The U.S-Africa Leaders Summit commenced on Tuesday, 13th December, 2022, in the United States of America and will continue up to the 15th December, 2022. Close to 50 African Heads of State are in attendance as well as representatives of various organizations.
Among Heads of States invited by the United States Government, headed by President Joseph R. Biden, to grace the occasion, was the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Brigadier Rtd Julius Maada Bio.
Commendably, President Bio fell among twenty African Heads of States, chosen by the Joseph R. Biden administration, to deliver statements during the three days U.S-Africa Leaders.
The President ,in his address to the African and Diaspora Young Leaders Forum, during the US-Africa Leaders Summit held in Washington DC, extended warm greetings from Sierra Leone to all, further stating that he is really excited to be together in one room with leaders, policy makers, policy drivers, and most importantly, young leaders from both sides of the Atlantic.
He also extended gratitude to President Joe Biden and his administration for what he termed as a very unique opportunity of convening with African leaders of now and African leaders of the future.
“At several points in these discussions this morning, I am sure each speaker will highlight why cooperation among the Africa of now, the Africa of the future, the African Diaspora, and the United States of America are important,” he stated.
Speaking on the question, “does Africa matter,” President Bio informed the audience that he will simply state the assertion by the United Nations that Africa contains 30% of the earth’s mineral reserves including 40% of the world’s gold and 40% of its chromium and platinum, not to mention an even higher percentage of rare earth and other metals that are indispensable for developing and processing new and emerging technologies.
The President continued by saying add that to 12% of the World’s oil reserves and 8% of the world’s natural gas reserves plus the largest and most diverse climate ecosystem one will know that the world cannot make the progress it needs to make without Africa.
President Bio continued that as a quick aside, he must hasten to add that Africa and Africans were critical to the success of the first Industrial Revolution – they involuntarily provided centuries of labour to power that industrial revolution.
“They were largely recipients of the second and third Industrial Revolutions,” he factually stated maintaining that with the Fourth Industrial Revolution holding out such immense prospects for Africa’s socio-economic transformation, are we consciously planning for Africa’s participation and making the right policies and right digital infrastructure investments at scale?
Dilating on the human capital development of Africa, President Bio said by 2050, it is projected that one in three young people in the world will live in Africa.
He added that by 2030, it is further projected, half the population of Africa will be less than 25 and he then posed the questions:So what do we do with these numbers? How do we make shared investments in this youth bulge?
President told the August gathering that Sierra Leone has prioritized investing in education, healthcare, and food security.
“We believe that providing every child, especially girls, with free quality education will equip them with the skills they require for participation in an inclusive and sustainable future global economy,” he maintained adding that girls studying STEM disciplines are guaranteed tuition-free education from nursery through university.
The President informed how Sierra Leone has passed progressive laws that enrich society and democracy including a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment bill, abolished the death penalty, repealed criminal libel laws and opened up spaces for journalism and civil society, decongested prisons, clamped down hard on sexual and gender-based violence and more.
“An educated population in a well-governed society in which the Government invests in people, we believe, is essential for building and consolidating a vibrant, free, progressive, inclusive, and just society,” he underscored.
The President said, furthermore, an educated population will also be well-primed to tackle shared global challenges that have manifested themselves lately in lethal combination – global financial crises and disruptions including food insecurity, global health and national health, migration especially of youth populations, the impact of emerging technologies on our societies, and the persistent risk of climate change.
He said that’s the opportunity and continued that with the ongoing World Cup, it is perhaps appropriate to draw attention to a quote by one of the game’s greatest legends, Pelé, who once stated that, “no individual can win a game by himself.”
The President said no one country can solve the world’s numerous interlocking challenges maintaining that our recognition that the world is helplessly interlinked and that we face interlocking challenges is a good start reiterating that he is therefore very pleased and grateful for the gathering.
He said for starters, education and innovation sector financing will help address skills deficits among Africa’s young people and have multiplier effects for economic growth.
“I am a great believer in education for personal development, community and national development, and for building more resilient economies and democracies,” he said enjoining that together they can also think about structured ways of mobilizing, harnessing, or transferring diaspora resources and the tremendous reserves of diaspora skills and knowledge.
He said together they can develop adaptable models for green investments and just energy transitions.
“Together, we can develop better food production systems to tackle food insecurity and help mitigate biodiversity loss and together, we can build more robust and resilient health systems,” he energized but said all of that starts from open dialogues like these.
According to the President, Henry Ford said it very well – that “coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”
He said there is a whole lot we can do very well together through productive partnerships as Governments, and with multilateral institutions, the private sector, civil society, and coalitions of young people such as they have in their midst expressing hope that the convention is a propitious start.
President Bio highlighted that the most transformative and nation or world-changing events begin when we make bold choices, ask “Why not?” and let those bold choices happen.
“Strong partnerships where all strategies and goals are well-aligned and transparent from the outset are therefore critical in all of this,” President Julius Maada Bio maintained.
# Courtesy of the Calabash Newspaper
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