Remarks by Ambassador Michael Raynor at SolveIt Closing Ceremony

Michael Raynor 
U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at the SolveIt Closing Ceremony
Addis Ababa
August 19, 2019

(As prepared for delivery)  

The Honorable Ambassador of Japan, Mr. Daisuke Matsunaga,

The Chief Representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Mr. Makoto Shinkawa,

Distinguished guests, colleagues, and friends,

And most importantly, the wonderful and very impressive participants in this year’s Solve IT! national competition.

Good afternoon to you all, and thank you very much for being here today.

I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to celebrate the innovation, passion, and success of each one of our 112 participants in the second Solve IT! Ethiopia National Competition.

I’m also very pleased and honored to co-sponsor this program with Ambassador Daisuke Matsunaga and the Embassy of Japan.

This is the second year that the U.S. Embassy has supported the Solve IT! program, and we’re very pleased and honored to be joined this year by the Embassy of Japan in supporting this important initiative.

Our commitment to this program reflects our broader commitment to Ethiopia’s young people, and our belief that young Ethiopian leaders – like the ones we’re celebrating today – are the key to building the prosperous, inclusive, and stable Ethiopia of the future.

We invest in programs like these because they’re a terrific way to invest in entrepreneurship, in empowerment, and – most importantly – in Ethiopia’s young leaders of tomorrow.

We sincerely believe that empowering young entrepreneurs to solve problems using technology, but also through creativity, determination, and hard work, will create more jobs, opportunities, and prosperity across Ethiopia.

By supporting these programs and investing in their young participants, we’re investing in young Ethiopians’ capacity to find solutions that help their families, their communities, and their country. And the overall result will be a stronger Ethiopia, which is the outcome we all want to see.  Please allow me to sincerely congratulate all of the participants in this year’s competition.If anyone is looking for a reason to feel confident about the bright future of Ethiopia, they need look no further than to these amazing young Ethiopians.

And you represent not only the best of Ethiopia’s young entrepreneurs and leaders, but you represent the strength of Ethiopia’s incredible diversity as well. You’ve come to this program from throughout Ethiopia, including Arba Minch, Aksum, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Harar, Semera, Assosa, Adama, Bahir Dar, Jimma, Jigjiga, Gondar, Mekelle, Hawassa, and Addis Ababa. Each of you is here today because you identified a problem in your community, and then you rose to the challenge of solving it.

Almost any of us can point out a problem, but it takes creativity, effort, and determination to come up with solutions and make those solutions a reality. And that’s why we’re all here today – to recognize and celebrate the wonderful dynamism and leadership that’s present in the room. A short while ago, I had the chance to walk around the exhibits you’ve brought here today, getting to know you, hearing about your projects, and learning more about your communities.

And I was deeply impressed by what I saw and heard. Your innovations show the amazing things that young Ethiopians are capable of doing. Your talent, creativity, and commitment are what will move this country forward. The range of projects here today is remarkable: an android app that makes it easier for visually impaired people to use mobile phones; a traffic police robot; a mechanical torch and charger; a mobile app that connects smallholder farmers to consumers; and a low-cost 3D printer.

These are just a few of the innovative products you’ve designed, and I wish I had time to mention them all. I also wish that each one of you could be the winner of this year’s Solve IT! competition, because each one of you has already accomplished so much. But win or lose, it’s important to know that none of your journeys will end here today. In fact, your journeys are all just beginning, and I can’t wait to see the amazing things you’ll accomplish in the future. And whether you win today’s competition or not, I also want to emphasize what I said to you the other day:  that while competition is important, collaboration and cooperation are even more valuable.

I’m sure many of you have heard the African proverb, “If you want to go fastgo alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I hope your participation in the Solve IT! competition has given you the tools to go far: from the friendships you’ve made, the skills you’ve honed, the ideas you’ve shared, and the possibilities you’ve created for collaboration in the days ahead.

So after this competition is over, I urge you to stay in touch with each other to produce even bigger and better results that will lead you and your country forward. You are the future of Ethiopia:  the ones with the passion, vision, and determination to make things better. You care deeply about the future of Ethiopia, and you have the skills and tools to make Ethiopia’s success a reality. As I mentioned to these young leaders the other evening, Ethiopia is in the midst of a reform program that’s unlike anything the world has seen before.

As it succeeds, it will strengthen both Ethiopians’ scope for political engagement and their opportunities for economic success, and it will build Ethiopia’s long-term stability and unity as well. But for these reforms to succeed as quickly and fully as possible, all Ethiopians must collaborate and cooperate to build the Ethiopia they want to see, rather than competing for short-term gain or influence. Nothing will make Ethiopia’s reforms succeed like the Ethiopian people’s support, innovation, engagement, and solidarity.

That’s what Ethiopia needs now more than ever:  Ethiopians of all ages who are putting their skills and good will to work to bring about real and lasting change. So much positive change has already come to Ethiopia, but securing and building upon these changes will always be hard work, and indeed that work will be never-ending.

Your commitment to bringing that positive change about is the most important resource Ethiopia has, and if the Solve IT! competition has been of any assistance in helping some of you along your paths to success, we’re proud and humbled to be a part of your journey. In closing, I’d like to thank all of our partners who made this event possible, including the Japan International Cooperation Agency; iCog Labs; Humanity Plus; the Ethiopian Federal Small and Medium Manufacturing Industry Development Agency; the Ethiopian Federal Urban Job Creation and Food Security Agency; and Addis Ababa City Administration.

And lastly, to all the Solve IT! participants:  please stay in touch, not only with each other, but with us.  We want to hear from you about how we can continue to support you and your country in the days ahead, and we will follow your progress with great interest. Whether you win today’s competition or not, we’re enormously proud of each one of you, and you should be enormously proud of yourselves.

We look forward to seeing all the great things you will accomplish together in the days ahead.

Thank you.