Closing Remarks by Consul General Jeff Hawkins – DEMO AFRICA, Lagos (September 26, 2014)

CGHawkins_DEMOAfrica_640Hello everyone, and thank you for having me here this afternoon to help close out the third annual DEMO Africa event.

I’m Jeffrey Hawkins, and I’m the U.S. Consul General here at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos. We at the U.S. Department of State are extremely proud to support innovative and fresh endeavors like DEMO AFRICA, and do so in partnership with both the public and private sectors under the umbrella of the LIONS AFRICA partnership. And especially with this year’s significant support from the Government of Nigeria, the trajectory only continues to rise upward in making LIONS and DEMO AFRICA the marquee platforms to promote and strengthen innovation entrepreneurship on the continent.

The U.S. Government needs no convincing that Africa’s time is now, and we are taking advantage of key opportunities to support innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the continent, and that support comes from the very highest levels. Coming off of the heels of the historic US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington last month, the topics of economic growth and partnerships were a common thread throughout the various pillars of the summit.

Now, through the last couple of days, some of you may have been asking yourselves – why is the State Department interested in supporting partnerships like LIONS or initiatives like DEMO AFRICA? Well, we’re here to promote what we believe is one of our greatest strengths – entrepreneurship and innovation. American entrepreneurship is legendary – as embodied by luminaries such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – it’s admired around the world and it has changed the way we operate. In fact, one of our LIONS AFRICA friends and partners, Dr. Susan Amat of Venture Hive, based out of Miami, FL, says that, “The American dream is not home ownership, but entrepreneurship” – and that’s something Americans know very well.

So by promoting entrepreneurship, especially among students and young professionals – in other words the next generation of innovators and inventors, and really harnessing their energy and creativity, we – all of us in this room – are contributing to a culture of innovation and collaboration that creates opportunity and economic prosperity.

The 40 startups who launched over the last two days are a part of a growing class of DEMO AFRICA alumnae, and a wider movement across the continent, of technology-driven companies that are created in Africa and are developing real-world solutions worthy of real investment and global attention. Now, this is the awakening of the African economy that provides an opportunity for key players to forge partnerships for mutual economic benefits.

It is exciting to see what kinds of relationships and collaboration have come out of DEMO Africa events in previous years – many of the fledgling startups that were first announced to the world at this very event are now successful enterprises.  And those of you out there who started as young entrepreneurs are now equipped to be the mentors for the next classes of DEMO AFRICA alumnae.

The LIONS AFRICA partnership, through this flagship event, continues to seek out talent among the great resources that the African continent has to offer. As the startup and innovation ecosystem keeps developing, LIONS AFRICA and the State Department will be there to promote capacity building and mentorship, provide a platform like this one to amplify your passion and ideas, bring credibility to Africa’s emerging startup environment, and drive interest and investment to technology-driven startups and businesses that could be the next game-changers.

And while the work of the U.S. Department of State continues on after this event, just as those of the partners here today, my hope is that the last two days inspired you to forge new relationships, explore new partnership opportunities, leverage each other’s financial and network resources, and most importantly – not allow the passion and incredible talent both in the audience and that’s been on stage here at DEMO AFRICA, to go to waste.

I’m sure that the audience and the startups are ready for me to wrap so that we can get to the awards, but I want to thank you and congratulate the DEMO AFRICA team and the partners for the important work that you do and for a job well done.