Strengthening Ties in Africa
Peter J. Robertson, President
ChevronTexaco Overseas Petroleum Inc.
U.S.-Africa Business Summit Sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa
Philadelphia, PA, Oct. 31, 2001
On behalf of the 55,000 men and women around the world who are part of the ChevronTexaco family -- including our chairman, Dave O'Reilly -- it is my pleasure to welcome all of you to tonight's opening dinner.
Before I start, I wanted to first express my sincere thanks to Stephen Hayes and the tireless professionals at the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) for putting together this remarkable gathering. They've worked very hard - not once but twice, unfortunately, in the past seven weeks -- to bring us all together, and I think they've managed to surpass even their own high standards in organizing major events. CCA is truly as strong an advocate for Africa as you'll find, and we very much appreciate their efforts.
I don't think many of us could have imagined seven weeks ago -- the circumstances under which we would all be meeting here in Philadelphia. It has been said that the tragedy of Sept. 11 took more than 5,000 lives, but it wounded more than 5 billion across the globe. More than 80 nations, including many of the countries represented here, lost someone in those brutal attacks.
While our world today is a little more uncertain than ever before, it is also more united than ever before. In part, it is that spirit of unity in which this summit is taking place. It also shows our collective desire not to be cowered by terrorists but instead to speak as one voice, united in our purpose of bringing economic prosperity to the nations of Africa.
There is one voice, however, that remains missing at this summit. It is the voice of a man who -- initially from a pulpit in this very city -- dedicated his life to a relentless drive to bring investment and economic development to Africa. This gentle giant whose actions live on and will continue to make a difference for years to come is the Rev. Leon Sullivan, a man I was privileged to know.
When Leon Sullivan was 10 years old, he walked into a grocery store, slapped a nickel on the counter and said, "I want a Coca-Cola." Because the store was in a segregated state in the American South, the shopkeeper threw him out. In pure Sullivan style, this sparked history's first-ever boycott to be led by a 10-year-old.
It was also the beginning of his life's work. Leon Sullivan believed that the work of building a stronger Africa . . . with genuine democracy, good government, open markets, sustained investment in education and health and environment, and widespread peace cannot be imported and cannot be imposed. It depends first and foremost on African leadership. He also believed as all of us here believe: We who do business in Africa have a special responsibility to make a difference and enrich the lives of the people of Africa.
“We who do business in Africa have a special responsibility to make a difference and enrich the lives of the people of Africa.”
During the last year of his life, one thing that he really wanted to do was to give a big speech about his experiences in Africa. Sadly, he never got a chance to do that. But if Rev. Sullivan were standing here tonight instead of me, I think I know what he would have said.
He would have said that Africa today has a lot to be proud of.
Who would have guessed a decade ago that today more than half the nations of Africa would live under governments chosen by them.
Who would have guessed that a continent once scarred by shrinking economies would, over the past two years be home to the first, second and fourth fastest-growing economies in the world?
Who would have guessed that a land once defined by closed markets would today be the fastest-growing market on the planet -- with more than 700 million consumers and producers?
That, he would say, is the Africa we have to make people see, understand and believe can help lead this world into the future.
But at the same time, you and I can see and understand that the challenges Africa faces are considerable. For all the new investment in Africa, too many democratic governments still have to choose between educating their children and paying interest on their debt.
For all the work countries have done to improve public health systems, AIDS continues to afflict millions of Africans and threatens to drive down the gross domestic product in some nations by 20 percent.
And for all the good corporate behavior we have worked to engender, it will amount to little if Africa in the 21st century is defined by its ethnic conflicts.
Resolving these issues is no longer simply a matter of compassion. It is a matter of common sense. In an increasingly globalized world where everyone is closer than ever before, America is better off when the nations of Africa are better off.
“In an increasingly globalized world where everyone is closer than ever before, America is better off when the nations of Africa are better off.”
We are here today because we believe that all of us must work together -- heads of state, civil servants, business people, educators, and civic and religious leaders -- to bring more of the world to Africa: not to do something "for" them, but to partner with them to advance the interests we all share.
This is truly the dawn of a new day in Africa.
Earlier this year, African leaders from more than 50 nations came together in common cause -- in a first-of-its-kind summit -- to address the health problems sweeping Africa today. That summit was followed by another historic meeting of African leaders that led to the creation of the African Union, modeled along the lines of the European Union, to bring investment and economic development to the continent. They have set a goal to rid the continent of conflict, poverty and disease by the year 2015, and that's a goal we can all support.
The international community is beginning to take its share of responsibility as well.
A year ago, President Clinton signed into law the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to change the nature of our relationship with Africa from being donors and recipients to being partners. Even though the bill was targeted to small and medium-sized businesses, many of us in this room today played a major role in getting it passed. And it's already having a dramatic result.
In some African countries, trading with the United States has increased 1,000 percent in less than a year. U.S. imports from AGOA countries are up 24 percent over the same period last year. There was $4 billion worth of new trade and investment in sub-Saharan Africa, creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
The rest of the world is taking notice. Never before have we seen so much positive attention focused on Africa as we saw at the last G8* meeting in Genoa.
If we are going to meet these challenges, all of us in this room today must play a role. That is a responsibility that ChevronTexaco takes seriously.
Under the banners of Chevron, Texaco and Caltex, we have been a proud partner with African nations for more than 60 years, and we are active in all sectors of the energy business -- from exploration and production to refining and fuels marketing. We take seriously the responsibility that comes with being one of the largest investors in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the next five years, ChevronTexaco and its partners plan to invest some $21 billion in Africa-related energy projects.
“Over the next five years, ChevronTexaco and its partners plan to invest some $21 billion in Africa-related energy projects.”
We believe that it is our unquestionable responsibility to use our resources to train and empower residents in our host communities, to contribute to improvements in education and health care, and to respect local culture. In Nigeria, for example, we are proud of our investments in people through initiatives like our Technical Skills Acquisition Project, which helps local residents get the skills they need to find and hold jobs. We're also proud that more than 92 percent of our 7,800 employees in Africa are Africans.
This summit and other events like it are important to Africa's economic and social development because they help draw the business community's attention toward Africa for all the right reasons. And while the road to peace and prosperity may be difficult, the destination is worth the journey. We believe as Leon Sullivan believed: If we work together to empower the potential that can be found all throughout the continent today, Africa can and will be the success story of the 21st century. We are honored to join you in that journey.
*G8 refers to a summit held in Genoa, Italy, bringing together the heads of state and government of eight major industrialized democracies (Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Germany, Russia and the United States) and the representatives of the European Union to discuss issues affecting the global community.
Updated: October 2001