USAID Administrator Mark Green's Press Roundtable

Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

For Immediate Release

Thursday, August 31, 2017
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email:
MR. MCCLESKEY:  Well, good evening, everybody.  Thanks for coming.  We have Administrator Mark Green of USAID, who's going to speak to you on the record this evening.  He'll open with a statement, and then we'll go to questions.  Thanks again for being here, and, Administrator Green?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Great, thank you.  Good evening.  Thanks to all of you for making it through the rain to come here, I appreciate it.  I've had a couple of great days so far here in Ethiopia, and I'd like to begin by thanking the people of Ethiopia for their incredible hospitality.  Beautiful country -- it's not my first time here, but every time I come back I'm just -- I feel a great sense of welcome.  So, it -- my thanks go out.  This is my first trip abroad as the Administrator of USAID, and I'm glad that that first trip was to Africa.  It's a continent with which, as some of you know, I have a close personal relationship.  It is a very special place for me and my family.  My father was born in South Africa, my grandfather was a South African journalist, so be gentle to me --
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  -- for my grandfather's sake, if nothing else.  My wife and I taught school together in Kenya, 30-plus years ago, and my children have Kenyan middle names.  And people have asked me why it was that I did that, and it was largely so they might ask themselves when they got to be older why their parents chose that.  And maybe that would cause them to come to this beautiful continent and to see for themselves.  In addition, I had the honor of serving as the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and at one time served on the board of directors of Millennium Challenge Corporation.  And most of the MCC's programs were also in Africa.  And now my relationship with Africa grows as I lead USAID and work with our partners across the continent.
I'd like to briefly tell you a little bit about why I'm here and what my vision is for foreign assistance, and then I'm happy to take questions and to hear from you.  As I've been saying in my meetings with government officials and partners all week long, I truly believe that the purpose of foreign assistance should be to end its need to exist.  I don't view development in humanitarian assistance as a gift or a handout. I view it as a hand up.  I believe passionately in the dignity of each and every human being; I believe that every human being wants to build a brighter future for him or herself and children.  And that every country wants to lead itself into a brighter future.  We want to help people stand on their own two feet and build their own futures, and that's what I hope our assistance can play a useful role in.
I came on this trip to listen and to learn -- to learn how we most effectively and efficiently leverage our development resources to promote opportunity and self-reliance.  The American people are generous, and they have entrusted USAID with their precious taxpayer dollars.  It is my job to make sure that we make that money go as far as it can, that we invest that money well, and that we do so in a way that gets the greatest impact possible from each and every dollar.  So, on this trip I've been exploring both humanitarian assistance as well as longer-term development.  As you may know, the U.S. is the world's humanitarian leader, and we're not going to walk away from our commitment to help people in need.
Earlier today, I announced nearly $91 million in additional humanitarian assistance to the people of Ethiopia, which brings the total of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia for this fiscal year up to $454 million U.S. dollars.  During my visit I have encouraged the government of Ethiopia to respond robustly to food insecurity, and especially at a time when humanitarian needs, including malnutrition, are on the rise.  Today, in my meeting with the Prime Minister, I applauded the Governor of Ethiopia's response to the 2015-2016 drought, and I urged the government to provide a commensurate level of funding and attention to the current drought.  The U.S. will continue providing assistance for vulnerable people, but we believe firmly that host country partners must also be willing to step up during these crises.
But even as we continue to provide assistance to those in immediate need, we must also work to help build resilience so that people and countries' regions are less susceptible to climate shocks and other natural crises and, ultimately, are no longer in need of humanitarian assistance.  I've seen firsthand here in the Ethiopia the results that we can achieve when we're -- we work on this together.  The United States remains committed to partnering with Ethiopians to obtain a brighter future where Ethiopia succeeds as a strong partner in promoting economic opportunity, advancing democratic values, and supporting regional stability.  Yesterday, we had a trip to the Somali region.  There I announced that the U.S. had selected Ethiopia as one of 12 Feed the Future countries, which aims to increase food security through targeted investments and agricultural capacity building.
Ethiopia was chosen along with the 11 other countries based not only on need but what we saw as an opportunity for partnership and progress.  Through Feed the Future and other development initiatives, we hope to address the root causes of hunger and poverty by equipping Ethiopians and people in the other target countries with the tools to feed themselves.  Feed the Future is also helping small businesses grow by leveraging private sector capital and addressing -- accessing new technologies.  It's this development partnership model that I want to expand, where the U.S. works with our private sector and the private sector in our host countries, as well as host country governments, to leverage our resources to give people to build -- give people an opportunity to build a better future for themselves and for their families.
So, as I said, I'm thankful for the opportunity to be here, be back in Africa, and I look forward to take the lessons that I'm still learning and bring them back with me to Washington.  So, thanks again to all of you for being here, and I look forward to your questions.
MR. MCCLESKEY:  Great, and my colleague Nick Barnett from the U.S. Embassy isgoing to help with moderating the questions, and will call first question.
MR. BARNETT:  I know we had an earlier question out of standard?
QUESTION:  Thank you, thank you.  My first question is really simple.  There was [inaudible] after the USA's car was seen carrying a -- some military personnel, so my -- the U.S. Embassy is aware of that.
QUESTION:  So, what is your reaction to that?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  I'll refer you to the -- I have nothing to add to the -- to the U.S. Embassy's statement.
MR. BARNETT:  So, just to -- just to repeat, there is no proof of those claims.
MR. BARNETT:  There's no verification of that, but, as the Administrator said today in a meeting with the Prime Minister, we do take the properties of our funding seriously; that's something that we work with all of our partners on, including foreign governments, and it's no different in Ethiopia.  So, while we do look into these claims, this one has not been verified.
QUESTION:  Thanks very much.  You earlier mentioned that you -- that you -- [inaudible] today.   Can you tell me for what purpose [inaudible] projects?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  The $91 million in humanitarian assistance?
QUESTION:  Yeah.  Humanitarian assistance.
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Well, again, it is -- our humanitarian assistance is aimed at addressing immediate needs, but also looking for ways to foster resilience and to help build the capacity of Ethiopia to withstand future shocks.  So, you know, we believe that our obligation in humanitarian assistance is to stand with people in their moment of crisis and to respond immediately.  We believe that we also have an obligation to spend those dollars, invest those dollars, as effectively and as efficiently as we can.
But we also want to make sure that we work with our host country partners to build resilience, to bring in their resources -- which we believe is their obligation -- to bring in their own resources, to fully address needs today and in the future.
MR. BARNETT:  Yes, Reuters.
QUESTION:  I'd like to ask you what your impression is so far, the way the Ethiopia is handling the response to the drought this year, having spent record amounts last year.  In your speech you say -- said you encourage the government to respond robustly, however, there is some contradictions as to how the government has dealt with [inaudible].  Initially, a few months ago, some humanitarian embassies in the drought sites said that the pipeline [inaudible].  The government subsequently denied this and said it has its own resources to spend.  What is your impression so far?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  In my meeting with the Prime Minister, we brought up the subject of the needs that are out there.  Again, first I rightly complimented the government for its response to the drought in 2015 and 2016, and also the efforts that have been done in recent years to build resilience.  I think we all recognize that, even in the face of this drought, Ethiopia is in a better place than it was not so long ago, being able to withstand those shocks.  But I indicated that we saw a need for the government to do more and to become more involved both in humanitarian assistance and to resilience building.  And the Prime Minister agreed that the government has an important and increasing role to play.  And so we talked about that, the obligation on both sides.  I also talked with him about what I had seen in the Somali region, and what I saw as the great promise of some of the resilience projects, the Jijiga Export Slaughterhouse, which is doing -- exporting meat to the Middle East and is doing world-class work as a meat processor, the Somali Microfinance Institution, which is creating new ways for everyday Ethiopians to have access to finance and credit, the Qumen Fodder Cooperative, which is creating the ability for Ethiopians to have fodder for livestock off-cycle.
And I brought those up and talked to the Prime Minister about what I had seen and how, in my view and our view, it is time to really invest more and more in those types of projects to, again, help address immediate needs but, again, also to strengthen the capacity of the country in the face of what can happen in the future.
QUESTION:  So, in other words, you [inaudible] response to this year.
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  I don't think I said that.
MR. BARNETT:  I think we have a question from VOA.
QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  You mentioned that Ethiopian Government to create more political space.  What was the Prime Minister's statement on that, and what [inaudible]?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Are you talking about political space?
QUESTION:  You [inaudible] create more political space and what was the Prime Minister's statement on that?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  The Prime Minister, I think, recognizes the need for increasing space for dialogue, in terms of promoting responsive government.  What I said to him, and I said elsewhere is, we look at what countries need around the world to strengthen their ability to deliver for their people.  Responsive governance and a place for people to come together from differing points of view and to share ideas openly and publicly.  History shows us that that's vitally important, and so our view is that the government should continue to foster that and do more and more.  We think it is good for Ethiopia, and we think it is the right thing to do.
MR. BARNETT:  Yes, could you let us know which outlet you're representing?
QUESTION:  My question relates to Power AFrica.  I understand it's been four years since the use of [inaudible] was announced, but we don't hear much about it, especially in [inaudible].  It's a progress.  We are [inaudible] Power Africa [inaudible].
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Be happy to get back with you with some of the numbers, but I think Power Africa has been tremendously successful, both in terms of kilowatts produced, projects concluded, harnessing the strength of the private sector, as well as working with governments to undergo the kinds of market reforms that make them more attractive for future investment, so I think "Power Africa" has been successful.  You're right, it's still a young program, but I predict you will see more and more in terms of announceable projects.
MR. BARNETT:  Yes.  Could you introduce yourself please?
QUESTION:  [Inaudible].  I want to ask you about President Trump's proposed cut for PEPFAR and I want to ask you what it means for Africa.
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Well, what I can tell you is that we are obviously in a time when we don't have all the resources that we would like to have.  We will never have enough resources to meet every need.  But what we are trying to do, and one of the reasons that I am in the region, is to look for ways to be as effective as we can in the moneys that we do spend.  I, this morning in fact, visited a PEPFAR project, the orphans and vulnerable children side in particular, and was very impressed with what I saw, not only because it was built upon some American investments through the PEPFAR program, but because of how Ethiopian leaders and community leaders have now put in their own resources and how it has become an increasingly important partner.
So with respect to our assistance programs, our global health programs, as you know we are I believe the largest global health provider, we're looking for ways to make those dollars go even further and we're also looking for ways to better tap into the partnerships that are there with the private sector.  And also, we're looking for ways for our host countries to build their capacity and their involvement in -- not just on the -- on the aid side but throughout the Ministry of Health and health challenges.
QUESTION:  But aren't you concerned because of the [inaudible]?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  We will never have enough money to do everything we want to do is very clear.  But what I am impressed with is how much is being achieved.
MR. BARNETT:  Washington Post.
QUESTION:  Hi.  Paul Shemm, Washington Post.  When I talked of some of the other humanitarian aid partners about six months ago, when the current drought started really gearing up, one of the things they talked about was just the massive role the United States has in humanitarian assistance in this part of the world.  And, you know, talking about numbers like 50 percent of the humanitarian food aid for South Sudan and then, you know, a string of other things.  And then, you know, these cuts that are being talked about.  And obviously the future is resilience.  But it just seems certainly with these accelerating droughts that we're getting for various -- for whatever reason one decides to call it it seems that there's still a huge importance humanitarian aid.  And, you know, is the United States still going to be this donor of last resort that comes up with the money when no one else can?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  I'm not sure we're even the donor of last resort.  We're often the donor of first resort.
QUESTION:  Well, first resort.  Sorry, the one who always comes up with the money.
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Yeah, and I'm not meaning to be picky with you because I don't disagree with the thrust of what you're saying.  Look, you know, I've often said that as I've come into this job which is now less than 30 days I believe still, what has been the greatest realization that I've had is the sheer level of need that is out there on the humanitarian side.  My background, my career's been largely on the development side from being a teacher all the way through.  But I look at the humanitarian needs, the food insecurity that we see, not just in this region, but in many other regions.  And it really is unprecedented.
And so the U.S. continues to be the largest provider of humanitarian assistance.  And I think the American people support that.  I think they believe that that is a projection of what we hold important.  But it is also, you know, leading us to ask our partners to do more as well.  And we are.  And our partners including host country governments.  So the needs are definitely there.  The U.S. will not back away.  There is tremendous support back in the U.S., bipartisan support for humanitarian assistance.  But, you know, the foundation of your question is a good one.  I mean, the needs are immense.  They really are.  And that's part of what I've been seeing and one of the reasons that I've come to this part of the world in my first trip.
MR. BARNETT:  Another question from VOA.
QUESTION:  Will you call on other partners and government to do more, to step up and do more?  Is that the sort of concern, that they have not been, you know, been contributing their share?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  We're asking them to do more.  Every country will have to decide based upon its own policies, priorities, and values, you know, what is enough.  But we are asking our partners to help and do more because the needs are huge.  The needs are there.  So we will continue those calls as we do our part and we'll continue to do our part.
MR. MCCLEKSEY:  Yes, Lesley.
QUESTION:  Can I follow-up on that.  I'm interested to hear from you some remarks you made this morning about, you know, countries like Ethiopia that have grown and become emerging markets.  And some would say well, you know, they don't need as much aid and they probably could fend for themselves when it comes to humanitarian assistance.  And you were speaking today with the envoy to the prime minister.  And he said that that's where they aim to be.  So how much of this will the budget cuts and the way you look at a new way of providing development assistance is about re-calibrating and to fit in with these new circle of emerging markets in Africa?  How much of it is going to be for that?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Well, I guess I'll break that apart into two questions.  First you're right that the last numbers I saw -- was it seven of the 12 fastest growing markets in the world are in Africa.  So there are rapidly emerging markets on the continent that I think create tremendous investment opportunities for American businesses which in turn will grow jobs and certainly is an important priority of not just the Trump administration but the US government.  So I think we will look for ways to help foster those markets.  You know, for example the barrier oftentimes for American companies to invest in a country, particularly in the developing world, are issues of intellectual property protection and rule of law.
And so where we can through our assistance dollars help countries to take on those issues that's the right thing to do, good for their development, and also it happens to be good for American business.  So, you know, I think that's certainly true.  The other part of the question, you know, Ethiopia has for some time I think charted a clear course or a clear goal for its independence from any kind of donor assistance.  That's admirable.  That's -- as you know from hearing me, that's what I believe in.
And so I think if there are investments that we can make, which we are, that hasten that development, I think that's good for Ethiopia.  I think it's good because it creates models of what can be done.  And as I said it happens to be good potentially for American economic interest.  So I think it all fits together.  And Ethiopia is a country that -- and, you know, I've mentioned to a few officials when Americans thought of Ethiopia ten years ago it was not a pretty picture, right?  But now what they're seeing in recent times is they're seeing a country that has a world class airline.  They're seeing a country that is engaged in commerce and is interested in commerce.  And they're seeing a country that again I think is open to commerce.  So those are all good things.  And the U.S. will continue its engagement because we see real opportunity here to advance a number of interests.
QUESTION:  Can I have a follow-up on that quickly?  Sorry.  So is this about a pulling back of American soft power?
QUESTION:  Well, I'm just putting it out there.  Is there --
QUESTION:  -- budget cuts and --
QUESTION:  How would Africa and the developing world [inaudible]?
QUESTION:  -- should they read this?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  When we took a look at some of those resilience projects in the Somali region yesterday, a lot of what we saw that was I think so striking was the technical assistance that the U.S., USG directly, but also through our many partners, provided.  So in many cases the projection of soft power is technical assistance, the kinds of know-how sharing that create opportunities.  So I think that's a big part of it.
But another piece to it is America's strength still resides in its private sector.  And when you look at how the world has changed and America's relationship with the world has changed, when USAID was created more than 50 years ago, 80 percent of the capital flowing from the U.S. to Africa -- I think this is true of the entire developing world but definitely of Africa -- 80 percent was official development assistance, traditional assistance programs.
Today that figure is 10 percent or just below.  And it's been a complete transfer.  It's now commerce being number one but large scale philanthropy, remittances.  And I would suggest to you that that commerce, that investment, is also part of America's soft power.  When we can play a role either directly through the USG or through the attractiveness of our investment, we can incentivize countries to reform policies.  That's a good thing.  That is soft power.  That does I think extend American leadership.  I think it's in America's interest and I happen to believe it's in the world's interest as well.
QUESTION:  Thank you.
MR. BARNETT:  Washington Post.
QUESTION:  I realize, Ambassador, that you can't give us an exact year but when you talk about Ethiopia attaining independence from donor assistance what kind of time frame do you think this will take?  Is it 10 years, five years, 20 years?  Particularly since this morning you noted that there has been a deterioration of conditions here.
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Well Carol, I can't give you an exact year.  Of course I had to answer like that.  Well, one of the challenges is that we're all talking about right now in Ethiopia, Ethiopia has an ambitious and, admirably so, development plan.  They have had a couple of years, consecutive years, of shocks to the system in the form of drought.  And that certainly creates challenge to any development plan.  Working with them to develop resilience against such shocks, I think is a key part to that development plan and its future and it's one of the topics that the prime minister and I discussed.
In terms of any country's attainment of a level of transition where we would say they are no longer traditional donor recipients that's actually one of the things that we're spending some -- USAID is spending some time trying to develop data and signposts on.  Because I think it's a really interesting topic for discussion.  So, you know, to me when you look at any country you want to measure not just inputs which is easy to do, but you want to measure governing capacity health systems.
So its ability to respond to infectious disease outbreaks or, its battle against malaria for example.  Its ability to -- or its attainment of the use -- of deployment of rapid diagnostic tests.  So it's measuring capacity there I think is an important part of it.  So that's one of the things that we're looking at right now at USAID in consultation with academics and other thinkers and participants in the development community.  But, you know, it's something that we're committed to doing is trying to get our arms around what a development journey looks like.  How do you measure country capacity?  At what stage do we look at a transition relationship with the U.S.?  There comes a point when the great need in a relationship with the -- between the U.S. and other country, is not going to be traditional assistance.  It's going to be business exchanges.  It's going to be the sharing of economic opportunity.
So that's part of what we're looking at.  I feel good about it in the sense I think it's an optimistic future.  But it's something that we're spending some time on.  I'm 28 or 29 days in but it's something that we've started because as you can tell, it's an important part to me of how we should be looking at our relationship with the world.
MR. MCCLESKEY:  We have time for a couple more questions.  Yes.
QUESTION:  One of the state conditions of USAID's [inaudible] promoting is this attraction between the U.S. and Ethiopia.  [Inaudible] will visit.  I believe you've been to Jijiga [inaudible] USAID supported [inaudible].  In general, what would you say has been the impact of USAID from what is a private sector endeavor both from people who [inaudible] but also from the wider [inaudible]?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  That's a very good question.  I would say that what I have seen, rising incomes, rising employment although rapidly growing population which creates additional employment challenges.  The sharing of expertise and business know-how which we clearly saw in Jijiga manifested.  So those would be the -- you know, what I would see in some of our health investments very clearly a much stronger health system.  A country has made real progress in developing a robust healthcare system to help them take on health challenges and provide services to its people.
So the many investments that the U.S. has made over the years I think have paid off in many ways.  And increasingly I think those investments are going to be in the area of economic opportunity.  Again a rapidly growing country with a government which has ambitious development and economic growth plans.  I think that's a great opportunity to work together to boost that.
MR. MCCLESKEY:  Yes.  Last question, Washington Post.
QUESTION:  Yeah.  This follows up on some of the other questions we had here and also something I've heard a lot from Ethiopians who often contrast the U.S. approach with say the Chinese approach which has become a major presence here.  And what they say is China has done so much for us, you know.  Their companies are building the railroads, the telecom infrastructure, the highways.  And then, you know, when we're talking here it's what can feel like very minor projects, building resilience.  But on what kind of scale?  How many people we talking about?   As opposed to these real mega-projects that are doing some very obvious things to improve the -- improve the standard of living for people.  And you talk of course about the importance of the U.S. private sector but also it's not quite here yet because you don't really have the investment environment for us -- for it.  So how would you respond to that --
QUESTION:  -- to say, you know, China is doing so much more to create that --
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  You know,  I spent --
QUESTION:  -- country?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  So when I went around and looked at that food distribution yesterday I looked all around for Chinese logos on the food that was being provided to people who are hungry and I don't recall seeing any.
QUESTION:  So is there a division of labor then?
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  No.  It is America is a compassionate nation which as you pointed out is always there on the humanitarian side like no other nation and we will continue to be.  Secondly, the American model of development and development assistance is such that we build country capacity and we leave something behind.  So when our programs are complete we pride ourselves on leaving behind a group of Ethiopians who are experienced, who know how to work with markets, who know how to take on their own challenges.  Our model of development is on the software side often.  We help build country's' ability to govern themselves and to lead themselves because we believe that that is the right thing to do.  And there is no other country in the world that does what we do in that area.
The fact that China is going to engage in the world, we invite it.  If -- we would invite the Chinese getting more involved in humanitarian assistance.  They have done some humanitarian assistance.  We would invite them to do much more.  The needs are great and there is plenty of room for more people to engage.  I don't view it as sum-all.  If China is helping to build a dam, okay.  It's a good thing.  I'm just very confident about what it is that we do and how our investments and our model of development boost the lives and the economic opportunities of the people with whom we work in the countries where we work around the world.
You know, I'll be really honest.  It sounds corny but that's why I'm proud to lead USAID.  I think we do it the right way.
MR. MCCLESKEY:  And we'll end on that note.  Thank you all so much.  We appreciate you coming out.