Interview with Ms. Maria G. Martinez- U.S Department of State
|Ms. Maria G. Martinez (left) - Department of State and Ms. Vivian Birchall (right) - Producer and Host, Africa2U at Acton TV|
2018 marks two hundred years since the U.S. opened its first consulate in Sub-Saharan Africa in Cabo Verde, then a Portuguese colony. Ms. Maria Martinez from the Department of State-Bureau of African Affairs represented the Department of State at the celebratory event in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Ms. Martinez was also hosted on Africa2u, in an interview about the United States’ bilateral relations with Burkina Faso and Cabo Verde, the African Growth Opportunity Act, (AGOA) and Millenium Challenge Corporation programs. She also discussed how the African diaspora can engage in Africa’s development processes and programs.
She joined the State Department as a Presidential Management Fellow in 2015, was a political-military officer at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and served as a desk officer for Qatar and for Nigeria. She is currently the desk officer for two African countries - Burkina Faso and Cabo Verde.
Prior to joining the State Department, Ms. Martinez served in the United States Marine Corps for 13 years, during which she was stationed in Okinawa, California and Virginia, and deployed to Australia, Thailand and South Korea to support bilateral military exercises.
She holds dual Bachelor’s Degrees in International Security and Conflict Resolution and Islamic and Arabic Studies, and a Master’s Degree in U.S. Foreign Affairs.
During the interview, Ms. Martinez mentioned cooperation areas and goals for the U.S. and Cabo Verde today, include promoting economic growth driven by the private sector. Cabo Verde has completed two Millenium Challenge Corporation compacts with the United States – the first country to do so – and the US government is promoting American business investment in the country.
The first compact signed in 2005 with approximately $110 million focused on expanding the port of Praia located in the southern part of the Island of Santiago, and building bridges and roads to promote internal integration of Cabo Verde’s markets and reduce transportation costs. The second compact, signed in 2012, focused on water, sanitation and land registration sectors, and promoting private investments.
The United States government is also working with Cabo Verde to strengthen its maritime security capabilities. The Department of Defense and Coast Guard conducted joint military training exercises with security forces, and provided 10 harbor patrol boats, which have already been used for rescue missions between islands.
Ms. Martinez also discussed the G5 Sahel regional cooperation framework, which includes Burkina Faso along with Chad, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, the framework’s role in protecting the Sahel region from extremists, and how the United States has helped with this process.
She highlighted a joint force established by the G5 Sahel in February 2017, focused on counter terrorism operations. The United States announced $60 million in support in 2017, and has contributed a total of $110 million in bilateral security assistance to the joint force thus far, with the number expected to grow depending on specific country needs. The US government will provide $46 million to Burkina Faso in bilateral security assistance, including vehicles, training, and protective equipment.
Burkina Faso has completed one Millenium Challenge Corporation compact. A second compact is being developed, which will focus on the energy sector and human capital development to address energy quality, access to energy, and workforce development.
Both Cabo Verde and Burkina Faso are eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. Ms. Martinez noted that it has been difficult for these countries to maximize the benefits, and that USAID’s Africa trade hubs can help develop strategies for maximizing benefits.
Ms. Martinez also offered guidance on the African Diaspora’s search for ways to partner with governments, non-profit organizations and businesses to contribute to the development of Africa, including Cape Verde and Burkina Faso in particular. She highlighted private investment in energy development, targeting collective remittances to specific projects, and working with the State Department and Embassies to identify available investment and loan opportunities.
Describing upcoming US policy on Africa, she noted that the President recently signed into law the BUILD Act, which consolidates the capabilities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and USAID’s Development Credit Authority into the new US International Development Finance Corporation, with $60 billion in assets.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee convened a hearing on US Policy in Africa on December 12, 2018, including testimony from the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and National Security Advisor John Bolton will present the policy in remarks at the Heritage Foundation on December 13, 2018.
Of course, it remains how successfully the new programs can propel the growth of low-income and lower-middle income countries, in which large numbers of rural poor still practice subsistence agriculture and have few ties to western economic systems.
|Lunch at Asmara restaurant with diaspora, convened by Africans in Boston, in Massachusetts|