Remarks by Charge d’Affaires Jess Long at the New Embassy Compound “Topping Out” Ceremony

To celebrate the “Topping Out”, the construction team built a tree of metal rebars with flags representing the 21 nationalities working at the site. L-R: BL Harbert Project Manager, D. Bowling, CDA, Jess Long, Deputy Min., MICRO, Hon. J. Matundu, & OBO Project Director, J. Grace.

The new United States Embassy behind us has reached a very important milestone. Our team has successfully reached the highest point in the construction of our new home. I am very happy to be at this “Topping Out” ceremony to recognize this important achievement and what it signifies.

To start with, I find it simply remarkable that we have achieved this topping out, not on time, but ahead of schedule. From the groundbreaking ceremony, which we celebrated in July of 2020, we’ve been shooting to “top out” the building in 2021, and our team here today completed it last month.

I think most of us know that construction projects rarely keep up with their original timelines. This one is ahead of its timeline, and through an incredibly challenging period that saw COVID-19 waves, supply chain interruptions, lockdowns, and other obstacles.

That says a tremendous amount about the team that made today’s event happen. I’d like to specially recognize, thank, and congratulate all the construction workers, BL Harbert (Dave), and the State Department’s Office of Overseas Buildings (Jeff). Well done, team. This is one of the best construction teams in the world right now.

And it’s an impressive team not just because you made it to the Topping Out ceremony ahead of schedule. It’s impressive because this project shows that a team of individuals from 21 countries can work together and excel. There has not been a loss-time accident on this site in over 300 days, which is ahead of U.S. Construction Industry standards. Also, I recently learned that BL Harbert employs more women on this construction site than any other project BL Harbert is leading in the world right now. That’s incredible. I like to think that you prove that diverse, international teams are not just possible, they are ideal. This is how we get the best out of everyone to get the really big jobs done.

Today is also significant because it shows what American companies bring with them when they come to Namibia. BL Harbert’s motto is: “Build Anything, Anywhere.” BL Harbert is employing more than 750 workers on this site, most of you from Namibia. When you finish this project, you too will be able to Build Anything, Anywhere. American companies bring with them the world’s best skills, and their employees learn those skills and can use them for the rest of their lives. BLH has not only worked to increase the skills of its employees. It has also brought engineering students onto this site to help them learn in a practical way so that they are more likely to succeed when they graduate.

American companies also believe in corporate social responsibility. 97 percent of the waste from this construction site is being recycled. And our companies bring with them American ideals and work culture. Anyone can do it, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, your background, your faith, your gender. Hard work pays off. You work hard to support yourself and family, and you’re proud when you look back and see what you built.

Finally, today is significant because it shows the seriousness of the United States’ commitment to working with Namibia, and we have very important work in front of us. This state-of-the-art Embassy will be the platform from which the United States and Namibia fight COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and future pandemics that might threaten the world. This Embassy will partner with Namibia to make clean energy from solar and green hydrogen. (An important side note here: solar panels on site will provide half the electricity needs of this new Embassy). From this platform, Namibia and the United States will grow both economies together through new trade ties, like we’ve done with beef, beer, and charcoal. We will fight international smuggling and trafficking, which threaten human rights, legitimate commerce, and wildlife.

The United States knows that our African partners are essential to overcoming these global challenges, and this new Embassy behind me is proof of that.

Thank you again to everyone who has brought us to this Topping Out ceremony. It truly is significant. And I wish you continued success and safety in its completion.