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Address by Minister Bibeau on the occasion of the annual review of Canada's bilateral cooperation program with Senegal

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

This is my first official visit to Africa since my appointment as Canada’s minister of development and La Francophonie.

But on a personal level, I am returning to this continent.

That is because I have had the pleasure of living, travelling and working here, particularly in Morocco and Benin.

But my presence here today represents more than just a visit of the minister.

It is also that Canada has returned to Africa. And it intends to be even more present here.

And so it is a privilege for me to begin my first official visit to Senegal.

First and foremost to pay tribute to its people, with whom Canadians have forged ties that go well beyond our common language.

But equally to underscore the important role Senegal plays in the region’s stability and the development of the African continent as a whole.

The host country agreement recently signed between Senegal and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development [NEPAD] is a testament to your leadership in the area of development.

The role of President [Macky] Sall as chairman of the Economic Community of West African States [ECOWAS] up to last June also shows Senegal’s commitment to economic cooperation in the sub-region.

Senegal is also a model for the rest of Africa because of its tenacious and deep-rooted democracy.

Your values emphasize respect for human rights and good governance.

In this regard, holding the trial of Hissène Habré, the former president of Chad, in Dakar sent a clear message to the rest of the world: Senegal does not tolerate impunity.

Africa applied for the first time the principle of universal jurisdiction. And it happened in Senegal.

Canada believes that this trial represents a victory for international criminal justice and the rule of law.

Canada’s engagement in Africa

For Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government, one thing is clear: Canada needs to be more present in Africa. Canada is engaging in Africa.

And standing resolutely alongside Senegal.

And alongside Senegalese women and girls. Because the promise of a bright future begins with shared prosperity. Together we must unlock the full socio-economic potential of women and girls and bring down the barriers that are blocking their way ahead. The Government of Senegal can count on the Government of Canada’s unwavering support in its efforts to achieve this objective.

Annual review of Canada’s bilateral cooperation program with Senegal

In this regard, the annual review of the cooperation program is an important exercise.

It allows us to measure the successes and to plan our joint activities for Senegal’s development.

I am thinking in particular about our efforts in education, where there have been significant results in terms of quality and access to schools for girls.

Over the past seven years, more than 53,000 teachers and some 7,800 principals have been trained using the skills-based approach.

Together, we have also funded the procurement and distribution of more than 3 million textbooks.

Just this morning, I was visiting an elementary school in Kayar, in the Thiès region.

While there, I announced two new projects worth $23 million. The purpose of these initiatives is to protect the children by providing them with a safe learning environment and to keep the gains that have been made in textbook procurement.

Also while there, I met Khadidiatou Diallo, the only woman currently working as a school inspector in Senegal.

This appointment illustrates the willingness of your government to appoint women to key positions so they can actively participate in the development of their communities.

Thanks to the development of the Ministry of Education’s plan for promoting women to positions of responsibility, 141 women were promoted in 2015 to 2016.

Lastly, still on education, I announced a new contribution of close to $20 million to the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. The institute offers world-class training to the next generation of African scientists, women in particular.

We can also highlight the progress made in Senegal on food security and nutrition.

Our joint actions on the ground have helped improve production and productivity by strengthening farmers’ organizations, training and innovation.

Rice producers in the Senegal River Valley doubled their production between 2009 and 2016.

In the Niayes and Casamance areas, some 30,000 producers—more than a third of them women—have modernized their production and processing systems.

Earlier today, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Senegalese section of the Right Start project in partnership with the Micronutrient Initiative, a Canadian organization. Valued at $1.7 million, this project will improve the nutrition of over 2 million women and girls in Senegal by ensuring they have better access to folic acid and iron supplements. In fact, this project will make sure that supplements are distributed to over 1 million adolescent girls—two out of three of all adolescent girls attending school in Senegal.

Moreover, Senegal is a model in the area of good governance. Your institutions and the measures put in place by your government reflect that principle.

The opening of the Office National de Lutte Contre la Fraude et la Corruption [national office of the fight against fraud and corruption] and the online publication of budgetary reports are two prime examples.

Wirth respect to the recent referendum on constitutional reform, which reduced presidential terms from seven to five years, this is another important legacy of your president.

Big challenges remain. We are moving forward together, but we should not underestimate the magnitude of the work that lies ahead of us.

Access to employment for young people remains an important issue. Access to quality education is key to giving them hope for the future, as much for girls as for boys. This direct investment in peace and security is also the best weapon against radicalization.

Senegal is also one of the African countries most vulnerable to climate change. It is already having a significant impact that is increasing the vulnerability of populations, especially women, and undermining the progress made in the fight against poverty.

Global Fund

Collectively, we are facing three devastating epidemics: HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.

Women and girls remain the principal victims. In sub-Saharan Africa, young women between the ages of 15 and 24 represent 66 percent of new cases of HIV infection. These statistics are a clear indication that we must work harder at strengthening the socio-economic capacity of women and girls.

That is why the objective of the international community and of Canada is to end these diseases for good by 2030, thanks to innovative partnerships such as the one with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

This type of partnership, which engages governments, aims not only to combat these diseases but also to help Senegal strengthen its health system.

I would also like to thank His Excellency Macky Sall, who has confirmed his participation in the Global Fund Replenishment Conference that is to be held in Montréal, Quebec, in September.

Support for the Plan Sénégal Émergent [emerging Senegal plan]

Yes, Canada and Senegal must face various challenges, but your government has implemented a serious plan to address them. In addition, the mutual commitments made by both of our countries have been respected.

This is why Canada is committed to supporting the Senegalese government in the implementation of the Plan Sénégal Émergent [PSE], which will foster strong and inclusive growth—a growth that will create jobs in the future for women and young people that will significantly improve living conditions for the poorest and most vulnerable populations and that will strengthen security, stability and governance.

I am proud to announce that Canada is committed to contributing $50 million to Senegal’s general budget over five years in support of the PSE, as well as an additional $20 million to a related technical assistance program.

This contribution has various objectives.

It will help strengthen Senegalese institutions and democratic governance, especially in the areas of food security and nutrition.

It will ensure greater transparency in the management of mining revenues by making Senegal compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Our contribution will also promote a better distribution of resources generated by these same industries for the benefit of local communities.

Finally, this investment will also enable Senegal’s Cour des Comptes [court of auditors] to hire more people to enhance its ability to perform external audits.

Canada’s International Assistance Review

It is understood that Canada’s commitment to Senegal will go beyond supporting the country’s general budget.

As you know, we recently completed extensive consultations both in Canada and internationally with a view to refocus aid on the poorest and most vulnerable, including fragile states.

The discussions focused on five priorities:

  • health and rights of women and children;
  • clean economic growth and climate change;
  • governance, pluralism, diversity and human rights
  • peace and security; and
  • responding to humanitarian crises and the needs of displaced populations.

As you can see, many of our priorities are consistent with those of the PSE.

There are two things I can tell you with certainty:

First, Canada will be more and more present in Africa, particularly in francophone Africa. Beyond its development program, Canada needs to increase its diplomatic and political engagement with its African partners, intensify its cooperation with African multilateral institutions through those partners, strengthen cooperation in the field of security and boost its trade.

Second, strengthening the socio-economic capacities of women and girls is at the heart of our international development priorities.

Women and girls

We cannot claim to be making serious progress if half of humanity is left behind.

In all our projects, women and girls must be consulted at the start of the development process. They must be sitting at the table when decisions are made and must be stakeholders when projects are implemented.

They must know their rights, especially in matters of sexual and reproductive health. They must be able to choose when and with whom to have children, if that is their wish.

They must also have access to quality education, in the same way as do young men.

In other words, they must make decisions for themselves, as they are powerful agents for change, development and peace within their communities.

Conclusion: La Francophonie and the Madagascar summit

In conclusion, as I said at the outset, Canada and Senegal have common values and objectives at the global level and within the space of La Francophonie.

To that end, I would like to emphasize Senegal’s important contribution as president of the Francophonie Summit during the past two years.

Our excellent cooperation has yielded significant successes.

I will have the pleasure of attending the upcoming Madagascar summit to present our action plan for La Francophonie, which will address issues close to my heart, namely women, young people, sustainable economic growth, climate change, and peace and security.

Let’s make this important event a success.

Senegal and Canada are key players in La Francophonie, commited to making this organization a dynamic space and platform for cooperation, especially in dealing with questions linked to development issues on the African continent.

In this regard, Senegal will find no stronger and more reliable ally than Canada.

Thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.

Distributed by APO on behalf of Department of Foreign Affairs Canada.