US Envoy Says African Voices, Innovation Critical To Resolving 21st Century Problems, Emphasises Collaboration

US Envoy Says African Voices, Innovations Critical To Resolving 21st Century Global Problems, Emphasises Collaboration

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United States Consul General to Nigeria, Will Stevens, has highlighted the critical role that Africans can play in coming up with solutions to 21st century global problems, courtesy of digital technology evolution.

Stevens stated this in his keynote address at the Omniverse Summit held on Thursday, February 29 at Landmark Event Center, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The US Consul General recalled that when the Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, visited Nigeria in January, he emphasized the need for collaboration as a way of combating the challenges that face the entire world, and that the United States was ready to work together with the nations on the African continent in equal partnership.

Speaking on the theme: “The Role of Technology in Fostering International Collaboration in an Interconnected World, Stevens stressed the need for collaboration between African talents/innovators and the rest of the world.

He noted that the increasing connectivity made possible by digital technology, creates boundless potential for cross-border collaboration in different areas such as education, healthcare, agriculture, and other vital areas of development and economic growth, thus “creating a global village where ideas can spark across oceans, and innovations can blossom through collective efforts” to address various human needs.

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He said that in the evolving digital transformation, Nigeria, as Africa’s largest economy, and democracy, is having a bigger impact. According to him, being the number one destination for venture capital, “Nigeria is driving innovation and creative solutions to the challenges that vex Nigerians, Africans and people across the world.  These innovative creators are reinforcing my deeply held belief that African solutions and African voices are critical and central to resolving the problems of the 21st century and beyond.”

READ ALSO: US Mission, Yale University Partner Nigerian Institutions For Cultural  Heritage Preservation

Speaking further on collaboration, the US envoy noted that beyond technological prowess, there is need to overcome challenges like cultural and linguistic barriers, unequal access to resources, and cyber security concerns. “These challenges are not insurmountable. By embracing inclusivity, bringing capital to markets that need infrastructure investment, and developing robust cyber security measures, we can pave the way for fruitful international partnerships,” he stated, adding that some of these challenges were already being addressed.

Investment In African tech startups as part of collaboration

Stevens also revealed that U.S. venture capital firms have invested heavily in African tech startups with over 60 and 40 percent of venture capital funding in Nigeria and Africa respectively coming from the United States.

“Up to 60 percent of African startups are incorporated in the United States – this figure is 80 percent when considering Nigeria alone.

“In 2021, African startups raised $4.8 billion, this translates to an average of over $1 million every 2 hours!  Despite the global downturn in VC funding, the United States still accounted for about 40 percent of the $3.4 billion raised by African startups last year,” he added.

Collaboration On AI

Stevens stated that President Biden had four months ago, issued a landmark Executive Order on Safe, Secure and Trustworthy Development and Use of AI that emphasized collaboration with countries all over the world to develop and use artificial intelligence in a responsible manner. He added that before that, in 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration developed “the Digital Transformation with Africa (DTA) initiative that aims to build partnerships with African countries to expand digital access, increase U.S.-Africa commercial relations, support increased digital literacy, and strengthen digital enabling environments across the continent.

On US-Nigeria ties, the diplomat said  Nigeria is second-largest trading partner in Africa with two-way trade exceeding $10.6 billion in 2022. “The United States is proud to be one of the largest foreign investors in Nigeria with FDI totaling $5.6 billion in 2022,” he stated, adding that over over 80 U.S. companies are  operating in Nigeria, in manufacturing, fast-moving consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, technology, among others, paying taxes, creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs, and directly supporting various socioeconomic programs that improve the lives of Nigerians.

He reiterated United States’ commitment to supporting Nigeria  and Africa generally, on the journey to prosperity as they believe that “a strong and prosperous Africa is good for the United States, and good for the world!”

He concluded by calling on all to collaborate by working together, sharing knowledge, and pooling resources together to overcome any obstacle and achieve the seemingly impossible.

“Let us, therefore, leverage this opportunity to forge lasting partnerships, break down barriers, and use technology not just to connect, but to create a future where innovation flourishes for the betterment of our interconnected world. Let us continue to build bridges, not walls,” he concluded.

Victor Ezeja is a passionate journalist with six years of experience writing on economy, politics and energy. He holds a Masters degree in Mass Communication.

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