Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield returned to public service earlier this year when President Joe Biden nominated her to represent the United States in the United Nations.
Veteran diplomats have had a 35-year career with the US Department of Foreign Affairs, including a key role in US policy towards sub-Saharan Africa and a leadership position in management within the Department of State. She was also an ambassador to Liberia and was stationed abroad in Kenya, The Gambia and Nigeria.
Thomas-Greenfield talks to VOA host Hayde Adams Straight talk africaDuring the US-Africa Business Summit on US policy on Africa, how regional countries are recovering from the pandemic, and why women should play a central role in their efforts.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
VOA: Earlier this year, we acknowledged that Africa has many challenges. Of course, there are many others such as COVID-19, poverty, terrorism and so on. But he also said that the Biden administration understands that it needs to focus on opportunities on the continent, not just challenges. What is the biggest opportunity the United States sees on the African continent today?
Linda Thomas Greenfield: Before COVID-19 hit Africa, the African economy was part of the fastest growing economy in the world. And six of the ten fastest-growing countries were on the African continent. As I mentioned here in the United States, I think these countries now have a lot of better reconstruction opportunities. And fairer growth, more diversity, more market-based transparent practices, and climate smart futures. We also need to focus on and add to the fairness of women, who were key players in the African continental market.
Let’s start with climate change. Climate change is a challenge for all of us around the world. But it also offers a great opportunity to create high-paying jobs on the African continent as the world moves to renewable energy and develops transformational technologies that help countries reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. .. We promise, for example, that developing countries will be able to regain more environmentally friendly through public climate financing. Africa with a population of 1.3 billion and a median age of 19 … African youth is probably one of its greatest resources. For example, youth tend to be considered a problem. But for African Continent, youth is an opportunity and an opportunity that African Continent needs to take advantage of.
VOA: Many African countries are now experiencing the worst surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths since the beginning of this pandemic, all primarily caused by delta mutations. What are the most worrisome pandemic trends you are seeing on the continent right now? And what is your assessment of how the African government responded to these twin health and economic crises?
Thomas-Greenfield: This pandemic had a devastating effect on the economies of African countries. Looking back over the last 18 months, it must be said that many of the actions African leaders have taken to confront COVID-19 early have been saved. Countless lives. Many of these countries have closed. Many of them already had experience dealing with pandemic-like conditions when they had to deal with Ebola.
However, the situation continued to worsen, especially in African countries, where the introduction of COVID vaccines made them inaccessible. And the countries began to decline, for example, because they were not prepared for the challenge of their very weak health care system. And I think the situation will get worse with the introduction of this new delta variant. You may know that President Biden has announced and pledged that the United States will be the weapon of vaccines in the world. I love the phrase. And we are not only here in the United States, but COVAX (Gavi, Vaccine Alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and World Health Organization) not only through bilateral donations of vaccines, but also to deliver as many vaccines as possible to the African Continent. To use. And we are not only fighting the disease, but also to ensure decades of development progress that the pandemic could resolve.
VOA: What is the United States happy to do to ensure that Africa is not left behind when economies around the world are about to recover beyond US opportunities and COVAX commitments on the African continent?
Thomas-Greenfield: We have a great program working with young people and women working with the Ministry of Finance to support the development agenda through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) as well as DFC (US Agency for International Development). Through contracts with the Corporation), the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund), we ensure that these countries are injected into the economy.
VOA: International organizations and civil society organizations have warned that all hard-earned progress in gender equality and women’s empowerment is now at risk of visceral removal. Can you help us understand what is at stake now, especially for women on the African continent? And do you think the setbacks we are encountering can be overcome in our lifetime?
Thomas-Greenfield: We must do everything we can to find a way to turn any experience women have in Africa right now. There are many risks, but it is for the whole family, not just women and girls. Because when women are empowered, we know that they empower families, empower communities, empower nations.
We work with these countries to get enough support for pandemics and an amazing number of women around the world who are forced to choose between work and family, health and business. You need to be able to. But I think that’s what we’ve seen, and what makes me so devastating. Early on, increasing child marriages, girl rape … girl sexual exploitation … school-age girls, statistics showing a significant increase in their numbers because they are not in school I saw that people are utilizing women and girls in these situations. … It turns out that COVID-19 seems to be reversing the benefits that girls have struggled with for decades, including access to education. … And that’s what we need to do to get the girl back into the classroom, not just to get the vaccine.
VOA: Women’s safety and girl education are probably among the most tragic consequences and tragic stories of this pandemic-affected group. Around the world, women have low incomes, low savings, unsafe jobs and potential employment in the informal sector, according to the UN Policy Summary on the Impact of COVID-19 on Women. It is said that it is expensive. Also, in some African countries, financial relief packages and social safety nets, such as those found in the United States and other Western countries, or this pandemic are women’s lives and livelihoods. In your view, what can the African government gain by including women in its economic recovery strategy, or what would it lose?
Thomas-Greenfield: The country now thinks that leaders are more aware of the importance of having women participate in their own development plans. Because when we invest in women, they invest in families, in communities, and in their countries. And in many of these countries, they make up 50% of the population. You can’t think of your country growing, ignoring 50% of your country. Therefore, these countries suffer significant losses if they do not include women in their development plans or in their investment efforts. They are losing what these women may contribute to their country. We have seen successful women-owned businesses across the African continent. And we understand that women have succeeded in building communities through civil society activities. But we also confirmed that they were affected by far more viruses than the rest of the population. Therefore, when we start, we need to be more careful than giving women in other ways to build these economies.
VOA: You are a longtime defender of gender equality. … Africa has a generation of well-educated but unemployed youth. They are struggling to overcome unprecedented uncertainties. They have been called the “pandemic generation.” What immediate investment can governments, businesses and the international community as a whole make in African youth, especially their girls? What kind of investment can you make today? Can it prepare them and build resilience to the next possible crisis?
Thomas-Greenfield: Given the fact that the median age of the African continent is 19, we started from there. And there are countries like Niger with a median age of 15. If you don’t focus on youth, you’re ignoring the country. Being half the population under the age of 19, I’m most proud of the work I’ve done, and the Obama administration (US President Barack) has done it to help young people across the African continent.
The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) will pay dividends on the African continent long after I left here. And that’s what we all have to make sure we keep investing. Invest in youth leadership, youth encouragement, and support for youth leadership in government, business, civil society and education. … We want them to be leaders in their community. We want them to be leaders in their business. We want to be leaders in their churches and schools. And they begin to develop the next generation of leaders on the continent. And that is the future of Africa.
VOA: Thank you to UN Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield and Ambassador Madam. Thank you so much for being here with me.
Thomas-Greenfield: Thank you. Again, I know that the future of Africa is bright. Because I know that there are many young people who are building their future with one brick at a time. And we will see the results of their work in the future.
United Nations Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield
Source link United Nations Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield