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Keynote Speech by Ambassador Lamora at the National Advanced School of Public Works
8 MINUTE READ
November 29, 2023

Ambassador Lamora at the National Advanced School of Public Works

Keynote Speech by Ambassador Christopher J. Lamora
As Prepared for Delivery
Wednesday, November 29, 2023, 10:00-13:00
National Advanced School of Public Works

“Promoting Sustainable and Inclusive Economic Growth”

 

Professor Nkeng,
Professor Lele,
Students, faculty, and distinguished guests,

 

Thank you for inviting me here this morning.  It’s great to be at the National Advanced School of Public Works, surrounded by so many bright and curious minds.

I’ve got a few minutes of opening remarks to frame our session today, but I don’t want to go on too long or to lecture you on a field of study that is by no means my area of expertise.  I prefer to hear what you think we need to be thinking about when we talk about public works.

For me, though… Public works provide the foundation for a thriving society.  Your current and future efforts allow Cameroon to build the essential infrastructure and establish services that underpin economic growth, social progress, and environmental sustainability—all of which are also priorities for the United States.

The National Advanced School of Public Works plays a vital role in achieving sustainable economic growth by training engineers, technicians, and managers, the leaders of tomorrow who will create reliable infrastructure that businesses need to flourish.   And with quality infrastructure and public services, you make your community and in fact Cameroon as a whole more attractive to businesses and investors – including from the United States.

I am particularly impressed by your Master’s in Engineering Management, which focuses on supporting startups.  Startups and other small and medium-sized enterprises are major sources of job creation and innovation, driving productivity and economic growth.

The U.S. Embassy shares the vision of sustainable economic growth and we are committed to strengthening the business environment.  What are we doing?

  • We support promising Cameroonian entrepreneurs through initiatives like the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs which supports women in their capacity to scale successful businesses.
  • We strengthen U.S.-Cameroonian economic ties through engagement with Cameroonian business leaders and organizations such as the American Chamber of Commerce.
  • We promote bilateral trade. For example, in 2022 and 2023, our team accompanied groups of Cameroonian businesspeople to the International Franchise Expo in New York to explore franchising opportunities.  As a result, Cameroonian businesses have signed agreements with U.S. brands, including in the fitness and education sectors.
  • Every year, we also send close to 100 Cameroonians on educational and professional exchange programs, some of them specifically designed to develop leaders in business and economy.

Connecting Americans and Cameroonians builds lasting partnerships that drive real-world change.  What better example than the successful partnership between your institution and Golden Gate University in San Francisco, which led to the first joint U.S.-Cameroonian university degree—the Master’s of Engineering Management program.

We were pleased to support this partnership through a Fulbright program with American professor LaTasha Starr, who earlier this year led a series of seminars on digital governance, start-up modeling, and business and community conflict management.  After the success of this first exchange, I’m pleased to announce that a second American Fulbrighter will visit your institution in 2024, providing further training in digital governance and start-ups.

Last year, we also sponsored the participation of Professor George Nkeng Elambo to the U.S.-Africa University Partnership Initiative Summit in South Africa.  We trust that these exchanges will lead to lasting change on your academic programs, and that you, in turn, will make lasting change in your communities.

And, as I look out at the young faces, I’m reminded that the imperative for economic growth comes part-and-parcel with the imperatives to protect and restore our environment and adapt to a changing climate.  Creating a sustainable future will require all our best efforts.

Cameroon is already experiencing climate change, with cycles of flood and drought increasing in number and severity.  Between August and mid-November 2022, heavy rainfall and subsequent flooding in the Far North affected more than 258,000 people, ravaging around 18,000 houses, 119,000 acres of cropland, and 7,000 livestock, according to UN figures.  We responded by issuing a declaration of humanitarian need in Mayo-Danay and by providing more than 240 million Francs CFA in assistance to support families with emergency food assistance, protection, shelter, and hygiene kits.  In February, I traveled to Yagoua to meet with flood-affected communities and saw how torrential rains had inundated homes, schools, farms, and roads.  Cameroon is not alone.  The United States also faces severe drought and wildfires in several regions.

You may ask:  How can we address such challenges to prevent future tragedies and save lives?  Engineers must play a crucial role.  Through robust academic training in Engineering, Land Surveys, and Town Planning, your university provides the platform for discussions and problem solving on critically important topics in this era of climate change.  The centrality of environment-related content in your academic programs bodes well for the future of Cameroon.  You are the brilliant minds who will answer questions of sustainable housing development and disaster-resistant delivery of public services such as water and energy.  And we in the United States and around the world will have much to learn from you, your education, and your experiences.

We are in this together.  The United States is dedicated to helping African nations confront the challenges posed by climate change and strengthen their commitment to development and environmental sustainability.  As partners in this goal, the U.S. Embassy is encouraged by Cameroon’s adaptation strategy, which includes integrating adaptation planning into national sectoral strategies and policies, reducing the vulnerability of major economic sectors to climate change, and raising public awareness.

The emphasis on public awareness and involvement is especially crucial to achieving adaptation goals, as we all share the responsibility of creating a more sustainable future.  We believe in an inclusive approach to sustainability and development.  To put it simply, local communities are crucial, valuable partners in development efforts.

To give some examples of collaboration, last year, the U.S. Embassy disbursed about 40 million Francs CFA to support community development projects across five regions under the Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Program.  These projects included developing community safe drinking water systems, constructing public toilet facilities, educating on city waste management for greater sanitation, refurbishing and equipping public-school classrooms, and developing income-generating activities—all initiated and implemented by active community members and community development associations.  Over the years, we have supported 167 Self-Help projects throughout Cameroon that have empowered residents and encouraged economic growth in their communities.

In closing, I’d like to emphasize this:

Dear students, you are uniquely positioned to make a difference.  As future engineers, city planners, surveyors, and architects, you have the power to change your communities in this country and beyond.  African voices, African leadership, and African innovation all are critical to addressing the most pressing global challenges.  I encourage you to use your skills and knowledge to build a more sustainable and prosperous future for Cameroon.  To quote former U.S. President Barack Obama:  “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”

Thank you again for inviting me here today.  I look forward to our discussion.

Thank you.