Remarks by Ambassador Michael Raynor at the “Building Critical Mass and Sustaining Health Research Capacity in Ethiopia” Conference

Michael Raynor 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the “Building Critical Mass and Sustaining Health Research Capacity in Ethiopia” Conference
Radisson Blu Hotel, Ethiopia
October 26, 2019

(As prepared for delivery)  

Good morning!

I’m very happy and honored to participate in the opening of this important and timely conference.

Examining Ethiopia’s health research priorities; finding ways to advance its research capacity; and discussing the role that research can play in shaping innovation and promoting health in Ethiopia:  these are vital topics at this pivotal time in Ethiopia’s progress.

And I’m so happy that the importance of this conference is fully matched by the extraordinarily high caliber of the people gathered in this room:  a true “dream team” of Ethiopian and American scientists and researchers.

Among them, I’m very proud to welcome the highly distinguished representatives from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

NIH has a long and illustrious history of leading and supporting research that has fostered creative discoveries to improve the health of our nation and the well-being of people throughout the world.

As part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH is the focal point for health and medical research in the United States, and it’s also renowned for its activities worldwide, such as the amazing work being facilitated through the Fogarty International Center here in Ethiopia.

I’m equally proud to welcome the accomplished professionals here today from the Ohio State Global One Health Initiative, and to celebrate their renowned efforts to expand education, training, and research to address the causes and effects of disease.

I’m very happy as well to welcome distinguished representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, who are here to provide their exceptional expertise in public health and implementation science, and to offer the particular insights they’ve gained from their deep experience in Ethiopia.

I’m also very pleased to welcome representatives from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Founded in 1887, the APLU is North America’s oldest higher education association, with member institutions in all 50 U.S. states as well as Canada and Mexico.

Their representatives bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience, and particular expertise when it comes to partnerships, and their contributions to this event will be invaluable.

And of course, I’m very happy to recognize the presence of our highly distinguished Ethiopian partners here today.

The Ministry of Science and Higher Education’s strong focus on using technology, science, and innovation is an important complement to its extraordinary success in expanding access to higher education for students from all of Ethiopia’s regions.

And this conference would simply not have been possible without the strong commitment and leadership from our partners at both the Ethiopian Ministry of Science and Higher Education and the Ethiopian Ministry of Health.

We’re grateful for these partnership every day.

Again, we truly have a “dream team” in this room, and the importance of this conference is inestimable in its own right.

But from my vantage point, what’s even more compelling are three broader contexts within which this conference is taking place — all three of which this conference is serving to reinforce.

The first of these contexts is the extraordinarily long-standing and dynamic partnership between our two countries – a partnership not only between our governments, but between our people and institutions as well.

Within that overall partnership, the U.S Embassy here in Ethiopia is sharpening our focus on higher education, which makes this conference even more exciting to us.

Ethiopia is an extraordinarily ancient country with an extraordinarily young population – over 70 million under the age of 30.

Ethiopia understands the enormous potential of its young people, particularly in science, technology, and entrepreneurship, and it understands that education is the key to unlocking this potential.

To support these efforts, we’re expanding the United States government’s own partnerships with Ethiopian universities, while fostering greater university-to-university partnerships as well.

The second of the broader contexts I mentioned a moment ago is that this conference’s focus sits squarely at the nexus of health and education:  two areas that have long been at the center of the United States government’s investments in Ethiopia and the Ethiopian people.

Over the past five years alone, the United States has invested 30 million dollars in 52 public higher education institutions in Ethiopia to increase the number and quality of health care professionals entering Ethiopia’s health care system.

Some fifty thousand Ethiopian medical and health services students have received training and education through U.S. government programs:  fifty thousand medical professionals who are now working hard every day to protect the health of their fellow Ethiopians.

We’ve made a difference in research, training, and mentorship through our joint experience-sharing programs, expansion of innovative medical education models, and implementation of simulation technologies.

We’ve also supported the construction of state-of-the-art infrastructure for administering and supporting international research projects, as well as for providing quality health services through teaching hospitals.

This includes over 64 million dollars invested by the United States in the construction of outpatient facilities, referral laboratories, and a national public health training center.

The third of the broader contexts I mentioned, and to me the most compelling of all, is the moment in which this conference is taking place.

Ethiopia has always been a country of enormous consequence, which currently includes its standing as Africa’s second-largest population, fastest-growing economy, and essential promoter of peace and stability in the Horn of Africa and beyond.

But the extraordinary significance of this country has expanded even further during the last year and a half, as Ethiopia has embarked upon an incredibly comprehensive, accelerated, unambiguously positive agenda of political and economic reforms.

The United States is fully committed to supporting the success of Ethiopia’s dynamic reform agenda, including through specific programs to support:

  • safe and credible elections;
  • conflict mitigation;
  • the rule of law;
  • youth employment;
  • free and professional media;
  • peace and security, including Ethiopia’s capacity to safeguard its stability while protecting its citizens’ rights and freedoms;
  • and economic and business climate reforms, to remove barriers to economic growth, promote socially responsible investment, and deliver the jobs and prosperity that Ethiopians want and deserve.

The success of Ethiopia’s reform agenda is important, first and foremost, for building a peaceful, prosperous, and politically inclusive future for 110 million Ethiopians and the generations to follow.

But Ethiopia’s success will have positive impacts well beyond its borders, and will build an even stronger partner for the United States.

So I’m very proud of the United States’ commitment to supporting Ethiopia’s reforms.

But no matter what the United States does as a friend and partner of Ethiopia, for these reforms to succeed, they need first and foremost the support and participation of the Ethiopian people.

And for Ethiopians to participate fully in building their country’s future of prosperity, peace, and political inclusion, Ethiopians need first and foremost to be well-educated and healthy.

And that brings me back to you, and the importance of the conference we’re launching this morning.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that, by contributing to Ethiopia’s health, and to its education and technological capacity, you’re contributing to nothing less than one of the most breathtakingly positive reinventions of a deeply important country in world history.

As you explore how our institutions and universities in the United States can work more effectively with Ethiopia’s institutions and universities to develop the science, technology, research, and innovative capacity of this amazing country, I urge you to keep in mind the larger context within which you’re engaging, and to feel enormously proud of the work you’re doing.

To my friends and colleagues from the United States, welcome to this wonderful time and place – to this Ethiopia of extraordinary heritage and boundless potential.

To all of you here today, thank you for your good will, and for the important work you’re doing.

I wish you all a successful conference.

Thank you.