USAID 50th Anniversary: Celebrating Shared Values

Statement by USAID-South Africa Director Jeffrey Borns on the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Agency for International Development

For Immediate Release

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 3rd marks the 50th anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Whether it is vaccinating children against preventable diseases, improving crop yields, or responding to disasters, USAID has been a quiet force for progress not only in South Africa, but 100 other countries, fostering a more peaceful and secure world.

USAID’s efforts with South Africans began in 1979 by supporting human rights through nongovernmental organizations. Our activities accelerated in 1986 when the U.S. Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act authorized funding to combat apartheid. We then gave scholarships for disadvantaged South Africans to gain equitable education and training, and skills for community leaders charging ahead for human rights.

After South Africa’s historic 1994 democratic elections, USAID assistance increased substantially to support the country’s post-apartheid transition. Our work aligned then, as it does now, with the priorities of our South African partners.

Today, we stand at an important turning point. In partnership with the South African people, USAID is transforming from a traditional aid agency into a modern development enterprise that is unleashing a new spirit of innovation and results-based development. Our success depends on listening and connecting with local leaders and communities, leveraging trust and partnership to support the vital work that still needs to be done. Together, this will allow us to walk a straighter path out of poverty. American and South African USAID staff have devoted their time and skills to work alongside South Africans for more than 30 years. They have boosted the local ability in the sectors of education, health, economic development, job creation, democratic governance, housing, urban development and local government services.

Our joint efforts in education and training have ranged from preschool to doctoral degrees. One example pertains to literacy and the shortage of African language books that prompted USAID to support the Ithuba Project, training local authors and illustrators to prepare stories that are relevant to South Africans in their mother tongue. South African children now have access to more than 2.3 million books in the country’s 11 official languages. I especially appreciate the word, “Ithuba”, which in Nguni languages means “opportunity”—that’s how I think of USAID’s purpose and impact: promoting opportunities with and for South Africans to experience better health, education, job markets and government services.

We continue working today alongside South African partners from government, civil society, the corporate world and academia to address a variety of priorities. With support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), our two governments have entered into a five-year Partnership Framework, under which the South African Government leads our systematic efforts to deal with HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment, One of our most recent collaborations, “Trilateral Assistance,” leverages South Africa’s experience to promote development in Africa. Other efforts continue to encourage economic growth with equity, including improved access to finance for South African small and medium enterprises.

I had the opportunity to meet Amelia Ramphadi, an inspiring young entrepreneur and founder of the Amelia Women Project, a cleaning supplies and cosmetics business in a South African township. Growing up in rural South Africa, Ms. Ramphadi wanted to be in a position to help people around her by offering jobs. She began work as a cleaner of industrial offices and then pursued her dream of running her own business, assisted by USAID’s economic development team. Ms. Ramphadi now employs 72 people—mainly women—and her business is expanding.

On behalf of all the men and women of USAID in South Africa, I would like to thank the South African people for your partnership and friendship. USAID will continue to reflect our shared values, character and fundamental belief in doing the right thing.