Africa: Statement by Mary Catherine Phee – Candidate for the post of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs


Washington, DC – Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Minority Member, Distinguished Committee Members:

I am honored to be President Biden’s candidate for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and I thank President and Secretary Blinken for their confidence.
I started my career as a public servant here in the office of Senator Pat Moynihan. To guide his work, Senator Moynihan kept only two documents on his desk: the US Constitution and the Charter of the United Nations. It inspired my career in the Foreign Service and taught me an unwavering respect for this institution and this committee.

My career in foreign policy began in Nairobi, Kenya, at the United Nations Environment Program. In Kenya, I discovered the talent and generosity of the African people, as well as the beauty and richness of the African landscape. Kenyan politics was also my first exposure to the lingering challenges of governance, security and sustainable development. Applying American diplomacy to effectively meet such challenges has been the dominant theme of my career.

I thank this committee for its bipartisan recognition of the growing political, economic and cultural power of the various countries of sub-Saharan Africa. It is the responsibility of the State Department to translate this recognition into respectful partnerships that advance our common interests, values ​​and aspirations. If confirmed, I will work to support President Biden’s agenda to expand the quantity and quality of our engagement with African governments, institutions such as the African Union and, most importantly, African audiences.

To face the threat of autocracy, the President has tasked us with demonstrating that democracy is the best system to meet the challenges of our interconnected world. We know that the majority of Africans agree and raise their voices to define new destinies for their countries, as seen in Nigeria. The bravery of the Sudanese people in demanding a government led by civilians is another extraordinary example. Across the continent, we will re-energize our focus on human rights, accountability and good governance. President Biden has said the fight against corruption, especially the theft of public property for private gain, is a fundamental national security interest.

We see a direct correlation between authoritarian African governments and the incidence of internal conflict, displacement and migration. Many face an active threat from the Islamic State and other violent extremists like al-Shabaab in Somalia. Diverse societies struggle to maintain inclusive and equitable power-sharing arrangements. In collaboration with regional and international partners, tailored United States diplomatic, development and security assistance can play a critical role in supporting peace and security. This imperative motivates our current intensive efforts to urge all parties to the conflict in Ethiopia to implement an immediate and unconditional ceasefire that ends atrocities against civilians, to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid. and restore stability through political dialogue.

Climate change also threatens stability. Desertification in the Sahel is disrupting agriculture and displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and reckless logging threatens the world’s second largest rainforest in the Congo Basin and the continent’s biodiversity wonderland. It is in our mutual interest to work together on environmental sustainability.

Africa is the fastest growing and youngest continent. By 2050, one in four people in the world will be African. Workforce development and job creation will be necessary to harness the ambitions of the wave of young people. We are committed to developing two-way trade and investment and advancing the regional goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Among other strengths, the US private sector offers innovative US options for green energy and digital economies, as well as a commitment to social responsibility.

All of these priorities are now threatened by the devastating human toll of COVID-19. In keeping with the United States’ generous tradition of investing in African health systems, exemplified by the historic PEPFAR program, the White House has just announced the donation of 25 million COVID-19 vaccines for Africa. Previously, the President had pledged the United States to provide 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for distribution by COVAX to 92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and economies, and to the African Union. . The Development Finance Corporation also invests in vaccine production in South Africa and Senegal. This pandemic highlights how closely our destinies are linked.

Aware of the challenges at home and humble in the face of the challenges in Africa, our best asset will be a dynamic and affirmative American political agenda that engages African partners in building free market democracies that offer freedom and prosperity and realize the full potential of the continent. . Mr. President, Mr. Ranking Minority Member, with the Law on Strategic Competition, you have given us our market orders and new tools. If confirmed, I pledge that US embassies in sub-Saharan Africa act to address China’s challenge to the rules-based international order.

Last but not least, if confirmed, I promise to be a champion of the people of the Department of State’s Africa office, unleash their full potential with a vigorous commitment to diversity and inclusion. and cultivate the special entrepreneurial spirit that has traditionally defined the office.

Thank you.


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