“This is a continent with incredible potential. This continent will shape the world of tomorrow.”
This was the message of Edward (Ed) Randall Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the United States Congress at a special function at the Wallenberg Research Centre at STIAS in Stellenbosch, held in his honour on Thursday October 24.
Stellenbosch University (SU) honoured Mr Royce by presenting him with the institution’s Pro Bene Merito Medal. The institution only makes the award in very special circumstances for exceptional service to the university or society – especially in Africa – which could be at a local or international level.
In his acceptance speech, Mr Royce said that he has travelled extensively in Africa and “wherever I go I have been struck by the tremendous potential and the vibrancy of the economies and the opportunities. The young people I have met here are some of the best and brightest and have an incredible vision for their own communities, for what they want to see happen in Africa. And despite all the challenges, this country is full of optimism.”
An attitude towards Africa
He added that that the United States Congress has developed an attitude towards Africa. “We’ve worked hard on this over the years. We have a strong majority of Republicans and Democrats who share that optimism with you.” He said this will lead to building strong partnerships between America and economies across Africa.
Mr Royce is an original sponsor of the 2000 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to encourage investment in African export sectors by opening the American market to products grown or manufactured in Africa. He also led the 10-year renewal of AGOA and it has since been renewed to 2025.
He also rallied Republicans to fund the two African initiatives of the George W Bush presidency: Pepfar and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The latter embodies Mr Royce’s commitment to promoting the rule of law in Africa. Pepfar, says Mr Royce, has affected the lives of millions of people across the globe while the Millennium Challenge Corporation has changed collective thinking on development spending.
According to Mr Royce, South Africa has benefitted the most by AGOA and he used as an example, wine exports that have increased five fold with America now the fifth largest market for South African wine.
“PEPFAR saved countless lives and has stemmed the tied of HIV infection that threatened to wipe out a generation of young people in Africa,” he added and also referred to the Electrify Africa Act that will significantly reduce the reliance on wood, charcoal and toxic fuels and drive capacity.
The fight against wildlife trafficking is one of Mr Royce’s passions and he introduced anti-poaching and illicit trade of African wildlife legislation and steered it into law in 2016. This Act, Mr Royce said in his acceptance speech, comes in the nick of time. “The effort to stop the extermination of these species – of rhino and elephant – really allows us to leverage our resource to help African countries conserve that majestic and unique habitat that provide these economic opportunities to so many people in Africa.”
Mr Royce also referred to the Build Act and said that it will double Africa’s ability to finance private sector development in Africa. “These initiatives are especially important in a time when we’re seeing increasing investment in Africa from the international community.”
He added that he welcomes increased investment in the continent and that America must compete for the continent’s business.
In his presentation, Mr Royce also made mention of leading a first delegation to South Africa in 1997 and meeting the then president, Nelson Mandela and that an inspiring vision of South Africa and the country, presented by the South African business leader, Whitey Basson, stuck with him.
Mr Royce, who has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in November, is concluding his term in office with his last visit to Africa and has decided to include Stellenbosch due to links to tralac (The Trade Law Centre) who conducted work on AGOA and links to the Water Institute and others in the field of conservation.