate and help develop global policies to address its unique position as the fastest growing Continent. At the 2010 Tanzanian Conference, it was sited that Sudan, Zambia and Mozambique reportedly have the largest amounts of land available for food production. Desertification is affecting countries like Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad to name a few and blogitrrs has already reported on current food security issues in the West Africa region (http://www.blogitrrs.blogspot.com/2010/08/2010-food-security-challenges-in-west.html). Again, water and land use affects economic growth and development, jobs and the future.

All of these issues are pillars in the environment and climate change discussion. We all want a way forward that makes sense, and that will ensure that we have: a resource-rich future that pushes all of us to be environmentalists, energy conservationists, and users of alternative energy resources in the execution of our daily lives. It is important to remember that future economic growth and development will be impacted by how we handle climate change today.

Indeed, for sub Saharan Africa the important things on the radar screen to keep in mind are:

-- That a good percentage of the world’s water resources are on the African Continent, thus having enough potable water for the both current and future generations is vital;

-- That most of the arable and agricultural land today is in the developing world, (both arable and cultivated land). These must be used wisely for food security (both adequate and nutrition-rich foods), and with environmental considerations in mind. This includes using innovative technology to improved food storage and crop rotation, hybrid seeds, water harvesting, and more drip irrigation to name a few solutions;

--That land tenure and land uses are part of the climate change debate for Africa because laws and regulations in many countries will need to be address at the same time with a view to incorporating environmental sound policies. Land tenure issues are a big piece of the environmental picture given that whoever owns land determines how, particularly for agriculture. This includes bringing more women into the discussion, particularly on title and land transfer issues. Noting that 90 per cent of land in sub Saharan Africa is not titled, de Soto refers to land titles as “passports” as it allows one to have a voice in how land is used.; and,

--That energy usage (fossil fuel and combustion) is one of the largest markers of the world’s carbon foot print. Alternative energy usage (wind, solar, hydro) must come into play alongside improved environmental-sound use of hydrocarbons (i.e. advance efforts to capture gas from flaring so it can be used as an additional energy resource). A sufficient and efficient energy platform sustains manufacturing, industry and entrepreneurial activity leading to economic growth, development, and jobs.

All of these issues underscore the importance of the Continent’s leadership role in the global climate change/environmental debate in order for sub Saharan Africa to provide a good quality of life for its 1.9 billion population at mid-Century and beyond.

*N.B. Primary carbon footprint is emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels combustion for energy consumption and transportation. Secondary footprint is the indirect emissions during the lifecycle of products (i.e. greenhouse gases emitted making plastic bottles). (http://www.eoearth.org/article/Carbon_footprint). All stats and Africa references refer to sub Saharan Africa.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dr. Sanders Remarks: 50@50 Speech

Women For Change Initiative (WPCI)
Women’s Center
Abuja, Nigeria
July 16th 2010

Written as Delivered

I am honored to be here among such distinguished women. Let’s all applaud her Excellency First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan for asking all of us to come together to celebrate change… To celebrate the lives of women past and present that have made an impact on history… on the world and to celebrate 50 years of Nigerian Independence. So today because we are strong we always say YES WE CAN!

In fact, today what I am going to ask you to say with from time to time. Is Yes We Can! So as we women can we make a change in the world? Can we make a change for Nigeria?

Yes We Can!

Why can we be “Women For Change”? Because, we are giving like Ogun Leye, who once gave her month salary to a women’s rural empowerment group; we are organized, like Funmilayo Kuti, who brought together 20 thousand women that led to equal tax rights for women; and we are educators like African American Mary McLeod Bethune who founded the National Council of Negro Women and served on the cabinet under the U.S. President Roosevelt. [And Grace Alele Williams who was the first Nigerian women to earn a PhD and the first female vice chancellor of a Nigerian University]

In Nigeria today there are 75 million women; that’s the 9th highest female population in the world. Here today we are going to come together to take stock of the way forward as Nigeria turns 50 this year.

Can I hear a Yes We Can! Yes we can, yes we can, be “Women for Change” and take stock of where women are in: finance, education, and health today.

We know we can change the development in Nigeria. Because, every women or young girl believes that they are the change. You are half of Nigeria. Because, every woman or young girl anywhere in the world can become and do whatever they want to do to make better lives for themselves. You are half the population of Nigeria. Therefore, you are the force for change in Nigeria. You are the movement for change.

Women must be the force behind economic growth. You know in the United States one of the first black millionaires was a woman. Her name was Madame C.J. Walker. She promoted herself into business by building her own factory from the ground up. So we must strive together we must support female ingenuity... We must support female creativity we must support female leadership. Can we do this! Yes We Can!

We must support the education and development of women! Can we do this! Yes we can! We must support the health and businesses of women. Can we do this? Yes We Can!

On education, we must take educating our daughters more seriously. Right now 21% percent of young girls in Nigeria from 10-16 year old are not in School. Education is directly related to income of women...

And we all know that economic independence is power for development… power for elections. And we all know you as women have an important and critical election coming up in 2011, and I hope you all go out and vote... So that you have more representation at all levels of government. If Nigeria is to progress and move forward we need change for women Can We Do this? Yes We Can!

You are about to celebrate 50 years of independence. This will be a tremendous marker of your future. And all Nigerian women must play a bigger role in the next 50 years. Can you do this? Yes We Can!

You know I have been welcomed here as a member of the family. Therefore, as a family member I want to do my part, this is what fuels my desire to help…. To care… and to want the best for Nigerian women everywhere. You are my friends, I am too a woman for change. I am with you every step of the way (see link for full remarks). http://http//blogitrrs.blogspot.com/search/label/Speeches

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It is Your Election – Manage It Well! - Remarks By Dr. Sanders at NIM

It is Your Election – Manage It Well!

Address to
The Nigerian Institute of Management

By
Dr. Robin Renée Sanders, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria
On the Occasion of the Annual Distinguished Management Lecture, July 1, 2010 – Lagos


All other protocols duly observed

Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen and Members of the Press.

Thank you for inviting me to speak on the topic of “Management of the Electoral Process: An Imperative for Democratic Governance of the Nigerian State.” I want to congratulate the Nigerian Management Institute and its role in promoting multi-disciplinary discussion of the best ways to manage the challenges and opportunities that Nigeria will face, particularly as regards to elections. Certainly the topic I was asked to speak on is really the topic of discussion in the polity of this country today given that Nigeria has several key milestones approaching: The celebration of 50 years of independence as well as a pivotal point in your democratic experience as you seek to hold not only a free and fair election, but a credible one. Let’s take the first milestone first. Fifty years, that is big step for a mature nation. It is a time for both celebration and reflection. So let’s celebrate first. Let’s celebrate that . . . you are a dynamic country in both energy and force of resources and that your nation will shape the future of the region and of the continent.

Let’s celebrate that you as Nigerians embrace democracy . . . … and the principles of democracy and have had two peaceful transitions of power from one head of state to another.

And, let’s celebrate your respect and presence on the world stage as your nation assumes its rightful place as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. These are things to marvel at . . . These are things to celebrate!

So now let’s talk about the things you may want to reflect on as you reach 50 years of the life of a nation . . . looking back on where you have come from . . . where you are going . . . and what challenges lay ahead. I have been here a long time now . . . and truly feel that I am at home and . . . a family member . . . and as a member of the family these are the things I wonder about as Nigeria moves forward and begins its 51st year in 2011. I want to start with the challenges that I have heard Nigerians talk about in the agriculture, health, and education sectors, and the need to fight corruption. So let’s talk about these issues a bit before we move on to the next milestone – elections -- because for me all of these things are legs of the same democracy stool. Strong democracies are not just about election but a number of things – particularly in development.

I just wanted to share some information with you as food for thought today…food for reflection as you collectively think about where you want your nation to be, your home to be given that you are management specialists and taking stock of your nation at this pivotal time. So I just want to provide you with some statistics to consider as regards to these three key sectors.

Let’s begin with agriculture. Nigeria hosts the largest population in Sub-Saharan Africa of 150 million people . . . with a growth rate of 2.2 per cent . . . Feeding this many people can prove to be a daunting task... The agricultural sector contributes 42% to this nation's GDP . . . and accounts for 80% of the jobs in Nigeria. But currently you import . . . 1.4 million tons of rice a year more than any . . .other . . . country in the world and you are one of the largest importers of wheat in the world as well. Why? You have the talent, and both the human and natural resources to be self-sufficient in any stable crop you choose, particularly these two. The United States Government has pledge 37 million dollars to help Nigeria become more food secure… working to make subsistence farmers more commercial; developing drought-resistance crops; and, aiding farmers in developing markets.

In education, teachers are critical to quality education. At present only 59% of the 600,000 primary school teachers have the minimum required qualification, the National Certificate in Education, as stated in your Ministry of Education’s Statistics of Education in Nigeria (1999-2005). We do applaud the Ministry's current approach to reforms of teacher education. However, according to the Nigeria EdData Survey 2004, conducted by Nigeria’s National Population Commission, over 72% of Nigeria's children aged 4 to 12 lack basic functional numeracy and literacy skills. Girl child education lags behind that of boys, with some reports having 51 per cent of girls not attending primary school. The United States Government provides technical assistance in the development of the revised National Teacher Education Policy . . . and the Ambassadors Girls Scholarship Program provides text books, uniforms and shoes, and scholarships to over 9,000 girls and boys attending schools in 13 states throughout Nigeria. . . . a literate and numerate citizenry is the foundation of any democratic society.

Nigerians also tell me they want a strong health care system that can provide basic health care. The United States Government and the American people worked hand-in-hand with Nigeria's health care professionals to care and treat – and more importantly prevent – some of the major diseases many Nigerians face: polio . . . malaria . . . tuberculosis . . . and HIV/AIDS. The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (better known as PEPFAR) alone has committed nearly $400 million a year for Nigeria. On malaria we will be increasing resources in this area under President Obama’s Malaria Initiative in the tune of $51 million dollars, including a campaign to provide bed-nets to every household in Nigeria. As management leaders I just want to highlight one statistic that I think you will find interesting. Nigerian Government expenditures towards HIV/AIDS programs in 2008 according to a recent report by your own National AIDS Coordination Agency or NACA and UNAIDS stated that only 4.5 billion naira is spent on preventing and fighting HIV/AIDS yearly, so it is interesting to read in the press the proposed budget of somewhere between 10-62 billion naira on Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations ... remember we are in the reflection stage of our discussion this morning. A more realistic beginning figure for Nigeria to truly start combating HIV/AIDs is at least 27 billion or 15% of the funding noted by the goals set in your 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework.

Then there is Power. Development depends on adequate, reliable supplies of power ... to run factories, light offices and homes, process foods, power computers in schools and run diagnostic equipment in clinics… But we no longer notice the steady noise from standby generators . . . the fact that we no longer notice is not a good thing. Nigeria struggles with the power it needs to grow and it doesn't have the transmission capacity to move the power it has to where it needs to be. Our countries agree that reform of the energy sector is crucial to attracting investment and promoting development. The United States provides technical assistance through USAID . . . USTDA, and the Department of Energy… to help in the power sector, especially on independent power projects. I have signed at least five of these grants since I have been here. On corruption, you must make stemming corruption the order of the day as it will under cut development at every turn, including affecting your electoral process. Our assistance supports the development of hydro-electric power, regulatory frameworks, and renewable energy.

So with this backdrop of where you are, where do you want to go with your next election in 2011? You hold the power to ensure that your 2011 elections . . . are elections all Nigerians can be proud of . . . can respect and that can . . . move the country forward.

Your friends like America want that too, and we are committed to working with you. So what are we doing? We are supporting civil society organizations, providing technical assistance to INEC to encourage a more transparent voter registry, and training political parties so they can play a more transparent and effective role in the 2011 electoral process. We also are helping INEC review its overall operational planning for the upcoming elections; providing training to 7,000 domestic and 100 international observers, and training 8,000 civil society members to conduct quick vote counts in key states to validate voting at the polls and advocate against election fraud and violence.

We see the appointment of the new INEC leadership .… as a positive step toward the management of credible elections. There appears right now to be insufficient time to create a new voter registration list; however, INEC must do all it can in the time remaining to ensure that the current list is as accurate as possible…. The National Assembly has appropriated funding for INEC … but reports are that funds are yet to be disbursed into INEC election account in order for it to truly begin the hard work of operationalizing its plan, updating the registry, and addressing logistics, and distribution of materials.

Constitutional amendments put forth by the national assembly are pending with the thirty-six state legislatures. Among the issues addressed, these amendments will determine the date of the election, a decision that must be made soon.

Remember . . . democracy is about government by the consent of the governed…. Elections matter because it is through elections that you as Nigerians will choose the people who will lead you, represent your interests, and address the issues that we already noted in the reflection of your 50 years of independence. Again, as management leaders I want to leave you with some stark statistics to think about because time is running out on getting many things done . . . and done in time. Consider this example. If your elections are in early 2011, say in January or February, every month from now until then you would need to either register or verify the registry of nearly 13 million voters…meaning everyday (every day) you would need to register or verify the registry of 500,000 voters, or 50,000 voters every hour in order to be ready on election day. For polling places, we understand that your need is approximately 120 thousand polling sites with 20-40,000 satellite locations. What this may mean is every month you need to establish 25,000 polling sites, 1000 per day, 100 per hour. This is a daunting task, but I have faith in you. I was asked to speak today about the management of the election processes . . . and these are the tasks that are before you . . . these are the management issues before you . . . to get you to . . . at process . . . that is transparent . . . and a credible election.

Then of course there is political will. That is always the variable. All of the technical assistance in the world cannot overcome a lack of commitment by every single player in the political process to do right by the voter – from the ruling party to the polling site manager. That has always been the challenge. And, we hope that in your 50th year . . . as a maturing democracy that this is no longer the case.

As your friend, we want you to succeed. But we can't want it more than every single Nigeria does -- from the elite to the farmer. This is your country. . . These are your choices. As you approach the 2011 elections, choose your leaders wisely. Expect more of them. Hold them accountable. Remember, the essence of democracy is the power of the people . . . and each and every voter.

I remember being taken to register to vote as soon as I turned 18 years of age. My parents – who grew up in a segregated South of the United States, whose parents and grandparents, faced challenges to their right to vote . . . instilled in me the importance and the power of the vote. Since that time . . . I have never missed voting for the President of my nation because I knew that my single vote can and did make a difference. I have heard that desire from every single Nigerian I meet. I wish you well in 2011! But time is of the essence. Be wise and know that the people of the United States stand with you, as one of your best friends, and we want the very best for our best friend – credible, transparent elections in 2011. Thank you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

On the Road in Northern Nigeria in Support of USG Advocacy for Inter-religious Dialogue, Health Sector Improvement, and Cultural Preservation – One Year After President Obama’s Cairo Speech.

On June 7-9, 2010, I travelled to the northern part of Nigeria to visit Katsina, Sokoto, and Borno States to further build U.S.-Nigeria relations. I had the opportunity to dialogue with traditional rulers, community and civil society leaders.

The first stop was Katsina on June 7. I used the opportunity, while in Katsina, to pay a condolence call on behalf of the U.S. Government, on Hajia Dada, the mother of the late Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I also visited the 100 year old Gobarau Minaret (originally built 500 years ago). This historic monument was originally a mosque, and then became a center for learning and a lookout point to spot invading armies. The US Government is providing a grant to rebuild the minaret and protect its proud heritage through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. I also called on the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir Usman, in which he strongly emphasized that continuous interaction between Christian and Muslim communities was vital to foster peaceful co-existence amongst the two religious groups.

In Sokoto, on June 8, I paid a visit to His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’adu Abubakar, and commended him for his tremendous leadership role he has played in the Polio Eradication Initiative in northern Nigeria. We also discussed ways to involve traditional leaders in efforts to address other health-related problems such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, in order to improve the health conditions and lives of people in northern Nigeria.

In Borno, the focus was on mutual understanding as I met with the Shehus of Borno and Dikwa and students at the University of Maiduguri to restate the importance of President Obama’s Cairo Speech on New Beginning for America’s engagement with the world -- across nations, peoples, religions and perspectives. She also toured the historic Rabeh’s Fort at Dikwa, North East Nigeria, to learn more about Borno’s rich cultural and religious traditions. The Fort which is now a National Monument was built in 1894 by Rabeh Ibn Fade-Allah, as his headquarters after successful invasion of the Borno Empire. The story of Rabeh’s exploits and death is of great historic importance in the remaking of the present Borno.

Similar to my first visit to the Shehu of Borno’s palace in Maiduguri, about a year ago, I was given a warm traditional welcome by traditional drummers and trumpeters on the evening of June 8, 2010 when the Shehu of Borno, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi received me. Similar courtesies were accorded on June 9 when the Shehu of Dikwa, His Royal Highness, Alhaji Muhammad Ibn Masta II received me in his temporary palace in Dikwa and also presented me with the royal ci-ma-yi dress underscoring his appreciation for the first visit to the palace by U.S. Government Official since his coronation in March 2010. The conversation with the two traditional leaders focused on efforts by the U.S. Government to support the Borno community in health, education and agriculture and to reach out to diverse communities to build mutual understanding, interfaith dialog so that we can all live “as part of human kind in -- harmony, in peace, and in prosperity.”

Also while in Borno, I made my second trip to the University of Maiduguri to have a roundtable with a diverse group of Muslim and Christian students to talk about their views and feelings about the U.S. It was an interesting hour and half where students made both positive comments and raised areas of concern, particularly regarding Nigeria’s upcoming 2011 elections. We talked through the issues and I noted how important it was to appreciate that mutual understanding did not mean we had to agree on everything, but what it did mean was that we respected each others’ views and perspectives. I also stated that “through our partnership we have continued to support all Nigerians to strengthen democracy, encourage free, fair and transparent elections in 2011, fight corruption, encourage good governance, respect for human rights, invest in the people of this great country through our health, education and youth leadership and economic empowerment programs, promote women’s rights and girls education, respect for the diversity of religion, diversity of political views and the diversity of perspectives on the world.”

I told the students that as the youth and future leaders of Nigeria, they must show commitment to building a better future for their country and think deeply about what positive legacies they want to pass on to their children fifty years from now. We ended the session with me noting that Nigeria was one of the U.S. Government’s best friends and thus we wanted the best for Nigeria, especially for the 2011 elections.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Transcript of Ambassador Robin R. Sanders on NTA ‘One On One’ Interview

Wednesday April 21, 2010 from 13:30-14:30

Presenter: The true recognition of the independence of each country… the relations between Nigeria and the United States have seen some bumpy patches and very interesting times. From the sanction ridden posture era during the Abacha regime to the friendlier times of General Abubakar and its still getting friendlier still today. An estimated one million Nigerians live, study and work in the United States while over twenty-five thousand Americans live and work in Nigeria. Commerce and Human development are definitely central to our relations. And to discuss this in greater details is my guest today. My guest … you’ll meet my guest if you don’t go away.

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Presenter: My guest is no stranger to the politics and governance issues in Africa, having served as director for Africa at the National Security council at the White House, a former director for Public Diplomacy for Africa for the State Department and a former US Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Please welcome Robin Renee Sanders (RRS), the United States Ambassador to Nigeria. Madam a very warm welcome to you.

RRS: Thank you.

Presenter: Err… Madam, diplomacy is all about jostling, isn’t it? Err, we must recollect that Nigeria was a former British colony and the Unites States was not in the picture all of that time but these days we seem to feel a greater pull by the United States than we do from Great Britain. Is that a true portrayal of the situation?

RRS: I’m not sure of what you mean by “pull” but I do know that the United States and Nigeria share a lot of common values, a common vision of the future and I think that there is such a strong connection between the people of Nigeria and the people of the United States. And so you have mainly those linkages have made us really not only close friends but certainly close partners on the global stage.

Presenter: But Madam, when we talk about friends and partners, are we dealing with each other as equals?

RRS: It depends on what you mean by equals. I think that each nation sees the other with respect ,I also think that we have shared values that range from democracy and good governance, we have shared cultural connections as well, and so u know as far from where I seat, my time here, I think that there is a strong partnership and friendship. And you know friendships have different phases as well. Maybe that’s what you are alluding to but I think that the best intentions are always made on our part and I certainly know they are always made on the Nigerian part.

Presenter: Well, sometime ago when the Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton visited Nigeria, she spoke at a number of fora and some Nigerians believe that some of her remarks were every scathing. Okay, it may be the truth from the American stand point, but it was put in a manner that made us seem an appendage of the United States. Is that cynical ? Is that a cynical interpretation by some of the way she spoke?

RRS: Yes, I may think so. I think that any friendship has an ability to build in a number of ways and I think what the secretary did here; she reached out to as many Nigerians as possible. What she said basically is really… she repeated what she’s heard from Nigerians and so I think that if it’s taken in good faith, then that was her intention of course and that she was only sharing what she had heard from Nigerians and throughout the whole day. In fact I believe you are referring to that town hall meeting which was at the last part of her trip here. And she wanted to do it that way so that she has heard from a range of Nigerians all through the day so her whole statement really reflective of what she heard through the course of her time here.

Presenter: But usually when you have people from the United States, particularly, the high echelon of the administration visiting Nigeria, do you have something like a brief in the Embassy here in Nigeria to those dignitaries, to give them a picture because it’s not sufficient to hear they took all by what the man on the street says and feels.

RRS: Well of course, I think every Embassy does that for an esteemed official that is visiting a host country but in terms of the sectors she interacted with when she was here, I think it wasn’t sort of the man on the street only. She met with civil society, she met with the press, she met with former government officials, she met with former heads of states, she met with sitting government officials and she really had a cross section of interaction that gave her a very good foundation of what Nigerians want for Nigeria.

Presenter: Ok Madam there is this talk now, it seems to be a front burner; the Bi-National Commission (BNC). Is it an agreement between Nigeria and the United States? What exactly does it say or what does it intend to do?

RRS: Right. It is a bilateral agreement between the United States and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The agreement was signed April 6th. In fact I attended that signing ceremony between the Secretaries of the United States and that of Nigeria. Basically we wanted to raise our strategic dialogue on a number of issues. There are four working groups that are being proposed. This is a partnership agreement so we are still discussing the framework of the working groups… we are looking at…

Presenter: (cuts in) So the agreement is not yet effective?

RRS: No it is effective. It was effective as of the day of the signatures. But it’s sort of a strategic dialogue. As you know dialogues have different frameworks as they develop. We‘ll like to start with four working groups, and they are; Governance, Transparency, Integrity. We have one on Energy and Investment, the Niger Delta Regional Security and the Agricultural Development and Food Security. The idea is these talks about… between the two governments… as areas of mutual interest and mutual understanding and areas that we thought that we could build a stronger partnership. So the working groups were discussed so the theme and the titles of those working groups are based on a number of conversations between our two governments. Since the secretary is visiting she announced along with the Nigerian Government that they will be building this dialogue together.

Presenter: Let’s talk about the Niger Delta. It’s an area that is dear to all of our hearts, the heartbeat of oil production. In what ways are you intending to dialogue with Nigeria in regard to… in relation to the Niger Delta?

RRS: Well, we’re hoping that … we’ll talk about... building on the amnesty that is being put in place by the Nigerian Government. You know it was very important to hear what the acting president got to say when he visited Washington. We talked a lot about trying to move forward along with the Niger Delta, rehabilitation, reconstruction and re-integration. So we will be supportive of those areas. The strategic dialogue is also to really hear the government perspective on how it wants to move forward with this and we will find a way to support… our partnership will support those efforts. So, in regards to the Niger Delta, those are the three area of focus for the Nigerian Government, so we will supportive of those efforts. I think that everybody wants to see the best for the Niger Delta; they really want the region to be a peaceful area for the sustainable future. We also know that there are legitimate economic and developmental issues in the delta so all of all these are on the table for discussion and for finding a way to be supportive of the vision that the acting president outlined for… what he plans to do in the Niger Delta?

Presenter: Madam, when does interest tend to appear like interference? Isn’t there a very thin line, you know, sovereign government set up to priotise what they do for people and I’m saying this because when you talk about the Niger Delta in this matter, some people will say ‘what’s the interest? What’s the real interest of the United States? Is it... is it because that area produces oil? Do you want to secure the area so that at one point you can use it to your advantage? Is that... Is that what it’s all about?

RRS: Of course not. I get that question quite often and I remember the Secretary also got the question too. As I started out saying, the Bi-National Commission which we referred to as the BNC, using the initials of the commission, the BNC. These were areas that are worked out over several months between the two governments so we didn’t impose this. We are working with the Nigerian Government. We wanted to have a strategic dialogue; we talked about things that are important to Nigeria, where they’ll like to see our support, our help on, our partnership on. Those were the areas so we didn’t choose those areas in a singular manner. That been said, the vision that the acting president has as I pointed out, are being highlighted we plan to be supportive on those areas so it’s a Nigerian vision for the Niger Delta so we plan to be supportive of those areas. As I already outlined, its development, its education, it is making those things sustainable in the Niger Delta; the real concerns of the Niger delta people can be addressed. And I really do think that with the acting president mentioned in the US; re-integration, rehabilitation and restructuring in terms of infrastructures development are really important and we will like to be supportive of that.

Presenter: Food security is very important also because a nation who is not secure in its food production has its flanks wide open. How exactly do you intend to assist Nigeria?

RRS: We’ve already been working extensively on the food security area. Let me just expand the definition because we use a very broad definition for food security. It includes working with agro-business and agro development. Working with farmer cooperatives, working with development of hybrid seeds that are drought resistant, helping with transport issues from farming area to city area for marketing regional integration. So we use a broad definition for food security. And we do a lot of… many many years, the President of the United States has a signature initiative under food security of which Nigeria is getting 25million dollars to really support your agricultural sector…

Presenter: ( cuts in) Have you really identify what sector, from the huge agricultural sector you want to support…

RRS: As I noted before, transportation, getting products from the farms to the market, it is also agro-business development, it includes hybrid seeds to make you have a better crop resistance where that is a challenge, it includes developing markets within the region so that Nigerian products can be sold more widely. It also includes those linkages for export to the Unites States. So we’ve always done quite a bit in food security and no we are going to build on that more. We have a market program here, we’ve had three seminal events… we will have the third one in June, but we’ve had two seminal events, since I have been here called the Portico, which is a range of…

Presenter: (cuts in) Called what?

RRS: PORTICO… and it’s a range of practical workshops and seminars for financing for agriculture. This year’s event will look at agricultural infrastructure development. So we’ve always done things on food security and this way there will be more emphasis on finding ways to further develop not only business based here. I have been to two or more factories we’ve been working with over the years and its really incredible to see, you know two thousand or more farmers come together in cooperative manner so they can not only make more money for themselves, for their families but they are now part of an export platform because they are producing more as a group. They’ve been able to export within the region, within Nigeria and hopefully export outside of Nigeria

Presenter: You’ve talked about cooperation, food security and what you are doing for farmers and all of that, and I remember that a few years back there was this other agreement called AGOA, emerging economies in Nigeria were supposed to go... benefit… to have benefited from. Did we really take advantage of it?

RRS: AGOA isn’t an agreement. AGOA was a trade facility for 36 nations in Africa. And what that facility, does do still today is to provide duty free exports to the United States of some 6800 products of which a good bit of those products are agricultural products. What PORTICO has done and what some of our other programs have done is to really try to enhance those areas that your government has identified they want to take advantage of for AGOA. You have a number of products that your Ministry of Agriculture has focused on for AGOA export and we work with the agro-businesses and farmers who are working in those areas and they range from Shea butter to ginger to legal good … they a range of agricultural products...

Presenter: Madam, in all of these, is there an initiative for private entrepreneurs? You made it seem like it’s a government to government thing.

RRS: No I said agro-business and agro-business is not government to government and I have talked of factories that I have gone to visit to see how our food security program is doing... in fact the last time I was here I was actually at an agribusiness in Lagos and it’s the only one of its kind in the whole of West Africa and it changes cassava to glucose and glucose as so many people know is used for so many things from soft drinks to enhancing agricultural products. And that is part of our program here, to take something that is nascent, to try and support it to become a big agro-business. This was a tremendous example of a success story. Not only it’s the only one in Nigeria, it’s the only one in West Africa and they are now doing exports to other areas in West Africa.

Presenter: Sometimes what we hear over the airwaves can rather be misleading because you talk about BNC, Bi-National Commission; I thought you would have mentioned joint security. The impression that we got in some quarters that this was also a kind of security arrangement because there have been talks about an African High Command in which the United States will make troops available or send military high commands from the United States to train in areas of Africa for rapid intervention, is that on the…

RRS: I think err…let me just start with the base of your question and correct some of the facts there. First of all, African Command…the headquarters of African command is in Stuttgart. I remember dealing with this issue when I first arrived Nigeria; I am still surprised that there is still an issue with that. African Command is like any other entity in the US Government. It supports what we do here on the ground in a number of areas including humanitarian assistance and training, all kinds of things so the four working groups that I outline to you already on the BNC is what we agree to as two nations. We already do trainings, we already supports the efforts of the Nigerian military in so many areas with regard to training, now I should probably be saying more capacity building and we will continue to do that and we can certainly look to expand those programs under the BNC.

Presenter: So before the BNC came into being there was bilateral relations between Nigeria and the United States on what grounds? What were the … what where the high points?

RRS: Well you know, what the BNC does is really… err... it’s not a departure from our existing bilateral relations, it’s an enhancement to our bilateral relations where we can have strategic framework to expand and further discuss a range of issues. So I wouldn’t say that is a departure in anyway, I think we have always have bilateral relationship and all these things have always been part of our bilateral relationship, they are not new to our bilateral relationship in any way. We had a number of things from healthcare… we have a tremendous PEPFAR program here which is our program for HIV/AIDS, we have 400 million dollar project here which is the largest we have in Africa … we have …

Presenter: (cuts in) What determines that?

RRS: I beg your pardon?

Presenter: What determines that? That you pour in so much money into particular programs in Nigeria as opposed to other African nations?

RRS: Well, because Nigeria is an important country to the United States and we want to be helpful in just about every sector we are asked to be helpful. We want to be helpful in the health sector, in the education sector, in the food security sector, we are asked to be helpful in democratic programs ranging from support and training to civil societies. We feel and we hope that it seen in the partnership framework because we always respond to what we are asked to be supportive of. We feel like our bilateral relationship is a multi-focused framework where we are very supportive of every framework in the society and that society in this case is Nigeria.

Presenter: But talking about being supportive ma’am, you… as I said earlier on, there seems to be a very thin line between support and interference and when we’re talking about democracy, as President Obama said “each country practice its own democracy must build democratic values, must build that practice in relation to the culture and needs of their people.” Now does anybody have a right? Yes you have … you should assist and support … does anybody have a right to say, we are to model our democracy, pattern it against what goes on in the United States or elsewhere?

RRS: I don’t know if anybody has said that. It’s certainly not on our side. And I will like to sort of really address the interference question because I think that’s really an unfair comment for a number of reasons. I think I stated in the beginning of our interview really highlighting that we responded to what we’ve been asked, either by the government or by a particular sector, whether it’s the agricultural sector, by the health and education sector or certainly whether its by an area of development that we have resources to be able to support that on request. We really try to do that for Nigeria because we care about Nigeria. A lot about Nigeria... we think our shared values are the same and certainly I don’t see anything that we are doing be considered interference…. (Presenter tries to cut in)… Let me finish……we are responding to what was been asked either from any of those sectors including the government sector.

Presenter: Yeah, but when we have it in record, I don’t know if it’s on good record, that the views of... it could be the views of the Embassy, maybe the view of the American Government that the [Independent] National Electoral Commission (INEC) leadership should be changed. Isn’t that interference?

RRS: I think in any kind of democratic society and democratic friendship, you should be able to say what you feel... that’s what democracy is about.

Presenter: Is that how you feel?

RRS: I think that we do feel very very strongly that …, let me just prefix that by also saying this is what we hear from Nigerians that INEC needs to have a stronger leadership so that your next election can be elections that all Nigerians could be proud of.

Presenter: When you say ‘stronger leadership”, what exactly do you mean?

RRS: I mean the entire leadership of the INEC needs to be stronger so that ….

Presenter: In terms of what?

RRS: Well, really I mean in terms of ability to conduct elections that is credible, in terms of ability to conduct elections that will be transparent, in terms of ability to have a transparent voter’s registration so that you can have credible elections. And clearly, whatever I am saying you can you know, turn to a particular page of the Uwais report and see exactly what I am saying to you today. You know we try to meet with as many stakeholders as possible and so what we articulate is what we have heard Nigerians say for themselves. And you can actually... if you really go back to, even this past immediate trip of the acting president; those were those things that your delegates said through your acting president while he was there.

Presenter: Why do the next elections, the general elections in 2011, that’s about less than a year from now seem to mean so much to you?

RRS: I think simply we care about Nigeria and would love to see Nigeria hold elections that Nigerians will be proud of and we want to be supportive of that interest. It’s been interesting for me to travel throughout the country to have visited all of the States; it’s the one thing that I hear the most. That we want to have credible elections. You are a vibrant democracy, you are 150 million people strong, you have even the most creative, dynamic environment that I have ever had the pleasure of being a guest in .I think it is important to you as a leader and beacon in Africa to be able to have elections that your people will be proud of.

Presenter: And you think just getting the elections right will give us… change potentials you have enumerated into kinetics?

RRS: Well of course, we all know in a society there is no magic wand, they are building blocks. And certainly having a credible election is a key building block and it’s a platform for anything you want to discuss. If you don’t have that then how does everything else go forward? Because it is about transparent leadership, it’s about good leadership, it’s about capable leadership and the path of getting there starts with a credible lection…

Presenter: Yes Ma’am, there are those who will respond by saying that, even in the United States, after over 200 years of democracy, what happened during the election between Bush and Al Gore… wasn’t a model of democracy, was it?

RRS: I know what I am saying... there is a model out there I didn’t say that. I truly believe that the framework for democracy is fluid, it’s never static. Even if you really read our constitution, particularly the preamble, it says ”striving to be a more perfect union”, in fact my national day speech when we do our national day in February was just that theme; striving to be a more perfect union because democracy is our preference, the key is to strive to be that way and there are some fundamental ingredients there and the elections is part of those fundamentals.

Presenter: What if some people argue, saying that we are striving and that a child has to first of all crawl before the walk. Pushing us a little too far afield and too hard, is that a fair comment? Would that be a fair comment?

RRS: I don’t think so. Why wouldn’t we want to push our friends to do better? You are an extra ordinary friend of the United States and we are an extra-ordinary friend of yours and one thing about friendship is that you should be able to have a dialogue, an honest dialogue that “okay friend, you might need to work on this a bit”... And I think that our best intention. And certainly as I said before, it’s what we’ve heard Nigerians say and what they’ve asked us to be helpful on.

Presenter: Well, you know the… one thing about the United States, I am not trying to compare the United States with Nigeria, is the homogeneity of language so to speak. Here we have, as you must have found out in the course of your travel all over, we have different people and different culture and that are lines of thinking personalities. It can be used in a positive way for political growth but it also has its negatives. Have you seen the negatives in the course of your travels in Nigeria?

RRS: Actually, I come from a point of view that diversity is strength and the strength of any nation is based on its diversity. And I think that is one of the strengths of Nigeria to have such a diverse population. And… but I also truly believe that democracy is about trying to find a way so that diversity is used in the best manner possible. And you know, in the history of any country, even ours, when I look at the history of the United States, we’ve had to stumble and fall and been able to walk through in a lot of ways… and as I said democracy is not perfect, there is no one saying there is a mode out there… but you just must continue to strive in the right direction.

Presenter: You have spoken also about energy and investment and the BNC commencing… particularly, how are you going to help us grow our energy distribution and production?

RRS: Well you know, one of the things I really do want to make clear is that even though we are framing this under the BNC, we have been doing a lot of these things all along. And certainly in the energy sector we have done a lot of technical assistance. We have a number of US Government agencies that are very active in the energy area. Mostly, recently I would say are into … being supportive of independent power project, that can help generate additional mega wattage and we have been helpful in technical assistance in gas pipeline. We’ve been helpful in technical assistance in finding alternative energy sources from solar to bio-fuels. So all these things we’ve been doing all along and we look to enhance those under the BNC.

Presenter: Madam you spoke about food security a while ago and it wasn’t quite… you spoke about it succinctly and I’d like you to be more specific in how you intend to help us manage our structure in such a way that within the near future we can really boast and beat our chest that food security wise, we are up there?

RRS: Well I think there are some fundamentals on food security that I have already outline them so I will just cut right to the chase. I think if you have strong transportation … to move your products, if you have all the proper custom systems so that not only the fundamentals of building agricultural sector can come in with the right export regime… you as Nigeria will really opening up the ECOWAS fixed tariff so that you have a more balanced import regime or base product that are needed for agriculture. Expanding your agro-businesses so that not only would they do production sufficient enough to help Nigeria feed itself but they do production sufficient enough particularly for crops, to export not only within Nigeria but certainly within the region and I think there is also some fundamentals of capacity building and financing for agriculture that we help with. We have EXIM bank which is another US Government entity that has 14 banks that it is working with here to provide agricultural facility for farmers. We have Food and Agricultural Services, which is part of our Department of Agriculture that also, have a similar credit facility. We help with base import for a lot of products. It is interesting that you asked that question because Nigeria just became one of the biggest importers of US wheat to be able to make enough bread for your population. You just surpassed…You were number 2 in the world last year; you just surpassed to be number 1.

Presenter: (cuts in) Is that a good thing?

RRS: I think it’s a… it’s a…

Presenter: (cuts in) Because we talked a while ago about import substitution, we tried to grow wheat here sometime ago but it wasn’t conducive...

RRS: Right. I think it’s a good thing because the processing is done here so it provide jobs, it provides an ability for you to be… to provide enough wheat for the amount of bread and flour that you need right here… rice, pasta and everything. I have been to several of the factories here and they are using US wheat and they have really been able to expand because of that. It provides jobs. The other part of the food security question is the job aspect of it. Because when you have agro-businesses develop, when you have farmers working together in large cooperatives, you are helping in also creating jobs.

Presenter: Madam, I‘ll take a break now, my producers are asking me to. Well viewers, thank you for spending part of your time with us, this is One on One for this day with Robin Sanders, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria. We’ll take your text messages, phone calls and e messages to make the program more collaborative, please don’t go away.

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Presenter:
Thank you very much for spending part of your time with us, this is One on One for this day with Robin Renee Sanders, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria. Madam, let me begin by taking a number of text messages, the first is from Musa Iloh from Abuja. He says “why is America interested in good governance in Africa particularly in Nigeria? How is it beneficial?”

RRS: It’s not a question of us benefiting; it’s a question of benefiting Nigeria. I know we talked earlier about good elections sort of forming the base of any democracy so it really benefits Nigeria. Because we care about Nigeria we want to be supportive of that interest.

Presenter: Madam, after 9/11 in 2002, the whole security landscape around the world changed and the United States kind of became extremely watchful and then sometimes towards the end of last year we had an incident involving a Nigerian that… then made you put Nigeria on a watch list. Has all that been resolved in such a manner that the thing is now different from what it was some few months back?

RRS: I think you are probably aware that on April 2nd the United States Government issued a new policy framework for how we will go forward after December 25th 2009. Basically, passengers from international flights will be subjected to the same kind of security enhancement in terms of search and questioning. And I think that the short and long of it is a worldwide policy and not country specific policy, not a nationality specific policy…

Presenter:
In other words, Nigeria is not being targeted by the United States for punishment…

RRS: I think that is probably too strong of an analysis. Even if you look at the country of interest list, between December 25th and April 2nd, there was never a nationality designation but it’s a country of origin designation. I know people will be surprised to hear this that means I went through the same search and scrutiny, my staff did and I don’t think that part was appreciative that it was not a nationality designation. And I think that no country is immune from the footholds of international terrorism and Nigeria is not an exception to that and so we need to work together to address those issues. I think we are already doing that. We have had a lot of positive interactions since December 25th on how we worked together on global aviation security. The Secretary of Homeland Security was just here about a week and half ago, prior to that, co-deputy was also here. We signed the Air Marshal Agreement with Nigeria and we are working on a number of other strategic aviation security issues together so I think it’s an important way forward.

Presenter: The next text message is from Nwalama in Abia. He says, ”how is the United States tackling the global credit crunch crisis? How can you assist Nigeria come out of the woods?”

RRS: Well, I mean... I think that each country has to look at its background economy framework and make adjustments accordingly and we are doing that considering the United States in this environment. I also know that your new finance minister, your new Central Bank governor are also looking at your macroeconomic finance….your macro economic framework back here in Nigeria I think that that question is better placed with them but I would say that we have looked at some of the banking reforms that have been put in place, we think that they are definitely on the right path, the right direction, I think it’s a good signal for Nigeria that you’ve had these banking reforms. It shows that there is a commitment to reforms; it shows commitment to anti corruption efforts as well. So we see those things as very very positive. I know that when you look at the economic framework here, I was just looking at your first quarter 2010 numbers; you virtually had a very good first quarter, about 6% and ….

Presenter: 6% of growth?

RRS: Yeah. You inflation is not to bad and you still have quite a bit of reserves so you weathered the storm, everybody had the storm but I Nigeria weathered the storm better that many countries... I think your financial leadership in this country, your new Finance Minister and your Central Bank Governor are doing the right thing and planning the right vision for Nigeria on the macro-economic front.

Presenter: Very recently, it’s like yesterday, its fresh on our minds, the acting president, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan visited the United States. I understand that you were the moving spirit behind whole arrangement. What is really the essence or what was the essence? Oh yes, bilateral relations and you know friendship, but what… what is the underlying factor?

RRS: Really, any visit like that is connected to a lot of individuals not me. It’s really sort of the interest of the US Government at large and the acting President was invited to a landmark historic global forum led by the President of the United States. And part of that visit, he also had a private bilateral meeting with the President of the United States which I had the opportunity to be part of. And I would say though, overall, the acting President did something very similar to what good leaders do, he reached out to every sector in the United States. He had meetings across the board with a cross-section of individuals from the private sector, to civil society, to members of our US congress. He was a very very…

Presenter: (cuts in) Sorry to jump in, but does that meeting significantly improve the relations between Nigeria and the US?

RRS: I guess you would have to start with the premise that the relations were good before and I wouldn’t stop there at all. I think we’ve always had a good relationship. I will say that the acting President visit was really a landmark visit in a number of ways because of Nigeria, not because of us, you’ve had a couple of difficult months I think on the political front. I think that worldwide, I would include the US in that; there were concerns about where Nigeria was headed for a couple of months then. You had an ailing president who I respect immensely and who really hasn’t been seen, still haven’t been seen in public since November. You had a situation in which people were unsure of where Nigeria was going, and so I think it was an important event for Nigeria and we wanted to be on the receiving end of that visit because we care about Nigeria a lot. I think that the acting president did a tremendous job, he has his vision for the next couple of months, the next 12 months or so, between now and the election, I think that [people were relieved and pleased in so many ways because we have a tremendous interest about Nigeria in the United States. I remember at one of the business forum, it was a leading businessman who stood up who said, ”you know Mr. acting President, you’ve done more to really ease concerns about Nigeria in the last two days of your visit than…

Presenter: (cuts in): Okay madam, let me move from there to the fact that a lot of things seem to be happening in the States with President Obama. I hear that the International Summit on Entrepreneurship is coming on, is Nigeria invited? Any Nigerian attending this summit?

RRS: It is another initiative, signature initiative by President Obama and it s a global initiative and of course Nigeria is included in that. In fact there are three Nigerians that are participating, a young woman from Lagos state; I have actually been to her project mid-summer last year. And really it is to signal out that entrepreneurship in the first step to development in a democracy. And I think that the initiative that the president of the United States is doing is to highlight just how important entrepreneurship is in developing a democracy because that kind of talent also produces jobs for the rest of the society and I think he wanted to really hail that kind of effort and he want to single out very talented and creative people that are doing different things in the entrepreneurial sector. We are really proud to have three Nigerians as part of them.

Presenter: Madam, I don’t know if this will rub you up the wrong way but… you say Nigeria and America, they enjoy beautiful relations, Nigerians and Americans are friends. There are so many Nigerians who believe that they are qualified to visit, to study and [what] have you in the United States and had such a hard time. They don’t believe that that is justified. Are you… are you doing any serious work to review the whole process? As a matter of fact, sometimes, they say that the procedures that they are subjected to are kind of undignified.

RRS: Well you know I have heard that quite a bit and I take that... I do take that personally that I know that my team and I have worked very very hard to ensure that your people are treated honestly and fairly and with respect when they go through the visa processes. I think it’s also something that has to be cleared up in terms of the visa process. It is a worldwide process; no one is singling out Nigeria. It is a process that we follow in every single Embassy in the world and I also think there is a tendency to connect mot getting a visa to being treated unfairly and those are two separate things. There are strict immigration laws we have just like Nigeria has and I have a number of Americans too that come to me to complain about Nigeria…

Presenter: That when they want to come to Nigeria, they get a hard time…

RRS: Yeah, they get a hard time like even people that are on my staff that have their children or their spouse coming in, even people that are coming for training, they haven’t been able to get their visas and I just take that on board saying, this is the... these are the laws of Nigeria and if you don’t meet them, you don’t meet them. And so the same has to be viewed from our perspective as well. These are immigration laws and there is a threshold that has to be met in order to be qualified. So I think there s a definite distinction between people perceiving that they if they don’t get the visa, they’ve been mistreated. But I have taken a personal interest since I have been here to ensure that your people are treated fairly, treated with respect on the line and that is quite different then connecting it to I didn’t get a visa so I have been mistreated. That been said I know that probably won’t ring through with every Nigerian out there, they’re probably listening to me saying, oh my goodness, is she kidding me? But I will stake my personal reputation on that because I’ve got...

Presenter: (cuts in) You say things are going to get better… you are going to assure us, give us the assurance you are going to work on, not easing… yes as you said, if you don’t meet the requirements that’s one thing… but at least to be treated fairly and with dignity with a certain amount of respect, everybody deserves that, don’t we?

RRS: And I think we do that, I will disagree with the premise that we don’t do that. But I do think there is a view point that if you don’t get a visa then you haven’t been treated with dignity and respect and I think those two things are very very different.

Presenter: Olalude from Awe says, “the United States Embassy in Nigeria is not doing anything to promote sports.” Sports like basketball, rugby and American football. Why are you not showing interests in this area?

RRS: We do a lot in sports. We’ve had sports envoys here since I’ve been here we’ve had a number of Sports Envoys that have done Sports Programs throughout Nigeria. In fact, yesterday I was in Jos doing a number of things, but we had... we support a Basketball for Peace program actually in Jos. We had one also in Bayelsa and a few other States, so we do have as part of our core programs not only the Sports Envoys who come out to do basketball clinic. We don’t do rugby; rugby is not a US sport.

Presenter: American football?

RRS: American football, we have it, but we’ve mostly done soccer camps, we’ve done basketball camp and our Sports Envoys have really focused on those two areas. We do… Sports Programs is part of our sports development.

Presenter: Babatunde Osikelu from Ibadan says… “would like to know; will President Barrack Obama make a U-turn to visit Nigeria? Since the acting President has made the first move in the spirit of the new mutual understanding between the two countries?”

RRS: I can’t predict what the President of the United States is going to do but certainly I think that the fact that the two leaders have had a very very positive meeting last week, is an indication of just how important we think Nigeria is.

Presenter: Victoria from Benin says, “how can the United States of America help Nigeria with the energy crisis vis-a-vis constant power supply as a result of bilateral relations?”

RRS: I know we talked about that a bit earlier, as I said we’re doing… we have a number of public-private partnerships in the electricity area, gas flaring area, independent power project area; so we are quite active in being supportive of efforts by Nigeria to address its power issues and having this BNC focus on energy and investment will enhance that relationship and that partnership development program.

Presenter: Ikechukwu Ani from Enugu is saying that “there is so much hue and cry about AFRICOM, what is it about really? Does it have anything to do about setting up a military base in Nigeria or in Africa?”

RRS : No. AFRICOM is an entity within the US Government and that falls within the US department of defense and it provides assistance and support and training just like any other entity within the United States Government and its unfortunate that even three years down the line, there is still confusion on what AFRICOM does. I rely on AFRICOM to be responsive to request that I might give for instance, if I give request on humanitarian assistance, then AFRICOM is the entity in the United States Government that I will go to say, okay, I need training or capacity building or workshop/seminars on this particular area on humanitarian assistance or if I am travelling with my team and we are at a school or clinic that needs a borehole or waste incinerator, then AFRICOM is the entity that I say, okay can you send me the team that can help me do this? If we have been asked by the Nigerian military to be supportive in efforts in whether it’s peacekeeping, whether it’s in furthering their professional development that it would be very strong and very well respected, AFRICOM is where I go to go get their training.

Presenter: Madam, you know, we have spoken about a lot of seemingly serious issues. Let’s talk about entertainment, music and dance and America, particularly black Americans are very well known for that but we haven’t seen a lot of interaction since you have been here. Why is that so? Interaction between groups from over there and groups here, organizing teams from here, groups from here visiting the United States… to further collaborate and strengthen ties that exists between…

RRS: Why can’t I put you on our mailing list because you seem to be missing something. We just had a dance motion group people that did a number of programs.

Presenter: Oh really?

RRS: Yeah, maybe 3 , 4 weeks ago, maybe a little less , they did a number of, in fact they did a number of workshop at Terra Culture, they were at the National Theatre, they did at the Muson Center, you know.

Presenter: I am not on the same page.

RRS: No you are not on our page, we’ve had award winning artist here, we’ve done a number of cultural exchange programs in everything you can think of so make sure you get on our newsletter so that you‘ll know what we are doing.

Presenter: Etuk from Abuja says, “considering that the Nigerian housing isn’t right and 90% of Nigerians are poor and in the low income bracket. How is the United States handling the social housing scheme and how can you help us achieve that?”

RRS: We have something called a development credit authority, it’s a loan guarantee for housing only, that’s exactly what it’s for. And we have worked with a number of banks, I don’t remember but there six or seven banks that have the development credit authority loan guarantee. And it is strictly for low income housing, to help with low income housing so we are doing that as well.

Presenter: You have it in the books but what is the evidence that it really works and it helps people with social housing needs?

RRS: We don’t have it on our books, it’s a program the banks have and I have to relay go and look at the numbers but I know that it’s been used her in Lagos for we guarantee the mortgage or the long guarantee to get the mortgage so it is a facility that is available to Nigerians and I believe it’s a facility with six of the banks here.

Presenter: Monica Okwudili from Ibadan is saying, “what’s your take on Nigeria’s quest for a permanent seat on the security council of the United Nations?”

RRS: That’s a global issue, I mean its more than just the United States but we do want to congratulate Nigeria for the fact that you will be on the UN Security Council in fact I think you will be chairing I think in July I believe is when you take the chair and so we see that as really positive step forward for Nigeria and a wonderful opportunity for Nigeria.

Presenter: Very quickly ma’am, the program is about to round up. You seem as a person, as the American Ambassador to Nigeria, in your personal slant, you seem to support advocacy groups and non-governmental organizations. Is that a total US posture or that comes from who you are?

RRS: Well certainly anything that I do here as a representative of the United States Government. So certainly, we take a tremendous interest in being supportive of civil society and I talked earlier about the pillars of democracy. So civil society is a key pillar in America too and then, we’ve brought extensively and I have even travelled with them too, on a number of civil society programs, because we really think they have a tremendous role to play in a democratic society.

Presenter: Madam Ambassador, thank you very much for coming on the program, we wish you the very best in all your endeavors.

RRS: thank you.

Presenter: Well viewers, that’s how much we can take today, my name is Bayo Adewusi. Thank you for your time and my guest has been Robin Renee Sanders, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria. Today has been nice, today has been fun, and tomorrow is another day.

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