USAID Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Corporate Citizenship Conference

Remarks

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

 
Ronald Reagan Building
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you. Thank you, Mark, and thanks to all of you for being here today. First off, I'd like to begin by saying that it really shouldn't surprise anyone that the Chamber and its national foundation want to explore opportunities in international development. After all, back in the 1980s, with the strong support of now-chamber president Tom Donohue, the foundation was an early partner in President Reagan's historic democracy program.

That partnership ultimately led to the International Republican Institute, where I once worked, and of course, the U.S. Chamber's own development arm, Center for International Private Enterprise, or CIPE. Tom's commitment really laid the groundwork for decades of collaboration between USAID and CIPE. Following the fall of communism, we worked together to strengthen market economies in Europe and to promote democratic governance. In Hungary, we worked together to promote legal and regulatory reforms that would improve the business climate.

More recently, we partnered in Belarus to bring business associations and think tanks together to advocate for reform. We helped build a coalition of 256 organizations that successfully lobbied for over 420 different reform proposals. During this time, Belarus advanced from 106th to 37th in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index.

In short, I'm grateful for the work that we've done together, but I'm even more grateful for the work that we're going to do together in the months and years ahead.

So, ladies, and gentlemen, in the brief time that I have with you, I'd like to briefly describe what we see as three revolutionary changes underway in the field of development, and then I have an announcement to make that I hope you'll appreciate and enjoy, that I think will pave the way to further collaborations and further partnerships that we can all take on.

So, revolution number one. The first revolution is one that shouldn't be surprising to anyone here. It's a revolution in technology. Not just the everyday discoveries, but far more importantly, the rapidly growing availability and affordability across the developing world. Now, I began my own journey in development some 30 years ago. My wife and I served as volunteer teachers in a small village in Kenya. Those were different times.

In our little village there was but one telephone. It was a wind-up telephone on a wooden box. I remember that if you wanted to make a long-distance call, you would pick up the receiver, turn the crank, and say something like, "Operator, give me six, six, two, Kisumu," put the phone down, go outside, sit under the mango tree, wait for the phone to ring so the operator could tell you that your call had gone through.

Just one dozen years later, I visited that same village and I came across a young boy walking along the path. I asked him if he knew Niva, one of my former students, and could he go find him for me. And he said, "Sure," and he picked out his mobile phone to call him. (Laughter)

Five years after that, I was an ambassador in East Africa, and my African staff were using cheap mobile phones to pay their bills, to conduct small business, and to make calls everywhere, all over the world. So, that's the personal lens through which I see technology and the opportunities in development. It is making the impossible possible, the unsolvable solvable.

In West Africa, USAID is supporting a tropical weather forecasting company called Ignitia, which is sending daily seasonal forecasts via text message. This forecasting model benefits 320,000 users across West Africa, giving them knowledge about rain and drought during the growing season.

In Ethiopia, there are now electronic billboards all across the rural parts of the country that give small, older farmers the latest price for coffee and the cattle. The goal is to help these small farmers against the unscrupulous middlemen who might try to take advantage of their remoteness from Addis Ababa, all of this not so many miles away from that village where I once taught school.

The second revolution that we see is a little more subtle, but I would argue it's no less important, and it's really the fundamental change in the relationship between America and the developing world. So, when USAID was created 56 years ago, something like 80 percent of the financial flows between the U.S. and the developing world were government dollars, traditional development funds, what we call ODA. Today, that figure is nine percent.

Now, to be clear, ODA isn't fading away. Government spending isn't going down, but instead, financial flows, private financial flows, are roaring ahead. Philanthropy, remittances, but more than anything else, commerce, investment. The world's fastest growing economies are in the developing world.

According to the World Bank, half the nations in Africa are now lower-middle income or higher. Many of these same nations are demographically young, which means more and more of their consumers are very likely interested in the kinds of products and services that U.S. businesses make and supply.

In the past decade, the international market for American goods grew by more than $200 billion, and nearly two thirds of this growth occurred in the countries where USAID works. I think the lesson's pretty clear. American business has business in the developing world, and I think it's fair to say that we in the Trump administration could not be more excited about the possibilities.

Now, the third and final revolution I'd like to describe this morning is the one that makes me most excited as (inaudible), and that's the burgeoning new relationship between private enterprise and the development community. Leaders in both sectors are finally realizing, finally figuring out how to take advantage of the unique capabilities that each have and apply them to challenges that neither could fully take on alone, problems that once seemed insurmountable.

It's hard to overstate how big a shift this is for the development community. For years, whether we realized it or not, USAID and others saw donors and governments as the most important, if not the only, drivers of progress in the developing world. Private enterprise was something to keep at a distance, or perhaps try to bend to our will. We welcomed donations from private enterprise, and we were even willing to contract with private business to obtain goods and services.

Today, all that's changing. We're trying to move beyond contracting and grant-making to collaborating, co-financing, co-designing programs, tools, initiatives. Today, we're recognizing that agencies like USAID don't need to be the sole actors in the development space when we can more effectively serve as catalytic actors in that space. We're rethinking how international development initiatives are designed and tested and rolled out. We're embracing the creativity and the entrepreneurship that the private sector brings.

I'll give you an example. A few weeks ago, at the World Food Prize sessions in Iowa, I announced our partnership with Syngenta. Working with Syngenta, under the umbrella of our Feed the Future initiative, we will help local African agribusinesses gain access to high-quality seeds to sell at affordable prices.

Now, to be clear, we're not simply buying those seeds and donating them to farmers. That's what we would have done in the past. Instead, what we're doing is using our vast networks and relationships; we're connecting the labs that develop cutting-edge seed varieties with the remote farmers and communities that desperately need them. In the places where Feed the Future is working like this, we estimate that poverty has dropped an average of 19 percent.

As those farmers' incomes rise, they want to purchase American farm equipment, IT equipment. As they really rise, maybe a John Deere or a Ford. And given where I come from, if they really rise, maybe a Harley or a Trek. We believe in the power of private enterprise. We believe that private enterprise is the only sustainable way to lift lives, to build communities, and so we're working, dedicated to working, to find ways to ease the barriers for businesses to participate.

For example, from 2001 to 2013, USAID invested about $30 million to help Vietnam improve its domestic business regulatory environment and open its economy to foreign competition. Over that same time, we've seen U.S. exports to Vietnam increase from about $460 million to more than $10 billion today.

To better systemize our work supporting global trade, we have created something called the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation. The Alliance is our first public-private partnership specifically aimed at supporting efforts to eliminate red tape for all of you (inaudible). It's a new way to deliver assistance, and its a success in part due to the on-the-ground (inaudible) that our key partner, your very own CIPE, brings to the table.

Through the Alliance, we're joining with public bilateral donor companies and private sector companies, including several chamber members, to pool financial and in-kind resources for targeted technical assistance. For the first time, companies, through the Alliance, have a say in determining the countries their assistance dollars are being spent and what activities will actually take place.

We are using commercially meaningful measures, but to tie in cost to move goods across borders to ensure that we have an impact both on development, which is our mission, and business. In Vietnam, for example, the Alliance is working with high-level government officials in multiple ministries and the private sector to establish a new bond system which allow those to be cleared much more quickly, lowering the cost of business.

In Colombia, CIPE has led Alliance efforts with Colombia's national food and drug monitoring (inaudible). Next month, thanks to CIPE, a new automated clearing system will be launched which will make it easier for U.S. producers to import agricultural products into Colombia. And now, for the announcement.

Today, I'm announcing that we are expanding the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation from its initial pilot roster of four countries to 20, and we're especially excited because we believe that the new Alliance focus countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Sri Lanka -- they represent some of the most exciting opportunities and some of the most important emerging export markets worldwide.

This is good for business, but we believe it's just as good for development. Nothing attacks poverty, nothing lifts lives, nothing pushes back against hopelessness and despair, nothing better than inclusive economic growth. So, I hope the crux of my message is clear. The future of international development is enterprise-driven, and we at USAID, working with all of you, we will embrace it.

In the Trump administration, we believe the purpose of foreign assistance must be to end the need for its existence, and that only happens with the power of private enterprise. We're here to encourage the chamber and its members to join us in this effort and even make a buck or two along the way. So, thank you for all that you've done.

Thanks for your partnership. We're going to expand that partnership, and I think we're going to do it in ways that will be good for business, good for development, and really expand the those principles and values that bring us all here together. Thank you.

Last updated: November 14, 2017

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