Your Excellency the Minister for the Commonwealth, your excellencies, ministers, members of the Senate, members of the National Assembly, traditional leaders, senior officials, friends, ladies and gentlemen.
Bienvenue, welcome to this 2014 Queen’s Birthday Party. Not, you should note a ‘reception’, nor a ‘gala’, a ‘concert’, or a ‘Samba’ but a ‘Party’. Her Majesty the Queen specifically commands that I should hold a ‘Party’. So I hope that you are enjoying the party atmosphere.
What a year this has been.
There have been many successes for British businesses, in addition to continuing to drink the excellent Guinness generously provided by our platinum sponsors this evening, in the past few months we have seen: the opening of the first land based natural gas factory in Cameroon, now supplying clean, environmentally friendly Cameroonian gas to many businesses in Douala - including Guinness. The signing of the final agreement to allow the construction of the largest solar powered electricity generating station in Sub-Saharan Africa which should be operational within two years. The completion of the deal for the running of the major part of the electricity generation and electricity distribution network in Cameroon. And many, many more projects that are too numerous to mention individually in agriculture, education, English language teaching, support women’s causes and freedom of the press.
Culminating last month in an astonishingly well supported Trade Mission to London led by the Prime Minister and eight of his ministers. Perhaps I should not have been surprised that over 500 delegates took part in this three day event. But it was very encouraging to see not just the number, but also the quality of British businessmen and women who want to link up with the Cameroonian business community to develop projects together. The Trade Mission built on the very first UK – Cameroon Joint Commission that we held last September. My congratulations to the Prime Minster and his cabinet for the vision and determination to make last month’s event so successful. I was particularly struck by the two clear messages that the Prime Minister came to the UK with:
First that Cameroon is looking for partnership to prosperity, not aid.
Second that the future wealth of our countries lies in the private sector, not with armies of civil servants trying to spend money.
Our task, and I say this as a government servant, is to create the conditions in which the private sector can thrive: the security, the stability, the incentives, fighting corruption, building fair judicial and tax systems, fast and responsive customs, transparent accounting and world class education. The world has moved on and Cameroon now stands proudly on the world stage as a partner to the United Kingdom, and to her other friends in the international community. When I arrived here in September everyone wanted to know what I thought of Cameroon. The answer now is the same as then: I see a country full of opportunities, full of entrepreneurs, full of energy and full of youth.
I am proud that the United Kingdom stands alongside Cameroon in fighting threats to security, including Boko Haram. Tomorrow, in London, there will be the summit to agree further action by key partners to help Cameroon and other countries in the region to fight the terrorists. The British Prime Minister is due to announce a further package of measures to combat this terrible scourge threatening lives and civilised people everywhere. I note as well the cooperation between the countries in this region, including Gabon, Chad and Equatorial Guinea faced with the crisis in Central African Republic, providing leadership and sending troops. And Cameroon’s hospitality in hosting increasing numbers of refugees and displaced persons.
The summit in London against Boko Haram is taking place alongside a larger event – the Protection against Sexual Violence in Conflict which started yesterday and involves 149 countries who have signed the declaration stating their commitment of support. This is not just a talking shop – by tomorrow these countries will have agreed clear, practical measures to stop sexual violence in conflict. And next week it is important that we start to implement these measures. We look forward to working closely with our Cameroonian partners, and many of you here this evening, to make this a reality.
Finally – I wish to tell you about my meeting with Prince Charles last month. Well actually there were a few other people present as the Prince came to talk to our annual conference of all British Ambassadors. As this is the Queen’s event this evening I thought I should pass on her son’s thoughts on the challenges facing the world. He spoke about 4 challenges:
First - the environmental challenge to ensure food security, sustainable development, reduce the effects of climate change, prevent overfishing and protect wildlife.
Second – the astonishing growth of cities. Today there are 3.4bn people living in cities. By 2050 this will be 6.4bn. Already we see this challenge for example in Yaoundé. We need to work together, on water, roads, power, sanitation, governance, to meet this.
Third – employment for young people. Around the world the Prince’s Trust is helping in partnership with governments to improve education and training in order to lift job prospects.
And fourthly, finally, relations between communities, ethnic groups, and faiths. An area that Cameroon excels in with more than 200 languages and 230 ethnic groups, we have much to learn from the Cameroonian model.
In conclusion – my sincere thanks to all of you here this evening. Your invitation was not by chance. This is our opportunity in the British High Commission to say thank you, to you – for your support, your encouragement and your inspiration. We look forward to working with you in the coming year.