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American Corner Manzini Opening: Manzini Public Library – Remarks by Chargé d’Affaires Earl Miller
6 MINUTE READ
February 10, 2023

A man speaks at a podium in front of a banner with the U..S. flag and reading U.S. embassy Eswatini

I am so excited to be here with you this evening as we celebrate the launch of this beautiful new space. This is one of my first public appearances since taking up the position as head of the U.S. Embassy in Eswatini, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

I am told that the genesis and completion of this project has been a labor of love and the product of strong collaboration between the U.S. Embassy and the Eswatini National Library Services (ENLS). Looking at this space around us, I am convinced. Not only does it provide a beautiful, welcoming atmosphere for anyone interested in connecting with the U.S., and but this is a gathering place—a place where people can meet people, talk to people, and listen to one another.

I want to offer a big thank you to Dudu Dlamini, Acting Director of ENLS, for the critical role she played in making this space available to us, and I want to thank the Eswatini National Library Service who has been a strong ally and partner to the U.S. Embassy since we opened our first American corner in the Nhlangano (Nlan-GAN-no) Public Library in 2004. The partnership grew again in 2012 when we opened a second American Corner in the Mbabane Public Library—a space that continues to garner a strong audience and build bridges, and deliver programs. Although we have closed our American Corner in Nhlangano for now, we are excited to have the opportunity to open this new space which picks up where we left off, and will continue to build audiences and provide impactful engagements, especially with women, youth, civil society and persons with disabilities. We now have two fully functioning, active American Spaces in Eswatini—here and at the Mbabane National Library.

The idea of American Spaces came about as part of a U.S. Department of State initiative started after World War I. There are currently 650 American Spaces in approximately 140 countries around the world. These spaces serve as a place for people to connect with the United States, access information, experience American culture, improve their English language skills, and learn about educational opportunities in the United States.

Here in Eswatini, the U.S. Embassy regularly partners with local organizations and individuals, including U.S. program alumni, to bring innovative programs to the space. Indeed over the past 10 years, the two American Corners recorded over 112,000 visits and offered more than 750 programs that were attended by over 44,000 people. These programs are free and open to the public and they emphasize shared values—covering topics such as entrepreneurship and innovation, civic participation, media literacy, study in the U.S. and more.

For Manzini, we already have some exciting programs getting underway, as you can see from the presentation running in the back of the room. For example, in partnership with U.S. program alumni, we are offering robotics sessions through the Technovation Hub every Saturday until July. The sessions are available to 48 high school students who were selected on a competitive basis. And then the top cohort of these students will go on to represent Eswatini in the FIRST Global Challenge in October 2023.

In partnership with the University of Iowa through the Jacobson Institute, we are also planning an entrepreneurship program for 40 out of school youth. The program, called Bizinnovator, will be led by two alumni of our YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship, and it will commence in April/May.

The value of these kinds of spaces is hard to quantify. This American Corner, like so many others around the world, will serve as a gathering place for young people to access information, the Internet, and other resources—free of charge. This is a place where people can learn and share ideas, express their thoughts, or cordially debate a difficult topic.

The American Corner is a U.S. Embassy partnership with the Eswatini National Library Service that demonstrates the U.S. commitment to building strong bonds with Emaswati.

We know that globally, and here in Eswatini, governments are faced with fiscal challenges that have had negative impacts on libraries. We are grateful for the support of the Ministry of ICT, and we urge the government to continue to support libraries as they remain an important gateway to information and lifelong learning especially for disadvantaged communities. Further, as libraries continue to evolve and strive to remain relevant to the people they serve, they will need more support from government and other partners.

To the people in this room, you have been invited here tonight because you are already playing a role in helping us build and maintain a community of like-minded individuals that values relationships and strong engagement on issues that will matter to our society.

We look forward to working with all of you to keep investing in Emaswati by providing resources like this to increase understanding, collaboration and partnership with the Swati people.