Good evening, and welcome! Some of you here may have enjoyed Fourth of July celebrations in the United States, where Americans decorate their homes and streets with red, white, and blue flags and gather as communities to celebrate with picnics, parades, and fireworks.
Today, I am delighted to celebrate the 242nd anniversary of U.S. Independence with our friends here in Namibia. You honor us by joining us this evening. Thank you.
On Independence Day, Americans celebrate the shared values that define our nation’s identity. We reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental rights enshrined in our Declaration of Independence — rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We also reaffirm our commitment to the self-evident truth that all people are created equal, are endowed with equal rights, and should have equal opportunities.
These same values and principles form the basis of the relationship between the United States and Namibia. In our partnership, we work together to protect lives, enrich freedoms, and increase prosperity for Namibians and Americans alike.
America’s partnership with Namibia has many elements, but all are rooted in the values of equality and opportunity. Perhaps no U.S. program represents this better than the Peace Corps.
Our first group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in September 1990, less than six months after Namibia’s independence. Since that time, more than 1,700 Volunteers have served in Namibia.
Modeling American values, these Volunteers serve Namibian communities for two years by teaching, supporting public health, and developing economic opportunities.
In 2004, America’s partnership with Namibia expanded with PEPFAR, through the work of the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Agency for International Development, and in cooperation with the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services. The United States has invested well over a billion U.S. dollars since that time to fight HIV/AIDS and save Namibian lives.
Thanks to Namibian and American health care professionals working together, we have greatly reduced the number of people becoming infected with HIV each year; the number dying of AIDS has been reduced by more than half; and, HIV transmission from mother to child has been nearly completely eliminated.
The United States is proud to have played a role in helping to create Namibia’s successful communal conservancy program, which is a model for other African countries. I’ve seen the positive impact first-hand, by interacting with NGOs, community conservancies, game guards, and traditional authorities. Now, with over $19M U.S. dollars in assistance, we are working with the Ministry of Environment and civil society to protect these gains by combatting poaching and wildlife trafficking.
One area in which I am excited to see increasing partnership is our economic ties. On that note, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors for their generous contributions to our celebration tonight. Many American companies have a presence in or bring their products and services to Namibia. The recent Women in Science (WiSci) Camp hosted by NUST illustrates how partnering with the private sector brings unique benefits. Representatives from Intel, Google, and NASA introduced more than 100 secondary school girls from five countries – including 36 girls from 11 regions of Namibia – to exciting new ideas and career possibilities.
On a larger scale, the African Growth and Opportunity Act provides duty-free U.S. market access for many Namibian products. We intend to help more Namibian businesses take advantage of this opportunity. Very soon, Namibian beef, which is eligible for these benefits, will be available in grocery stores in the United States.
Finally, the U.S.-Namibian partnership is characterized by dozens of academic, cultural, and professional exchange programs. Many of you in the room tonight are alumni. Your personal development and expanded networks have enriched both our countries. Tomorrow, 16 newly-minted Namibian Mandela Washington Fellows will celebrate the Fourth of July in the United States. The Mandela Fellows program will empower them to affect positive change and advance Namibia’s development goals.
In closing, these many partnerships that define U.S.-Namibian friendship are made possible because of you – the many individuals who come together over our common goals. Tonight’s event is a celebration of our shared values and commitment and dedication to helping our two nations prosper. All of you here tonight are integral to our continuing success.
Through our partnership and our friendship, both our nations are stronger, our people are better off, and our futures are brighter. I am proud to join this U.S.-Namibian partnership, and I am excited for our achievements to come.
In that spirit, I would like to propose a toast on behalf of the government and people of the United States of America: To the continued good health and success of His Excellency Dr. Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, and to the governments and people of our two great nations.
Happy U.S. Independence!