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Ask the Ambassador: U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso, Jeanine Jackson

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Welcome to "Ask the Ambassador" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to U.S. Ambassadors around the world.

U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Jeanine Jackson discussed U.S.-Burkina bilateral relations.

Date: 11/25/2008 Description: Ambassador to Burkina Faso Jeanine Jackson answers questions on Ask the Ambassador. State Dept Photo
Jeanine Jackson
U.S. Ambassador to
Burkina Faso

Event Date: November 25, 2008

Question: I wanted to ask you something that is related to my country. Burkina Faso has recognized Kosovo. What are your thoughts on this and what was the role of the U.S. embassy in that?

Amb. Jackson: Kosovo’s declaration of independence presented a unique situation for the international community. Following this announcement, Burkina Faso government, along with only four other African nations recognized Kosovo’s independence. The U.S. applauded the Burkina Faso government for its sovereign decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence. This decision showed great leadership and demonstrated Burkina Faso's commitment to democratic principles. At the time, the U.S. Embassy conveyed our government’s views on the issue to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in accordance with standard diplomatic procedures.

Question: How do you think you can help Burkina Faso get more recognition from Africa?

Amb. Jackson: Burkina Faso is doing a very good job all by itself! Burkina Faso holds the chair of ECOWAS and WAEMU and was selected by other African states to sit on the UN Security Council. In addition, President Compaore's mediation efforts in Togo and Côte d'Ivoire have garnered recognition from every corner of the globe. Burkina Faso is improving its own reputation by playing a constructive role in the region, investing in its people, and focusing on good governance to become a model for the developing world.

Question: With the regime change of Bush handing over the reins to Obama, will/is more aid be proposed to the country of your diplomatic mission?

Amb. Jackson: During the past eight years, political and economic cooperation between the U.S. and Burkina Faso have improved dramatically. It is likely this trend will continue as the two countries work towards their common goals of democratic governance, economic development, increased trade and investment, and regional security. Although President Obama will develop his own regional strategy, he will do so in a manner that addresses each of our common goals and draws from lessons already learned on the African continent. For example, we are now aware that trade and development programs such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Burkina Faso's recently awarded $481 million Millennium Challenge (MCC) Compact are effective in leveraging assistance programs with sound policy and rule of law in developing countries. Historic presidential initiatives in the fight against HIV/AIDS and malaria have shown us that it is possible to give hope to the millions of persons who battle these diseases. Because we have learned that GDP growth from agricultural programs is four times more effective at increasing the incomes of the poorest of the poor, we can expect continued emphasis on programs that promote agricultural development. We have long been aware of the important relationship between education, economic growth, health, and human development and we can count on programs such MCC's BRIGHT2, which will add grades 4-6 to the existing 132 schools constructed during Burkina Faso's Threshold program. I believe that the Obama Administration will build on the strong foundation that we have constructed and will continue to invest in this increasingly important bilateral relationship.

Question:  What efforts has Burkina Faso taken to prevent terrorism and drug trafficking?

Amb. Jackson: Both of these issues are of great concern for Burkina Faso. I firmly believe that the Government of Burkina Faso makes every effort to combat terrorism in the region, to prevent terrorist organizations and extremists from operating in Burkina Faso, and to prevent drug trafficking into and through the country. Burkina Faso is working to secure its borders with enhanced training for the gendarmes, police, and military. The United States and other international partners are facilitating these efforts to increase the nation’s capacity to prevent terrorism. To combat drug trafficking, Burkina Faso's National Assembly has passed laws targeting drug traffickers, money laundering, and corruption and the country has improved security at the international airport of Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso also created a ministerial-level committee dedicated to the fight against drug trafficking and drug use.

Question:  What is Burkina Faso's view on the quagmire in Zimbabwe? Are they invested in a particular outcome?

Amb. Jackson: 
I am convinced that Burkina Faso has played a constructive role in the crisis through it is actions and statements. The Government of Burkina Faso has been a strong supporter of the democratic process in Zimbabwe. It is not always easy for African countries to criticize other countries on the continent because this can be viewed as a lack of solidarity or interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. In spite of these difficulties, Burkina Faso has played a leading role in speaking out in a constructive way to help look for solutions and maintain a strong stance in support of Democracy in Zimbabwe.

Question: Aside from the gold mine, what other areas economically may be beneficial for both Burkina Faso and the U.S. in terms of development? Any investment opportunities?

Amb. Jackson:
Burkina Faso's limited market is offset by a stable commercial environment and the potential to reach the larger West African francophone market. Foreign investment is welcome here and the investment and mining codes permit full repatriation of profits, 100% ownership of companies, and many tax exemptions. Although investors have recently shown interest in the mining industry (which not only includes gold but also zinc, manganese, and uranium) competitively priced generic pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, packaging machinery and materials, fertilizers and chemical products are also good possibilities for the local market. Telecommunications equipment, new and used computers and clothing, and used civil engineering equipment are U.S. exports that already capture a significant market share. Every January the Embassy's Commercial Section publishes a Country Commercial Guide for American companies interested in doing business in Burkina Faso; this guide is a useful resource for determining possible investment opportunities and to better understand the local business environment. The guide can be found at http://ouagadougou.usembassy.gov/.

Question: How serious are the issues of arms proliferation and human trafficking in the area?

Amb. Jackson: The United States is primarily concerned about the implications that both of these activities have on the stability of the region as a whole and on human rights, particularly for women and children. I believe that arms proliferation and human trafficking pose great threats to the security and development of Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have raised illegal arms trafficking, in particular, as a major problem in the region, but there are no valid statistics available on its prevalence in Burkina Faso. However, there are statistics available on human trafficking. According to the Government of Burkina Faso, each year over one thousand women and children are trafficked into, out of, and within Burkina Faso. In the region, victims supply cheap labor in agricultural industries, domestic labor, and can be used for sexual exploitation. The Government of Burkina Faso is working to combat each of these problems and is working with the U.S. and other international partners to train border security agents, to enforce existing laws against all illegal trafficking, and to combat corruption associated with trafficking. In 2007, approximately one thousand victims were assisted by the Burkina Faso Government-run rehabilitation centers around the country.

Question: What recommendations does the Department of State have for Burkina Faso?

Amb. Jackson: The Department of State is not really in the business of making recommendations to sovereign nations. Generally speaking, I believe that Burkina Faso has made a number of good decisions over the past few years, and these decisions are beginning to pay off. For example, Burkina Faso this year signed a compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation for a $481 million to be spent in the areas of education, transportation, rural development and land tenure. In order to get to this compact, Burkina Faso made numerous commitments to reform that will bear fruit in the years to come. Burkina Faso is also committed to increasing the rule of law, democracy and the general business climate, all things that I feel will pay dividends in the future.

Question: What's been your favorite aspect of your stay so far?

Amb. Jackson: That’s easy to answer -- the people. “Burkina Faso” means “land of upright people.” Burkinabe are known for their good humor, friendliness, organization and efficiency. Their culture is rich – with fantastic music, dance and art along with diverse ethnic groups and traditions, languages and religions. Because of Burkina Faso’s progress in good governance, investment in their people, improvement of the business climate, and promoting regional stability and security, the U.S. and other donors have increased assistance to Burkina Faso. For example, the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation recently signed a grant for $481 million that will assist with roads, agriculture, land reform and girls’ education.

Question: Is there any relatively simply and quick way to distinguish scams from what might be legitimate business deals in Burkina Faso?

Amb. Jackson: The old adage: "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!" is particularly appropriate for identifying potential scams. With the recent growth of the mining industry in Burkina Faso, the Embassy has seen a marked increase in the number of gold-related scams. Most scams begin with an unsolicited email asking for assistance, requesting product samples, or offering dubious investment opportunities. These scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated; they often have the capability to develop impressive websites and can even produce official-looking documentation to convince would-be investors of their legitimacy. The Embassy urges American citizens and companies wishing to do business in Burkina Faso to be cautious in dealing with unsolicited emails, and to conduct thorough research before making financial commitments or sending product samples. Online resources include the U.S. Department of Commerce www.export. gov ; the U.S. Commerical Service www.buyusa.gov; and www.fraudwatchers.org, which provides an opportunity for people to exchange information on internet fraud. Although the Embassy's Commercial Section cannot guarantee the legitimacy of a particular deal, we can help American businesses confirm the existence of a local company.

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