African Women Leaders: Their Role in Promoting Investment, Trade and Peace
Hosted by Ambassador Sheila Siwela of Zambia
Photos | Transcript

Washington, DC—On July 13, 2011, WFPG members and guests gathered at the Embassy of Zambia to recognize the women ambassadors from Africa. Host Ambassador Sheila Siwela was joined by her colleagues Ambassador Tebelelo Seretse of Botswana, Ambassador Fatima Veiga of Cape Verde, Ambassador Faida Mitifu of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ambassador Amelia Sumbana of Mozambique for a discussion moderated by WFPG President Patricia Ellis.

In her opening remarks, Ambassador Siwela spoke about the current rapid economic growth in Africa, and emphasized the role of African women in creating it. She said "it's important to recognize the important role of the African women in the midst of all these developmental strides on the continent, otherwise we'll be forever invisible." Women do the majority of domestic and agricultural work in Africa, work which is often under-appreciated. Women who want to become entrepreneurs face many challenges, including a lack of access to credit, male-biased inheritance laws, weak IT skills, and a low tolerance of risk. To help women overcome these hurdles, Secretary Clinton launched the African Women's Entrepreneurs Program, which provides support to women producing exportable goods and sponsors an annual forum to share ideas and collaborate. AWEP's 2011 forum was held in Lusaka, Zambia. Siwela added that women ambassadors in US can create opportunities for women by facilitating relationships between their country and the US.

The Ambassadors of Botswana, Cape Verde, DRC, and Mozambique joined Ambassador Siwela for a discussion on South Sudan, famine and food security, and the role of China in Africa. They expressed support for South Sudan, but also acknowledged the challenges that the new nation will face. Ambassador Mitifu said, "we as neighbors, we as an international community at large, we have the moral duty of accompanying the people of Southern Sudan." On famine in Eastern Africa and food security, Mitifu praised the quick response of the World Food Programme. Siwela advocated a bottom-up approach to ensure long-term food security, emphasizing that "for the beginning of all development, for anybody to be productive, you must eat food." Ambassador Viega mentioned several regional and US programs that aid agricultural development and food security.

The growth of foreign investment in Africa generated a lively discussion. The ambassadors agreed that they welcome competition amongst investors, as it gives African countries a stronger negotiating position. Chinese investment is particularly valued for its focus on expanding infrastructure, which facilitates the movement of people and goods to markets. Several ambassadors acknowledged potential drawbacks to foreign investment. Ambassador Seretse drew attention to how SMEs—many of which are women-owned—can be hurt by the influx of cheap foreign goods. She emphasized the need to pass laws to protect local markets. When asked what US investors should do to remain competitive in Africa, Ambassador Mitifu praised US companies for their corporate responsibility programs. The ambassadors also urged the US to expand trade agreements such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act. As Ambassador Sumbana said, "[W]e need you, but we need you to face the challenges which are in Africa. Sometimes those who come earlier are those who get the best."


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Ambassador Faida Mitifu
of the Democratic Republic
of Congo
  Ambassador Amelia Sumbana of Mozambique   Ambassador Tebelelo Seretse of Botswana   Ambassador Fatima Veiga
of Cape Verde


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Ambassador Siwela greets WFPG President Patricia Ellis

  Ambassadors of Zambia, Mozambique, Cape Verde,
Botswana, and the DRC with Patricia Ellis

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Ambassador Seretse makes remarks

  WFPG members and guests listening to the program

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Board Member Carolyn Brehm; Allan Jury, World Food
Program; Jane Nankwenya, DCM of the Embassy of Malawi;
and Board Member Donna Constantinople with Patrica Ellis

  Ambassador Siwela with Patricia Ellis and
Board Members Donna Constantinople and Isabel Jasinowski

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Ambassador Veiga speaks with Ambassador John Negroponte
and Board Member Diana Negroponte

  Mamadou Beye of Chevron during the Q&A

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Ambassador Siwela speaks with guests during the reception

  Ambassador Veiga with Corporate Advisory Council
Member Heather Pederson of Boeing

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Board Member Dawn Calabia speaking with
Corporate Advisory Council Member
Otubea Asare of Pfizer Inc.

  Ambassador Sumbana with Member Ellen Levinson

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Ambassador Seretse with WFPG Pro
Bono Counsel Sarah Kahn
  Ambassador Siwela with Allan Jury
of the World Food Program