Ambassador Palmer’s Remarks at the Opening of Africa Endeavor

  • Honorable Everton Chimulirenji, Deputy Minister of Defense of the Republic of Malawi
  • General Griffin Supini Phiri, Commander of the Malawi Defense Force
  • Lieutenant General James Vechery, Deputy to the AFRICOM Commander for Military Operations
  • General Officers
  • African Endeavor Participants
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen

I am honored to speak at the African Endeavor opening ceremony.

First I would like to thank everyone responsible for organizing this event.  As always, the MDF have proven to be wonderful hosts and have crafted a well-thought-out program.  I’d also like to thank Dr. Steven Carter and AFRICOM for the tremendous amount of work you all have put into this event.  Technology seems to change by the day and events like African Endeavor are critical in the race to keep up with those changes.

I am encouraged by the diversity of this audience – I see several women among the participants.  Earlier this month, the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) hosted a “Women in Science STEAM Camp.” More than 100 female high school students from Liberia, Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, the United States, and Malawi attended this two-week event which even included a visit from an American astronaut.  The camp had a special focus on how we can use science and technology to create a more safe and secure world. Perhaps in the near future some of those campers can follow in the footsteps of some of you and help to enhance our civilian and military communications networks.

I’d like to speak a bit about the strong military partnership between the United States and Malawi.  Our two nations have worked together on a number of important military events over the past year.  And I know the U.S.-Malawi partnership is replicated in numerous other countries across Africa.  As we work together to address traditional and non-traditional security threats, these partnerships will help ensure that we adopt the right responses and have the necessary resources to carry out our security missions.  These partnerships have been a hallmark of U.S. engagement in Africa for decades and will remain so into the future.

In the past 12 months, Malawi and the United States have jointly hosted four regional events; Southern Accord in August 2016, the African Land Forces Summit in May 2017, an African Center for Strategic Studies Seminar in June 2017, and now African Endeavor.  Each of these events had a different focus but they all included the importance of technology both on the battlefield and among partner nations.  As we move into an increasingly interconnected world where security threats are no longer just a national issue, we must join together to develop best practices for combating new trans-national and trans-regional threats.  For example, you will spend a great deal of time at this gathering discussing ever-evolving cyber threats on the continent and around the world.  This is important as computer hacking is not just a problem in Washington, but can also damage commerce and military readiness in Lusaka, Abuja, Cairo, and Lilongwe.  Terror groups are using the internet to coordinate attacks in places once considered unthinkable.

The recently issued Presidential  Executive Order on “Strengthening the Cybersecurity of Federal Networks and Critical Infrastructure”  will increase security measures within U.S. Government agencies vulnerable to cyber attacks.  Such intrusions into our government computer networks put Americans at risk and threaten our national security.   Your governments and militaries face these same cybersecurity and critical infrastructure threats.  We know that the U.S. Government isn’t alone in combating cyber crime.  Businesses and private citizens can also fall victim to hacking which puts personal and banking information into the wrong hands.  Later this week in the breakout sessions, you will learn more about government and private sector cyber threats.  More importantly, you will discuss ways in which to counter these threats both domestically and internationally.  These discussions are incredibly valuable as we combat this global threat.  We can  successfully counter increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity threats only if we work together, hand-in-hand as partners to beat those who wish to do us harm.  I expect the substantive conversations you all have here this week will spark enhanced collaboration for years to come – and deliver tangible results for our collective security.

I can’t stress enough the importance of technology and communication in Africa.  By the year 2020, internet usage, mostly through smartphone data, will nearly triple among the population of Africa providing new links to the global community and expanding opportunities for education,  commerce and cultural exchange.  But, this will also present new opportunities for those who wish to undermine our collective security and to do us harm through cyber threats and attacks.  A strong, coordinated cyber security posture will help to prevent future malicious attacks.  And, as technology evolves, so to must our defenses.  We must continuously remain on our game and prepared to defeat even yet unknown cyber threats.  And that’s why you all are gathered here this week – to prepare for the future.

In closing, let me again thank the organizers of this event and everyone here today for traveling to Malawi to participate in African Endeavor.  It is only through partnership that we can, together, better address existing threats and prevent future ones.  We need each other as we strive to secure our future.  Africa’s security leaders, I want you to know that as Africa stands against terror and conflict, and for Peace, Prosperity, and Security the United States stands with you.  Through continued partnership we will make Africa – and the world – more peaceful, prosperous, and secure.  Thank you for your attention and for your leadership.