Administrator Samantha Power Meets with President Hakainde Hichilema

Speeches Shim

Friday, July 1, 2022

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I want to thank President Hichilema and his team for his gracious hospitality in welcoming me and my delegation to Zambia, and to the State House.

I had the opportunity to speak with you not long after you were elected by telephone, and you invited me to Zambia then. It took me a while to get here, but I am – I can't tell you how inspired I am by my experience so far in talking to the Zambian people. It's every bit as beautiful a country as you promised, as the chief marketing officer that you are, and the warmth and generosity of the people who have greeted me and my team cannot be overstated. So I just – I really want to thank you.

I also want to just pull back, if I can, briefly here from Zambia's own circumstances, to describe some of the dynamics around democracy globally. Because what is happening in Zambia is really unusual, where we have here an effort fueled by young people who have given President Hichilema and your administration a mandate to strengthen the rule of law, strengthen democratic accountability, strengthen media freedom – fight corruption. This kind of mandate, this kind of agenda is not something we are seeing hardly anywhere. One of the journalists who came to an agricultural site visit that we did earlier today, asked me – why did I choose to come to Zambia? And I said, well, President Biden is really interested in dedicating resources and political engagement to places that are on the frontlines of fighting for a more democratic world, a more free world, a more prosperous world, of course.

And that is what is at stake in Zambia. That is what is at stake in the reform agenda that so many of you are seeking to advance. And as the president and I just had a chance to talk about briefly, we cannot afford – we, the democratic world – cannot afford for Zambia not to succeed. It's not an option. You have to succeed above all, because it will be of such great benefit to the dignity and prosperity of your people, and we want to and have to support you as you seek to do that in whatever ways, again, you think appropriate. But I can't tell you how much what is happening here matters in other parts of the world. In places where corrupt actors are getting more sophisticated in hiding away the natural resources they have stolen from their people, in places where the judiciary is getting more and more politicized, in places where really restrictive NGO laws are being put in place to curb the actions of civil society.

So, Mr. President, your victory inspired the world. You heard President Biden talk about it in his General Assembly address before the entire world at the United Nations. You and your people have really gotten all of our attention. And, of course, what greeted you when you came to office 10 months ago is a really difficult set of interlocking crises. A pandemic that seems it will never end, inflation exacerbated by Russia's war on Ukraine, but inflation that pre-dated that war as well, supply chain challenges, shifts in climate that make the agricultural sector more complex to navigate than it was before. And then in your case, of course, inheriting so much debt and so much corruption from prior administrations, making all of that really, really challenging to tackle.

But I'm really struck that in less than a year you have cut inflation, as I understand it, by almost half, exposed corruption, moved to unwind unprofitable state run businesses, kickstarted a debt relief negotiation with the IMF and the G20, and really begun this work of ushering in this new dawn for this country. And I think that we know from history that the most important window for reform is usually the first year or two, and notwithstanding, again, these global dynamics that make maintaining this progress challenging; there are a lot of headwinds coming at Zambia and so many reformers who are trying, again, to change the operating environment here.

I just want to stress on behalf of President Biden that we are here with you through thick and thin to support you, to support the priorities that you and the Zambian people have articulated, and to enact the key reforms in your agenda. We also recognize that there needs to be an economic dividend on democratic reform. And that's why I'm personally, as the vice chair of the Development Finance Corporation, so heartened that we were able recently to launch a $20 million loan guarantee for small- and medium-sized enterprises. We want to supercharge lending, responsible lending, to underrepresented borrowers.

As a board member of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, I'm thrilled that Alice Albright was able to visit here and in order to discuss what a second compact would look like; we know the good that the first compact has done. And we at USAID will also contribute resources, about $4 million in the narrow democratization space to help tackle misinformation and advance some of the legal and policy reforms that we'll be talking about in this meeting: election transparency, integrity, things of that nature. But we also, again, recognize that the best way to reinforce democratic political reform is for that economic dividend to occur. And so today I shared, Mr. President, that we are going to invest an additional $9 million to help Zambians deal with the immediate effects of the high food, fuel, and fertilizer prices that they are facing. We really have embraced your vision for a Zambia that becomes a leading agricultural exporter in the region and well beyond. And we know that USAID, we hope, can play a critical role when you and your team identify places where that funding can be catalytic. We want to help make that happen.

The other thing we announced today is a new $30 million trade boost program. And that, again, is about enhancing the enabling environment here so that we can attract investors, but also making sure that we are using our networks globally to connect Zambian producers and businesses with the export markets that they have yet to penetrate, but where we know Zambia's goods and produce can make a major difference, including, by the way, in meeting food insecurity needs, which are growing in light of the conflict.

So those are just a few examples of how we want to fall in behind this reform agenda in catalytic ways, recognizing that the democratic world cannot afford anything other than success here in Zambia – no pressure – but that also the democratic world has an interest in bringing more than words, but also bringing resources to this agenda that you have laid out. So thank you, Mr. President, so much.

Last updated: July 01, 2022

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