Travel Diary: Behind the Scenes at the AGOA Forum

Posted by Sara Devlin
August 6, 2009
Nairobi From Kenyatta International Conference Center

Interactive Travel Map | Text the Secretary | Behind the Scenes PhotosAbout the Author: Sara Devlin serves at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho. She is currently on detail in Nairobi to support the 8th Forum of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

I arrived in Nairobi about two weeks ago to help with the AGOA Forum. On a “normal day,” I am the Public Diplomacy, Economic, and Political Officer in Maseru, Lesotho, home to one of the United States’ smallest embassies. For Secretary Clinton’s trip to Africa, I have been working with my colleagues in the Bureau of African Affairs and at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi to support the AGOA Forum. AGOA is focused on increasing trade between the United States and African countries and spurring efforts to modernize African economies and increase shared prosperity. Secretary Clinton came to AGOA to talk about ways to create economic opportunity across Africa. You can read her speech here.

During my first week in Nairobi, I participated in event planning, helped draft text, visited the Kenyatta International Conference Centre – where I was stationed at the Press Filing Center – attended lots and lots of meetings, and got to know my colleagues in Kenya. The second week has been more intense, with long days answering questions at the filing center. Among the highlights: “Can you get me an interview with Secretary Clinton’s hairdresser?”

On Tuesday, the day before the Secretary’s arrival, I attended a session on how AGOA has helped to increase wealth and reduce poverty. Jennifer Chen, one of my work associates and the President of the Lesotho Textile Exporters Association, was one of the keynote speakers. I enjoyed getting a chance to support her while she presented her remarks.

She highlighted the following points in her speech:

• Lesotho is the largest exporter of apparel under AGOA, sending $340 million worth of textiles to the United States in 2008.

• The textile industry is Lesotho’s single largest formal employment sector, with approximately 40,000 people (85% of them women) employed by the garment factories.

• The average household in Lesotho is five people. It is estimated that 200,000 individuals are dependent on the textile factory workers’ earnings.

Lesotho has done very well under AGOA, and I was pleased to hear Jennifer describe their successes so well.

Yesterday, I attended Secretary Clinton’s press briefing following her meeting with the senior members of the Government of Kenya, including the President and the Prime Minister. I was assisting the traveling press, making sure they had a good vantage point from which to cover the Secretary’s remarks. I did a lot of running back and forth among members of the press, U.S. and Kenyan government officials, and the event organizers. And, I did exciting things like making sure there were glasses of water at the podium where the Secretary would stand.

I only found out later that Kenyan Television covered the event live long before the Secretary of State and the Kenyan Foreign Minister entered the room – filming me as I walked back and forth. When I walked into the television control room, at least ten people said to me: “I saw you on TV…for about 40 minutes.”

At least they said I looked good!

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