Keynote Speech by Ambassador Christopher J. Lamora
As Prepared for Delivery
University of Dschang
Friday, June 30, 2023, 10:20-11:40
[50% English, 50% French]
Vice Chancellor Roger Tsafack Nanfosso,
Members of the University Board of Directors,
Faculty, students, and distinguished guests,
Good afternoon. I’m delighted to be here today, in this beautiful amphitheater of the University of Dschang. Thank you to Vice Chancellor Tsafack for the invitation.
It’s always so energizing for me to engage with students and faculty. Over the past 15 months, I’ve been fortunate to have visited the Universities of Buea and Maroua, Siantou University in Yaoundé, and the Cameroonian International Relations Institute (IRIC), but being here at the University of Dschang is particularly special given the close relationship between this institution and the U.S. Government over many decades.
The University of Dschang has a long tradition of academic excellence, and we are proud to have contributed to the creation of this remarkable institution through a decade-long partnership between USAID and the Government of the Republic of Cameroon. Through construction assistance, academic training, and equipment provision, USAID strove to more closely link university instruction with the real-world needs of Cameroonian farmers. Institutions of higher education, such as yours, continue to play a critical role in today’s complex and rapidly changing environment. Universities train future professionals, lead cutting edge research, and prepare members of the community to tackle local, national, and global challenges. How can we alleviate food insecurity, combat health crises to save lives, or mitigate the effects of climate change? Many of the solutions to these problems, big or small, are the result of ingenious ideas and research born from these very classrooms and laboratories.
This is why here in Cameroon, we continue to invest in education, in the potential of people, because we believe this is the best way to invest in the future.
Today, I’d like to talk about U.S. engagement in Cameroon, specifically in the areas of education, health, and people-to-people ties, where together our partnership is helping to build a deeper mutual understanding and saving lives. I look forward to an interactive question-and-answer session afterwards.
The United States is a longtime friend and partner of Cameroon. We continue to cooperate with Cameroon on a broad range of issues, including health; trade and business growth; fighting piracy, human trafficking, and terrorism; and of course in education.
We help foster collaboration and strengthen linkages between U.S. and Cameroonian universities. We provide access to free digital library resources to assist students and faculty to get the information they need. We support projects to empower youth and develop their leadership skills across Cameroon.
In addition, every year close to 100 Cameroonian students, scholars, and young professionals travel to the United States for educational and professional exchanges sponsored by the U.S. government. We’re proud of all our exchange alumni, who are giving back to their communities upon their return, sharing what they learned in the United States, and exemplifying the enduring partnership between our two countries.
We’re pleased that the University of Dschang has also taken advantage of these exchanges by welcoming American scholars and envoys in return.
Recently, U.S. Fulbright Scholar Dr. Andrea Drager worked with Professor Marie Louise Avana, Dr. Edwige Djomaha [Ed-veeJ Joe-ma-ha], and University of Dschang students on cutting-edge research in agroforestry.
Earlier this year, American film director and producer Mark Warshaw visited the university’s Fine Arts Institute in Foumban and had a rewarding exchange with the students and faculty.
I’m particularly pleased to learn that the University of Dschang has partnerships with several U.S. academic institutions including the University at Buffalo and the Kentucky Institute for International Studies. It’s my hope that these partnerships continue to grow for the mutual benefit of Cameroonian and American students and scholars.
These exchanges and partnerships embody the U.S. commitment and long-term work to invest in Africa’s tremendous human capital and in its institutions.
As President Biden said at the U.S.- Africa Leaders Summit last year: “African voices, African leadership, African innovation all are critical to addressing the most pressing global challenges.”
Important breakthroughs in medicine and climate change… Amazing innovations in information technology and other 21st Century industries… Tremendous entrepreneurship among women and young people… These are already occurring across the continent and here in Cameroon. The United States is here, working with African governments, businesses, civil society organizations, and everyday citizens to facilitate this in countless ways. And we will continue to do so.
Turning now to health… Helping to improve health outcomes is a top priority for the United States. Our cooperation with the government, NGOs, private sector, and civil society spans all 10 regions of Cameroon.
As an example, this year we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR—the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In Cameroon, the United States has invested more than 385 billion Francs CFA through PEPFAR, making tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and strengthening Cameroon’s health system. This longstanding partnership also laid a critical foundation that helped Cameroon prepare and respond to other pandemics, including COVID-19.
Here in Dschang, through PEPFAR, we support the Dschang Regional Hospital Annex to provide HIV testing, care, and treatment, including technical assistance, laboratory strengthening, and workforce development.
In the fight against Malaria, for example, the United States has invested more than 80 billion Francs CFA in Cameroon since 2017, helping to decrease child mortality by more than 35 percent.
Finally, a powerful example of the longstanding friendship and partnership between our two countries—Peace Corps. Last September marked the 60th anniversary of Peace Corps Cameroon, which, since 1962, has seen more than 3,900 volunteers come here, working on projects in education, agriculture, and community health. Many Cameroonians have told me about remarkable Peace Corps Volunteers who touched their lives and many remarkable Cameroonian communities have shaped the lives of Volunteers in return.
Ultimately, everything I’ve been talking about this morning is really about people. Their potential. Their hopes and dreams. What they can do to realize those.
And how the U.S. Government might be — and has been — a positive actor and catalyst for that.
We are invested in Cameroon’s future. We are invested in Africa’s future. And we will continue to be.
On this note, I would like to thank the university community for your commitment to excellence in your respective fields, for your continued partnership, and finally, for the very warm welcome here today. I look forward to our discussion.