Posted on April 30, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” said President Barack Obama during his historic first visit to sub-Saharan Africa. By partnering effectively with African countries on their homegrown antipoverty strategies, MCC puts this powerful truth into practice. With over 70 percent of MCC’s portfolio benefiting the people of Africa, we are investing in solutions for long-term prosperity that Africans themselves are designing. These include building transportation networks, increasing agricultural productivity throughout the entire value chain, improving water supply and sanitation, expanding health, education, and community services, and broadening access to finance for greater enterprise development.
On Tuesday, I met on Capitol Hill with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Congressman Donald Payne and Congresswoman Barbara Lee hosted the gathering, which focused primarily on MCC’s work in Africa. I shared with them how we are currently working with Malawi and Zambia to develop initial compacts and with Cape Verde to pursue a second compact. MCC’s Board of Directors will also be considering a threshold program proposal from Liberia. CBC’s support will help MCC broaden our investments in Africa and forge new partnerships.
My meeting on Wednesday with the African Diplomatic Corps provided a forum to emphasize the importance of sound policy performance to long-term development. MCC seeks partners committed to good governance, the rule of law, fighting corruption, economic freedoms, and the health and education of their citizens. We welcome the difficult steps so many African partners are taking to reform their policies and embrace the policy changes necessary for sustainability.
And, yesterday, I joined OPIC, the U.S. Commerce Department, EXIM Bank, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency at the Corporate Council on Africa’s infrastructure conference for a discussion on trade and development. MCC helps to create strong, stable, growing markets in the developing world, which, in turn, helps to create jobs here at home. By working with African partner countries to remove internal barriers to trade, enhance institutional capacity in areas such as customs and national standards, develop trade-related skills, and build the infrastructure needed to enable trade, MCC is deepening Africa’s capacity to trade and attract private sector investment.
With ongoing guidance from congressional supporters, with countries willing to do their part to practice good policies, and with the private sector’s growing role in fostering trade and development, Africa is poised to fully maximize its partnerships with MCC. This will deliver meaningful and sustainable change in the lives of the continent’s poor.
Posted on April 27, 2010 by Oliver Pierson, Deputy Resident Country Director, Namibia
Namibia’s MCC compact, signed in July 2008, includes MCC’s largest education project, which is designed to improve the quality of Namibia’s education system. One of the substantial challenges Namibia is trying to address is a lack of textbooks for many of its students, particularly those in rural areas, where as many as five students share one textbook. It was with much pleasure and pride that the first textbooks were transferred to the Namibian Ministry of Education this past Saturday, April 24th. The event was even more significant as the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns was present to hand the books over on behalf of the U.S. Government.
In a ceremony marked by a great turnout from the Namibian government and people, Undersecretary Burns described how the books will improve the textbook ratio for Namibian students in grades 5 to 12 to one book per student in English, Math, and Science. To make this possible, MCC funds were used to conduct a textbook inventory of elementary schools and to identify all the gaps. This tranche of textbooks will fill the identified gaps, and in the later years of the compact, an entire new set of textbooks will be purchased with MCC funds for all students in Namibia in grades 5 to 12.
The delivery of textbooks is just one small aspect of the MCC-funded Education Project in Namibia. The delivery of these books is part of a much broader project that also includes expanding and renovating 47 schools, constructing regional libraries and vocational training centers, and training teachers. Undersecretary Burns referred to some of the upcoming challenges in his remarks, “Now comes the hard part. It will be up to teachers and students to make good use of these materials.” MCC will help address those challenges as well by providing training for teachers on how to use the textbooks to improve the quality of their lesson plans. They will also be trained on ways to improve the textbook ordering and distribution systems.
On that sunny Saturday morning in Windhoek, MCC, MCA-Namibia, the local entity in change of implementing the MCC compact, and Namibian government officials were pleased to recognize that an initial milestone had been reached and that the compact was beginning to show tangible results. But no one was happier than the 30 to 40 students present, who got a first glimpse of what students across Namibia will be seeing in their classroom on a daily basis. Almost 700,000 textbooks will be delivered to 1,000 Namibian elementary schools starting in May, and by the end of June, all these books should be in the hands of Namibia’s next generation.
Namibia’s Minister of Education Abraham Iyambo best described the impact of the MCC Education Project when he said, “In the long-term, this support will contribute to the aspiration of our country’s national development plans for productive and competitive human resources and institutions.” While he is setting the bar very high, the MCA Namibia team and our partners are ready to meet the challenge. Already, we are eagerly awaiting the next milestone in the Education Project, which will be the start of renovation, expansion, and construction work at some elementary schools with the greatest need.
Posted on April 21, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
This trip to El Salvador has been tremendous. Without a doubt, one of the most moving moments was witnessing the laying of the first kilometers of asphalt on the Northern Transnational Highway, parts of which are being constructed with MCC compact funds. Salvadorans have heard promises of the road surface being laid for about 50 years. And, now, through the MCC-El Salvador compact, they can see the road with their own eyes. As the Salvadoran Minister of Public Works said, the work on the compact’s Northern Transnational Highway project proves that “el sueño es posible” – the dream is possible. It is truly wonderful for MCC to be part of such a historic advancement for this country, especially one that was brought about by the vision and hard work of Salvadorans themselves and through the generosity of the American people.
We also met with members of FOMILENIO’s Board of Directors, whose commitment to the program is evident and has been critical to the compact’s progress. We then proceeded to Chalatenango for the groundbreaking on the community college that will be constructed as part of the compact program. After the celebration at the school site, I had the pleasure of meeting with civil society representatives and 20 mayors from the Northern Zone, many of whom serve on FOMILENIO’s advisory council, which provides local oversight of the compact projects and meets regularly with FOMILENIO’s board and senior management. Such model civil society and local engagement goes a long way to promote the accountability and transparency essential for the compact’s success.
The teamwork and dedication I have seen over these past few days have been incredible, and certainly have been the driving force behind the great progress being made on El Salvador’s MCC compact.
The Government of El Salvador is committed to the compact and to performing well on MCC’s policy indicators. Of course, in the final two and one-half years of the compact, there remains much work to be done. The government must continue to focus on policy performance and on effective project implementation. I look forward to returning to El Salvador in the future to see the road and other unfinished projects when they are completed.
I am confident that the fine team at FOMILENIO, led by Technical Secretary and Board Chairman Alexander Segovia and by Executive Director José Ángel Quirós, will deliver results on MCC’s investments. As I shared with those gathered at the Northern Transnational Highway ceremony, the people here are laying a strong foundation for El Salvador’s future by creating an environment for opportunity and sustainable growth.
Posted on April 20, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Yesterday, I participated in a ceremony inaugurating a high school in the San Ignacio municipality of El Salvador, one of 20 middle technical schools that has been rehabilitated with funds from MCC’s compact with El Salvador. MCC’s compact with El Salvador. I was honored to meet Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, Vice President Sanchez Ceren, and El Salvador’s First Lady Vanda Pignato. President Funes spoke eloquently at the ceremony about the need to provide El Salvador’s youth with hope and possibilities for a brighter future.
I was most moved by a 15-year old student at the San Ignacio Institute by the name of Andrea. She shared with the large crowd in attendance how important the improvements to the school are to her and her classmates. She promised that they would make the most of the new opportunities before them and that they would exceed even our highest expectations. Andrea is enrolled in the Institute’s new program for alternative tourism, which is one of two new curriculums—the other is technical civil engineering—developed as part of FOMILENIO’s education program.
As I have said since joining MCC, I am keenly interested in ensuring that MCC programs create opportunities that enable citizens in partner countries to pull themselves out of poverty and advance the economic growth of their communities. When Andrea shared that, for herself and her classmates, the MCC-funded works and programs at San Ignacio would “fulfill our dreams of becoming professionals and of being entrepreneurs of our own development,” I was extremely heartened. This eloquent, confident young woman captured the heart of MCC’s work in El Salvador.
Posted on April 15, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Yesterday, I testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations to ask them to support President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 budget request of $1.28 billion for MCC. This support will help MCC deliver meaningful impact in the fight against global poverty.
I appreciated this insightful exchange with the Members of the subcommittee. As partners in development, they understand that what is at stake here is not only improving the lives of the world’s poor, but also investing in global prosperity to help make all Americans more secure. In my opening statement, I told the Members that I welcomed the opportunity to work with them to bring a new level of innovation to MCC’s financing and operations, including through the use of concurrent and longer compacts.
Greater innovation means working with partner countries to deliver lasting results and deeper impact from MCC-funded programs. Chairwoman Nita Lowey—like other subcommittee Members—highlighted this priority when she emphasized the need to show how the MCC model is producing results.
I was pleased to share with her and the subcommittee the breadth of our results-to-impact framework, where MCC’s work today to train farmers, build roads, and construct schools and health centers is creating a solid foundation for an increase in incomes among the world’s poor.
I welcomed and agreed with Ranking Member Kay Granger’s strong support for an expanded private sector role in development. At MCC, we are exploring more ways to leverage our development dollars as a catalyst for private sector-led growth.
I also appreciated the very constructive conversation we had about fighting corruption in partner countries. MCC has taken and will continue to take proactive measures to address any allegations of fraud and corruption that might surface.
MCC is up to the challenge of delivering measurable impact, especially with a focus on results, greater private sector engagement, and a firm stand against corruption. Through our performance-based, transparent, and country-driven model for awarding development assistance, we can—and we will—show sustainable returns from the resources Congress provides us.