Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard – Remarks an the Tomato Jos Groundbreaking Ceremony Tomato Jos Facility, Kaduna

His Excellency Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, Honorable Minister Sabo Nanono, Honorable Minister Adeniyi Adebayo, Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele, Mr. Coumantaros, and all other esteemed guests, I am pleased to join you here today in Kaduna State to mark the official groundbreaking of the Tomato Jos processing plant.  I would like to congratulate Mira and all the Tomato Jos team on this wonderful occasion.  This is a momentous day, not only for you and all the investors and employees of Tomato Jos, but more broadly for the Kaduna State residents who benefit economically from Tomato Jos’s thriving business.

This is also an important day for the U.S. Embassy and for me personally.  This visit to Kaduna is my first official travel outside of Abuja.  And what better introduction to Nigeria than to witness firsthand the expansion of one of the most innovative and enterprising American-Nigerian agribusinesses in the country.   U.S. Mission Nigeria is proud of your success and is delighted to consider Tomato Jos a close partner in fostering the economic development of Nigeria.

Nigeria is renowned around the world for its vibrant, diverse, and entrepreneurial business culture.  Prior to coming to Nigeria, I had the pleasure of meeting with a broad range of Nigerian business leaders and economic policy-makers, as well as representatives of American businesses operating in Nigeria.  The message I heard consistently from those who know the Nigerian market best, was of the country’s limitless economic potential and the opportunities for investment across a range of sectors, particularly agriculture.  In my few months here in Nigeria, I have seen that promise and the importance of the agricultural industry in driving the economic future of this country.

One of the U.S. Embassy’s top priorities in Nigeria is to help foster that prosperous future by increasing our bilateral trade and investment through a wide variety of U.S. government initiatives, including Prosper Africa, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and an array of USAID programming.  We support Nigeria’s push to diversify its economy away from oil and to create jobs at a rate that outpaces population growth.  Agriculture is the sector that can create those jobs while forging new commercial opportunities with the United States.  We will continue working together to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans and Nigerians, to advance our common prosperity and security, and to create and sustain jobs in both the United States and Nigeria.

On a more personal note, I cannot wait to try the fruits of Tomato Jos’s labor.  I am told that Kaduna State produces the best tomatoes in all of Nigeria, and I am anxious to incorporate Tomato Jos paste and other products into my culinary repertoire at home in Abuja.  While I might be biased, I believe my mother’s famous tomato sauce recipe is second to none and is the true test to gauge the quality of a tomato.  I have used it as a measure of the tomatoes produced in numerous countries in which I have served in across the African continent – not to mention those grown in my home state of Massachusetts.  I will be sure to report back on how Kaduna State tomatoes fared.

Once again, congratulations to you, Mira, and to John and all the employees and board members of Tomato Jos here today on this important occasion.  I am proud of your success and wish you all the best as you continue to grow your business and expand the economic wellbeing of the communities in this area.  Thank you for inviting me to join you today, and my Embassy colleagues and I look forward to continued cooperation in the years to come.