Posted on March 22, 2010 by Omar Hopkins, P.D., Associate Director for Infrastructure
When World Water Day was first celebrated in 1993, some 5.3 billion people lived on the planet. Of these, 512 million lived in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 49 and 26 percent, respectively, had access to an improved water source and sanitation facility. Today, on the seventeenth World Water Day, the global population includes 6.7 billion people, of whom 818 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, where 58 and 31 percent, respectively, now have access to water supply and sanitation services. This is a moment to celebrate the additional 223 million sub-Saharan Africans who have access to a water supply and the 120 million who now can access sanitation, but we should also focus on the continuing low rates of access. While tremendous accomplishments have been made, a great deal of work remains undone. Given the tremendous unmet demand for water supply and sanitation, what is being done to facilitate change and accelerate the rate at which these critical services are provided to a billion or so people globally who lack these critical services? A difficult problem like this requires innovation, experimentation, and a willingness to take risks to find better solutions. MCC was created as a new approach to development assistance: a firm five-year window for implementation, full commitment of the funds upon compact signing, untied assistance, and host country ownership, including proposal development and implementation. This approach reflects the best thinking about development assistance, as articulated in the Paris Declaration. In this, MCCs seventh year, we are looking at some important lessons learned, like carefully integrating social and environmental factors into project design and implementation, identifying innovative contracting approaches that accelerate the project life cycle without sacrificing quality, and promoting private sector participation. MCC works closely with partner countries to identify high value water supply and sanitation projects and water resource management and productivity projects that respond to the countries development priorities. MCC programs in Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania include MCCs three largest water supply and sanitation projects, covering rural and urban water and sanitation, non-revenue water management, and source development. In addition, Mali, Burkina Faso, Armenia, Senegal, and Moldova are pursuing major irrigation and water resource management projects. To date, MCC programs have funded approximately $528 million in water supply and sanitation and $769 million in water resource management and irrigation. MCC partnered with the Government of Mozambique to target a traditionally underserved area: water and sanitation investments in urban areas and small towns. Secondary urban areas are particularly difficult environments in which to build sustainable water supply and sanitation systems because, by definition, they lack economies of scale, are more remote, have higher costs, have difficulty attracting and retaining staff, and are typically less affluent—all of which have negative implications for sustainability. Yet, a majority of world population growth will occur in urban areas and much of that will occur in these secondary urban areas. Addressing the projected water supply and sanitation needs of these communities will be one of the sectors most pressing challenges in the coming decades. In advancing MCC’s mission of global poverty reduction through economic growth, we will continue to work with partners committed to expanding access to water and sanitation.
Posted on March 8, 2010 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor, and Virginia Seitz, Director of Gender and Social Assessment
On February 26, 2010, we went to several villages in the northern region of Lesotho to witness the progress of the country’s $362.5 million MCC compact, in particular how the Gender Equality Project is building understanding and support for changes resulting from the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act of 2006. MCC supported the Government of Lesotho in this area of legal reform, and the Act repealed the marital power that had made women second-class citizens. Prior to 2006, married women in Lesotho held the status of children, limiting their political, economic, and social rights; women needed their husbands or other male relatives permission to access loans, own property, and even have medical surgery.
Throughout our day in the northern region, we heard the same message—progress is being made. Married women are taking out loans and purchasing property in their name. Legal reform is only the first step; now, the challenge is to ensure that both men and women understand what the Act means and how gender equality contributes to development for all members of the family. This is a difficult task, as with all changes; some men feel threatened and some women are afraid to go against their traditional gender roles.
The Gender Equality project team at MCA-Lesotho, the local entity managing the implementation of Lesotho’s MCC compact, is carefully building awareness, knowledge and acceptance of gender equality in the economic rights of both men and women. They are conducting training on the new laws for government and other institutions such as the civil and customary law judiciary and the banking industry. They also have a country-wide outreach program to reach deeply into rural society and institutions, including chiefs and community councils, to advocate and teach the benefits of gender equality for the development of the Basotho people. The chairperson of the community council of the Pitseng village noted that he has seen more women in recent years take leadership roles, including chiefs. We had the opportunity to meet one of these female Principal Chiefs, who is engaged in educating the local chiefs so they can disseminate information about this Act and how it can be applied. One councilman of the Pitseng community council noted, I have seen married couples planning together, communicating, and taking each others perspectives seriously. That is progress.
In a country where traditions, religion, and culture have defined gender roles, the passing of this legislation is paving the path to dialogue and great changes. Change takes time, and it is encouraging to know that MCC is contributing to gender equality in Lesotho.
Posted on March 4, 2010 by Jason Bauer, Director of Private Sector Initiatives
This week more than 167 companies attended a procurement conference and heard about contracting opportunities arising from projects funded by Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts. Supported by Business Unity South Africa, Standard Bank, and the U.S. Embassy, the conference was hosted at the Development Bank of Southern Africa in Midrand, South Africa. Country teams from Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania discussed over $3 billion in procurement opportunities, ranging from building roads and water systems to building health centers and schools. The compact in Ghana and compacts still being developed with the governments of Malawi and Zambia were also discussed.
The conference highlighted the business opportunities that ultimately support MCC’s mission of reducing poverty through economic growth. The conferences key themes included the openness and transparency of the procurement processes, the ability for international companies to bid on compact projects and the unique opportunities for U.S. and international suppliers.
Companies attending the conference included those focusing on infrastructure engineering, design, and construction, as well as those providing project management and technical assistance. The resounding message: MCC partner countries throughout Africa are open for business.