Monday, June 17, 2024

This is Africa’s Moment; Seizing Opportunity to turn Poverty into Prosperity


File: Sebastian Kopulande talks to Indian high commissioner

Speech by Mr. Sebastian Kopulande, Chief Executive Officer, ZambianInternational Trade and Investment Centre at the US-Africa Business Executives Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, February 14, 2011

Today, we the people of Africa have come to Las Vegas, Nevada at this epoch-making US-Africa Business Executives Convention, not to live up to our past reputation of empty hats begging for external fill-up while offering apologies and apportioning blame for our poverty. This time around, we have come from all corners of our continent and the Diaspora to seek partnerships based on the principles of mutuality and complementarity.

We are here determined to change the course of our development path; to give and to receive. In my tradition, we call this the spirit of “Insaka”, premised on the longstanding African values of sharing; each party bringing to the table the best they can offer and receiving the best they can get. There are no winners; and neither are there losers. All the parties benefit from each other in a relationship of mutual respect and interdependency. America is often referred to as the land of opportunity and the land of big ideas. And there is probably no better evidence of that than our host city; Las Vegas, Nevada. Look at the buildings around us, including our own Bally’s hotel, and you cannot help but witness the “Big Idea” mentality. In fact, when one thinks of America, the mind conjures a country larger in size than the continent of Africa. And yet the truth is that Africa—at 30 million square kilometres in area—is larger in size than China, the US, Western Europe, India, Argentina, the Scandinavian countries; and, the British Isles COMBINED! Without a doubt, the United States is a very big country. But America, though the most powerful country in the world, is only about three-tenths the size of Africa. And Zambia, my home country, is slightly larger than the State of Texas, the second largest state in America.

I dwell on this important point to emphasis the power of big ideas. Americans think big and have, as a result, done very big things; including being the host country to many of the technological innovations that have accelerated human progress. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a goal to land a man on the moon by the end of that decade and return him safely to earth. On July 20, 1969, Apollo11 accomplished that goal. This lofty goal was accomplished through an unparalleled combination of skills, resources and project management effort. But it all started with an idea; a very big idea. The time has come now, and is perhaps long overdue, for yet another very big idea: to end Africa’s “pariah status” and usher in a new era of Partnership, Progress and Prosperity for the world’s second largest continent. The key issue is that Africa has long positioned itself as a beggar or receiver of aid. Indeed, to many in the world, Africa remains a “basket case”. Political independence came to many African countries in four waves starting in the 1950’s and ending in 1994. In the early 1990s, a wave of political liberalization swept the continent to usher in a new era of democratic governance. Despite these developments, African countries have struggled to translate their newfound political freedoms into economic growth and improved welfare. Numerous international efforts to integrate Africa into the mainstream of international trade have come to nothing and the continent still remains on the periphery of global economic advancement. Explanations offered for this paradox include, among other things, delayed democratization, restrictive domestic policies and structural imbalances in the international trade regime. The more recent complement to the political liberalization of the 1990s, inmany African countries, has been economic liberalization through the elimination of trade restrictions, capital controls and other distortions and impediments to entrepreneurship and commerce. As a result of all these developments, many African countries stand more ready now than ever before, to take their seat at the table of international opportunity and to make a real and lasting contribution to global economic growth and welfare.

What we have come to say to the world from Las Vegas at this convention,therefore, is that Africa’s moment has come. We have come to this conference with a hunger, not for food or hand-outs, but with a passion to make a difference for ourselves and for our partners in trade and investment. Simply put, we are MAD. M-A-D as in “Make a Difference”; and we are focused on the goal of taking the opportunities that lie buried in the minds, hopes and dreams of the peoples of Africa and translating them into a lasting prosperity that will benefit not only Africans but the entire world because of the intimate connectedness, interdependency or globalisation, of today’s world.

The practical steps that will make this happen include:

a) Enhancing the financial, managerial and technological capacity of African SMEs and enabling them to meeting the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Standards in order to increase their ability to access the US market;

b) Building value-addition capacity in African economies catapult them from continued exports of primary agricultural products and commodities to finished goods and services;

c) Investment in infrastructure to boost value chains and, hence, stimulate productivity and competitiveness;

d) Better engagement of civil society to incorporate the grassroots, including rural women, the disabled and other marginalized groups. Indeed, I am pleased to note that civil society is represented by several of the delegates here to give voice to these vulnerable groups.We believe that the goal to change Africa’s fortunes for the better is not a zero-sum game in which Africa gains at the expense of others. Rather we believe that it is a win-win proposition in which all nations—especially those whichengage Africa directly and constructively as the US has sought to do more and more intently for several years now—will benefit.

Examples of America’s constructive engagement include:

• the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which was signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and extended to 2015 by President GeorgeW. Bush when he signed the AGOA Acceleration Act in 2004;

• the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), a foreign aid agency created by President Bush which has brought a very innovative approach to the fightagainst global poverty;

• the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a commitmentcreated by President Bush to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic which is, arguably, “the largest health intervention ever initiated by one country toaddress a disease”.

One good turn deserves another and we in Africa recognize and appreciate these interventions and wish to respond with the goodwill, tenacity and industry that they represent. Hence, we come here today to offer opportunity to America for an engagement than will benefit both players. Today, we come to America so we canstart the process of re-engagement. We come with SMEs seeking joint venture partnerships, seeking markets to sell their products and looking for technology toimprove their productivity and service delivery. We bring our natural resources and invite you, America, to invest in our economies for our shared future. We are, in short, in search of long-lasting relationships for better, no room for worse, for with Africa’s opportunities in manufacturing, housing development, mining, energy, tourism, agriculture, you name it, and America’s immense resource powerand technological genius, there can be no space for bad moments. We seek a business marriage and so, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY.

Simple examples of the win-win outcomes we envisage from our response andfrom the overall betterment of Africa that will result include the following:

1. Emigration – with improvements in welfare and economic opportunity at home Africans will have a stronger incentive to stay at home which will reduce population pressure on the wealthy, but land-poor, regions of the world. This is not to suggest in any way that the emigration of Africans is, in itself, a bad thing. But many Africans in the Diaspora will confirm that given the choice, they would prefer to live in their home countries. As the popular saying goes, “East or West, home is best”;

2. Climate Change – trade, investment and related knowledge transfers in agriculture, energy and other sectors will result in beneficial changes in land and forest-use which will, in the medium to long-term, reduce net global emissions. This will only be sustainable, however, if ordinary Africans are empowered by allowing them the voice and economic opportunity they need to give them a sense of common destiny and shared ownership;

3. Defence and Security – in this day and age, a very real and present danger for many countries is the threat of terrorism. It is widely acknowledged and understood by thinkers and policy makers alike that the despair, desperation and discontentment that can result from poverty create an easy pool of candidates for terrorist recruitment. At the domestic level, unemployment andpoverty fuel crime and civil disturbances that present unnecessary barriers to local economic development and to international trade and cooperation.

4. Democratization – Global stability and international cooperation depend on democratic governance as a platform for economic liberalization and its attendant benefits. As we have witnessed in many countries, however,democracy is only stable where people have a real stake in the economy—through property ownership and sustainable livelihoods—and where their rights, assets and incomes are protected by the rule of law. In short, therefore, what we are saying is, if Africa—the world’s second largest continent—wins, the whole world wins! This is, indeed, Africa’s Moment. We are determined to seize the opportunity and forever change our continent’s fortunes, and those of the world we share with our brothers and sisters everywhere. Yes, Africa is the future. China knows this. India knows that. America MUSTknow this.I wish you all an informative and fruitful conference and, once again, a very happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you.


  1. Africa has corrupted people and leaders like RB, Chiluba and others from other countries. Africa will never develop unless every citizen stop practicing corruption and focus on important issues of developing the poor continent. Even the guy giving this speech in Vegas has 100% corrupt ideas to swindle the American investors. The all speech is BS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. this was a great speech its as perfect as it can be. highly inspirational and truly factual. africa togather with india and china are the future.

  3. America is not the solution to development of Zambia. Zambia needs a corrupt free and serious leaders if it were to develop. Fight corruption and all will be well.

  4. #5 Hantoboolo you got the points and if all these leaders and citizens of African can change and become corruption free minds, then Africa will has a chance.

  5. Corruption is a sign of Africans main aliment, you wipe put corruption with out tackling the main aliment, you will not solve our problem, Africas main aliment is lazyness and lack of sacrifice in the form of hard work. Instead of having a soild hard work ethic pipo are lazy and want qick money leading to corruption. Africa needs a revolution in teaching our kids in primary education. We need a culture sacrifice like the chines under mao. Instead we have misguided folks wanting high min wage for little or no sweat. We have Africans who forget Zambia is bush with much work to do they expect same standards as were they are in the west, You can blame corruption all centuary but until you develop a work ethic development shall remain but a fleeting illussion. To be persued but never attained.

  6. cont..from # 7
    Blaming our misery and lack of development on corruption is like living among mosquito bredding pools and fighing the mosquito plague with madicines and nets. You will not solve the problem. You need to drain the breeding pools to solve the problems. like wise tackle our blas’e work ethic and all will fall in place.

  7. Good article. “There are no winners; and neither are there losers” I think this needed to read there are no losers; it’s a win win situation or vice versa. Yes, once we get rid of RB and his government and begin to implement the 4 points outlined (which are pretty basic and essential in a democracy) above, then only can we place Zambia back on the map.

  8. #5&6 you are living in a dream world. corruption in general is everywhere in the including in china, usa canada, europe. if you are waiting for that day to came well, good etenity wait. Bostwans , SA Namiba, Mauritius are some of the african coutries doing well. Russia, Ukraine, china are also doing well. do you think its because they have a corruption free leadership.? these countries have been doing well because of the policies they are following. am sure will will say doing UNIP there was less corrupt leaders how came we went nearly bankrupt as a country.

  9. I do agree with no 10 but what misses in our nation, are laws yes good laws to protect our people from crooks who plander our wealth in the name of being our govt leaders. all humans are corrupt to the cole but it is the good laws that keep thieves at bay ..but the way things are in our country now we are oppen to all abuse . in zambia no minister has ever been imprisoned for stealing ,those convicted end up with big positions in govt

  10. Great speech indeed!
    To translate such visions in reality reaquires a political will like that exhibited by the Late LPM.
    Current leadership and some of those in waiting really leaves much to be desired.
    Grassroots people should learn to report corrupt officers like Police and other Civil servants and punishment must be stern for all found wanting.
    Currently,the Judiciary needs a serious overhaul.

  11. #7-8 KC spot on.All i see is a “how can i make it with no hard work” mentality.How come asians & other non natives make it in “corrupt zambia”?Do we really try hard enough?-NO.Corruption is a “make it with no work” illness.Russia & Italy are very corrupt but richer due to a work ethic.Even here in “land of opportunity” i see many poor african americans idlers whose only dream of big payday is either sports or music.The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.

  12. Uku kwali fye amarabishi, fyonse ifi fya bu puti. I think here they are trying to sugar coat everything
    I know this organization they just con people, nothing will yeald from this, here we go again poor
    Zambian are dribbled. Balazo imwe, cha chine Lazo ni Lazo

  13. I Totally agree with 10 and11 we have to clean our systems if we are ever to benefit from our resources.Look at our remaining parastatals like ZISC Where the officials there can sit on ZAMTEL PENSIONS for a year without paying it to the deserving former employees with the leadership watching. What message does this send to the investors Mr kopulande is trying to lure to Zambia. Your guess is as good as mine.

    • I doubt very much if you will be old enough until you are sitexen. Certainly I would not let my daughter go until at least that age.Incidentally, how, then, did you become a member of this forum when you have to be at least 15 to join?References :

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