Ambassador says Africa could be beneficial to U.S.

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Africa is not just a country in need of American assistance, but a country that America needs, said Lapologang C. Lekoa, the Botswana ambassador to the United States, in a speech on April 3.

“For a better understanding of the political, economic and institutional transformation taking place in the continent, an important question for me, and even more important for my people, is why Africa is important to the United States,” he said.

Lekoa, who has been the Botswana ambassador to the U.S. since October 2002, delivered his speech entitled “What is Happening in Africa?” to about 115 people at the Performing Arts Center. The lecture was sponsored by the South Dakota Council on World Affairs and the Southern Africa Development Community.

The ambassador presented four ways Africa is and could be beneficial to the United States.

First, 900 million people populate the continent, which is a lot of people who can buy American products. He suggested that the U.S. remove or lessen some trade barriers so trading could improve between the countries.

Secondly, trade from Africa should be increased as well since Africa has many natural resources that could be useful to the U.S. In a question and answer session after the speech, Lekoa said that Botswana is the largest producer of diamonds in the world. Africa also has valuable resources such as coal and oil, which America could import.

Not only would increased trade benefit America, it would benefit Africa as well. More employment opportunities would be created, the continent would be more prosperous and African countries could begin to repay their debts. If all this happened, he said, African countries would no longer need to come to America for assistance.

In his third point, Lekoa said that Americans should begin investing in the African continent. The continent needs to develop more infrastructure, including more roads, railways and means for communication. In recent years, Africa has become more open to foreign investment, providing ample opportunities for Americans.

“If more Americans invested in Africa to take advantage of this improved climate, both America and Africa would benefit,” he said.

Finally, he said the development of the continent would be carried out by Africans themselves. To do this, the continent needs some help from America to develop human capital in the form of education and training. Still, Africa is not a continent looking for handouts, but assistance.

“This is Africa today ? that needs America’s help to succeed,” Lekoa said. “By this, we will see that America also needs Africa.”

SDSU has ties to University of Botswana

Lekoa’s speech held special significance for several people in the crowd on April 3.

This group of people, made up of professors, extension personnel and staff members from the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, traveled to Lekoa’s home country of Botswana during a United States Agency for International Development project.

The mission, which SDSU took part in from 1979 to 1984, was to help a two-year school update and improve their curriculum so its students could better qualify and attend the four-year Agricultural University of Botswana, said a university news release.

“I very much enjoyed teaching the students,” said Lloyd Hansen, now an extension program development coordinator emeritus, in the release. “They were eager to learn and knew that an education meant a much better living for them and their family.”

“One never knows how things will turn out,” said Leon Bush, who was a professor of animal science at the time of the trip, in the release, “but looking back on it, I think we did a pretty good job.”