Sister Cities International and the U.S. Department of State host
discussion on “Leveraging Sister City Relationships as a Driver of Economic

WASHINGTON, DC — On March 13, 2012, Sister Cities
in conjunction with the Office of the Special Representative
for Global Intergovernmental Affairs (S/SRGIA) and the Bureau of African Affairs
hosted a delegation of South African sub-national officials, local U.S. elected
representatives, and members of the business community at the U.S. Department of
State. The standing-room only event on “Leveraging Sister City Relationships as
a Driver of Economic Development” was part of the S/SRGIA’s Smart Partnership
Dialogue: Global Engagement Series.

Special Representative Reta Jo Lewis, S/SRGIA, U.S. Department of State
welcomed the attendees and expressed her delight at having Mary Kane, president
and CEO, Sister Cities International. Ambassador Scott Nolan, director
of Southern African Affairs, U.S. Department of State gave the opening remarks.
He emphasized that the challenges and problems faced by many cities across
borders are similar. Partnerships, he said, such as those between Sister
Cities International
and the U.S. Department of State are important in
elevating the dialogue on furthering relations between cities. He hoped that the
South African delegation would be successful in finding partners in the United

Panelist Alicia Robinson-Morgan, deputy director for the Office of Africa,
U.S. Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration pointed to the
encouraging 23 percent growth in exports to Sub-Saharan Africa last year. South
Africa, in particular, was a favored U.S. export destination. She listed the top
10 U.S. states trading with South Africa and encouraged using these already
established ties as a platform to form sister city relationships and furthering

Scott Eisner, executive director, International Division and Africa Business
Initiative, U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the second panelist. He suggested that
Sister Cities International could be a key lynchpin to get the
Chamber’s small business members engaged in building relationships with South
African cities. Mr. Nolan also encouraged the South African mayors to use sister
cities to find life-long business “friends” in the United States. He was
optimistic that demand in both the United States and South Africa would
facilitate job creation and a win-win trade relationship.

The third panelist, Wanda Felton, first president and vice chair,
Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the United States highlighted her organizations
mandate to increase their activity in Sub-Saharan Africa. She said sister cities
partnerships are a great way to identify business partners. She also encouraged
sister city networks to bring forth transactions that the Ex-Im Bank could
assist with.

Councilor Mpho Nawa of the South African Local Government Association, in his
response, said it was important to engage local governments. Sister city
relationships would also help South Africa’s nascent local government system in
attaining maturity through assistance in human development.

Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool, Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, provided
the closing remarks. He urged the visiting mayors to provide a project plan
within three months of their return, building on their meetings with U.S.
officials and encouraged them to “give life to today’s discussion.”

Given the trend within the Sister Cities International network of
looking beyond exchanges, we will continue working on furthering dialogue on
leveraging sister city relationships to drive economic growth. This together
with increased training and institutional access, including to federal
resources, will aid the integration of local economies in international trade
and business.

About Sister Cities International.

Sister Cities International facilitates nearly 2,000 partnerships in
136 countries on six continents between 600 communities in the United States
with similar municipalities abroad. Sister Cities International
represents citizen diplomats who work tirelessly to promote the organizations’
mission of creating world peace and cultural understanding through economic and
sustainable development programs, youth and education projects, arts and
culture, and humanitarian assistance.

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