By Ben Kangwa, Press Secretary, Zambia Embassy, Washington DC
On Friday 20th May, 2011, the US State Department hosted a meeting of AGOA eligible countries to discuss plans for the forth coming 10th AGOA Forum to be held in Lusaka from 8th – 10th June 2011.. The Forum is the only Ministerial event held annually between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Ambassador Johnny Carson spoke to the African Diplomatic Corps along with Her Excellency, Mrs. Sheila Siwela, Zambian Ambassador to the United States of America.
They were joined by a distinct mix of other US officials, the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA), Non-Governmental Organizations to solicit input on the successful hosting of the AGOA Forum.
Ambassador Carson told the gathering that US Secretary of State, Mrs. Hillary Clinton would lead more than 250 members of the government delegation to Lusaka and that she would accompanied by the United States Trade Representative (USTR), Ambassador Ron Kirk
“Their participation in the Forum will demonstrate the US commitment to the role that Africa plays in the international community,” he stated.
He said trade and economic cooperation were two of the many important links between Sub Saharan Africa and the United States of America, which he said share historic bonds and common objectives.
Ambassador Carson said in order to ensure widest possible US government participation, State Department had briefed Congress on Forum planning and asked for their input.
He also added that there had been very close contact with members of the civil society and the private sector to ensure that their concerns were captured.
The Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs told his audience that the AGOA Forum was the only annual US Ministerial with Sub Saharan Africa.
He said the Trade and Development Act of 2000, which created AGOA, mandated an annual trade and economic cooperation forum with eligible sub-Saharan African nations to discuss expanding trade and investment relations between the United States and sub Saharan Africa.
Ambassador Carson then praised the government of Zambia for doing “an excellent job” in organizing what he predicted would be a dynamic Forum.
He also thanked the African diplomats for providing their suggestions on the AGOA Forum and in particular Ambassadors Mrs. Sheila Siwela and Mr. David Rantekoa (Lesotho) for their work to make the event a success.
Concluded Ambassador Carson,” We appreciate the input that each of your governments has provided throughout the planning process. I believe that the planners have addressed most concerns, including many of the issues and topics that have been proposed.”
In her briefing, Ambassador Mrs. Sheila Siwela, expressed the Zambian government’s appreciation to the United States government for the opportunity given to Zambia to host the AGOA Forum.
She also expressed gratitude to fellow Ambassadors and diplomatic staff of AGOA eligible Embassies in Washington DC for their continued support that had been rendered during the preparatory process.
Ambassador Siwela acknowledged that the task of preparing the AGOA Forum meeting had been a challenge more so that it had to be done within seven months as opposed to the traditional one year.
She also acknowledged the aspect of the preparatory process, recalling the interface role the Zambian Embassy in Washington DC played between the Zambian government and the AGOA eligible Embassies in Washington DC from conceptualizing the theme to the formulation of the AGOA program
Ambassador Siwela stated that the AGOA Forum to be held in Lusaka had generated keen following and interest up to the highest office in the land.
It was for this reason that the National Steering Committee headed by Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet Mr. Evans Chibiliti had done an excellent job to ensure that the Forum is a success.
On his part, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) Vice president for Business Development, Mr. Tim McCoy briefed the gathering that his organization had been designated by that for the first time, the private sector and civil society sessions are combined this year, giving participants a wider range of topics to explore with business and civil society leaders from the US and across Africa.
He said the private sector/civil society session will consist of opening and closing plenary sessions, luncheon and about 10 breakout sessions.
Mr. McCoy noted that since 2001, Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) has been involved in planning the private sector session at the AGOA Forum that takes place on the margins of the AGOA Ministerial meetings.
“This year again, CCA has been designated by the US and Zambian governments as the US coordinator for the private sector session and the International Trade Exhibition”, he said.
The Zambia Association of Manufacturers on the other hand, is serving as lead for the Zambian private sector mobilization for the Forum, with a range of civil society organizations being convened by the Lusaka-based Centre for Trade Policy Development.
For three days in Lusaka, AGOA eligible countries and the US will address the theme “Enhanced Trade through Increased Competitiveness, Value addition and Deeper Regional Integration”