Remarks By Acting Consul General Darcy F. Zotter At the Opening of Disability-Friendly Digital Hub Agege, Lagos

Good morning everyone. It is an honor for me to welcome you to the opening of this technology and entrepreneurship hub for persons living with disabilities.

I would like to recognize the Lagos State Director for the Office of Disability Affairs, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo. I am happy to learn that Dr. Adebayo is a 2013 alumnus of a U.S. professional exchange program on “Empowering Partnerships for Inclusive Communities.”  Our immense thanks to our hosts, the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) led by its Chairperson, Mrs. Adedoyin Beyioku-Alase.

U.S. Mission Nigeria is very pleased to be able to support this project.  It involves many of our mission’s priorities for Nigeria – supporting the rights of people with disabilities, creating economic opportunities, and improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education – STEM.

The U.S. government is convinced that removing barriers and creating a world in which disabled people enjoy dignity and full inclusion is imperative.  Through our various missions in different countries worldwide and through a number of projects and initiatives, we work with foreign governments and civic organizations like Project Enable to promote the rights of persons living with disabilities and provide practical support to facilitate their integration and inclusion.

Our presence here today is an example of this. Earlier this year, a team of young and passionate Nigerians at Project Enable led by Mr. Olusola Owonikoko, a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, was awarded a $25,000 grant through the U.S. State Department’s 2017 Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund competition.

More than 1,014 projects from 125 countries were submitted to this competition, and 68 projects, including this digital hub, were selected for funding. The United States Consulate General here in Lagos has also provided additional funding of $4,401 to keep this digital hub running.

There are numerous active U.S. government exchange alumni like Olusola across Nigeria. Through their involvement in projects that support business development and economic opportunity, civic participation, or education and inclusion, this is a group that is helping to build the future of Nigeria.

We are happy to identify with this initiative which seeks to promote the empowerment and social inclusion of persons living with disabilities in Nigeria. Through this technology and entrepreneurship hub, over 250 people with disabilities will have free access to inclusive technology.

An additional 20 young persons with disabilities will be trained and mentored in various technology-based skills at the hub, which will provide volunteer opportunities to young people with disabilities while serving as a center for their continuous development in entrepreneurship.

Our support for the inclusion of persons living with disabilities is driven by our belief that protecting their rights is not only proper, but also includes tangible economic and social benefits.

When Ambassador Symington opened the American Space, co-hosted by Co-Creation Hub (CCHUB) in Yaba, he pledged U.S. government support for additional projects to enhance the use of technology in Nigeria.  We have funded a number of projects to increase STEM education throughout Nigeria.  Most recently we also hosted RoboRAVE, a robotics education program in Lagos and Abeokuta that will hold events in five cities in the next coming months.  We will also hold a TechWoman event.

In conclusion, we want to thank all of you for the work that you are doing to enhance the abilities of people with disabilities to be active members of society through their inclusion in the use of technology and STEM education. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in the years ahead.

Thank you.