Posted on March 22, 2011 by Barbara Hayes, Director of Infrastructure
We’re excited that this year’s World Water Day focuses on urban water issues because many of our greatest opportunities to improve access to drinking water and sanitation are in cities. Investments in clean water and sanitation in urban areas provide great “bang for the buck” in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty, particularly when those investments complement assistance being provided in education, health care, and infrastructure.
Secondary urban areas—those cities with fewer residents than main urban areas—are particularly challenging environments because they lack economies of scale, may be more remote and have higher costs, have difficulty attracting and retaining staff, and are typically less affluent. A majority of the world’s population growth, however, will occur in urban areas—and much of that is expected to be in secondary urban areas. Addressing the water supply and sanitation needs of these communities will be one of development’s most pressing challenges in the next several decades.
Drinking water and sanitation represents approximately 10 percent of MCC’s $7.9 billion in investments. These investments in water were selected through MCC’s country-driven approach, where partner countries determine their own priorities in a consultative process. MCC’s significant investments in the water sector may come as no surprise, given the need and the relatively high economic rates of returns associated with these projects. What is interesting is that the vast majority of these investments are in urban areas and, more specifically, in mid-sized cities and towns rather than in capital cities.
The most recent example of a significant MCC investment in water in a secondary city is our compact with Jordan, which was signed in October 2010. The compact focuses on Zarqa, one of the poorest and most urbanized areas of the country, where water delivery systems are antiquated and leak substantially, sewer systems either don’t exist or require repair, and wastewater treatment facilities are over-burdened. Jordan is one of the world’s most “water-poor” countries and the MCC compact prioritizes the reuse of treated wastewater as part of the solution to water scarcity.
The compact with Jordan also has a strong focus on private sector participation that will leverage MCC funding and boost sustainability. Even when economic rates of return are high, a business model needs to be developed so that bills are collected, employees are paid, and systems and programs are operated and maintained. This is true for both utilities and for small businesses – in urban and rural areas.
At MCC, we know that access to clean drinking water and sanitation services are essential ingredients for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. Our investments in the water sector give us the opportunity to improve the lives of the poor, while strengthening U.S. relationships with partner countries in key regions around the world.
Posted on March 15, 2011 by Matthew Kavanagh, Deputy Resident Country Director, Tanzania
At $698.1 million, MCC’s compact with Tanzania is the largest and most ambitious yet, targeting infrastructure investments in the transportation, energy and water sectors. The teams have achieved some impressive milestones in the early days of implementation, including awarding over $550 million in contracts over a 12-month period. After two years of preparatory studies, responsible resettlement and environmental certification, construction is now underway. This is an exciting time for all of us, especially the people of Tanzania.
We are also excited about the dramatic impact a partnership with the private sector can have on our efforts to promote economic growth in Tanzania.
Two American companies, Symbion Power and Pike Electric, competed for and won a significant portion of the Tanzania Compact’s $206 million energy portfolio. In partnership, these two companies will be installing nearly 1,600 kilometers of power lines in six regions, providing electricity to over 330 communities previously without power. Symbion Power has also partnered with Alstom Grid to provide substations in these same six regions, as well as Zanzibar. Inconsistent electricity and power spikes are a source of frustration and lost revenue for many productive businesses in these targeted regions. This combined transmission and distribution investment will have a major impact on both households and businesses by providing a more reliable and higher quality source of electricity.
As Symbion and Pike finalize preparations for construction, they are using their own Corporate Social Responsibility funds, separate from their contractual Compact responsibilities, to implement a unique training plan for construction workers. Symbion and Pike have identified and sent three senior Tanzanian workers to Northwest Lineman College (NLC) in Meridian, Idaho, where they are learning about electrical systems, accident prevention, and construction methods during a 60-day “train the trainer” program. Symbion and Pike also plan to establish a similar training facility in Morogoro, Tanzania, for over 200 Tanzanians who will work on the construction crews on the MCC-funded transmission and distribution activity. NLC will work with Symbion, Pike and their three Tanzanian trainers to get the Morogoro school up and running by April.
Last month I had the privilege of meeting the (future) Tanzanian trainers and seeing them in action at the Northwest Lineman College, along with Ambassador Mwanaidi Majaar (Tanzania’s Ambassador to the United States), Ambassador Joe Wilson (Symbion Power’s Chairman for Africa), Paul Hinks (CEO of Symbion Power), Eric Pike (CEO of Pike Electric), Ken Flechler (Vice President of Pike Electric) and Chris Camponovo (Symbion Power Country Director in Tanzania). Representatives from NLC provided an impressive overview of the school’s mission and how their model has been adapted for Symbion/Pike employees in an overseas context, including by creating a training manual in Swahili and English.
The NLC is considered one of the best institutions in the country for this kind of technical training, and they clearly go above and beyond minimum requirements, especially when it comes to safety and professionalism. Lineman work is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, and in Tanzania it is even more so given generally poor safety standards (e.g., climbing poles with makeshift ladders, instead of safer harnesses). The Tanzanian Symbion/Pike crews will be wearing safety equipment considered to be the gold standard in the industry; not even all American utility companies require this level of protection despite data that indicates it contributes to reductions in workplace accidents.
Symbion and Pike’s partnership with the NLC with a focus on safety is just one example of their impressive commitment to successfully implementing the MCC Compact projects and establishing their companies in Tanzania. They are also using their own resources to fund social projects in the communities in which they work, including HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention and education initiatives, and planned construction of an innovative secondary school.
Their efforts go beyond putting poles in the ground and stringing electrical lines. They are building key relationships in local communities and making long-term, sustainable investments by building the capacity of their Tanzanian workers and creating what will be the best-trained lineman workforce in Africa.
In the 13 years since I first started working in Africa, including over five years with MCC, this is one of the most impressive initiatives that I have been associated with. It is also exactly the kind of partnership with the private sector – especially the U.S. private sector – that MCC is focused on creating.
We have high hopes for the energy project and look forward to working with Pike and Symbion in meeting our shared goals.
Posted on March 9, 2011 by Chelsea Coakley, Program Officer Tanzania
During a recent trip to Tanzania, I traveled with MCA-Tanzania’s Gender Specialist, Deborah Sungusia, to observe a day-long training session in Tanga, about five hours north of Dar es Salaam. The seaport city of Tanga marks the starting point of the Tanga-Horohoro Road, one of the Tanzania Compact’s road investments (approximately 65 km/$49 million). This investment includes the rehabilitation of a key transportation route between the port of Tanga and the border town of Horohoro, which will create an improved linkage to the port city of Mombasa, Kenya - a major port of trade for East Africa.This road rehabilitation project is expected to increase trade and development between Tanzania and Kenya, create jobs, reduce transportation costs, increase access to vital community services for the people of this region, and will also help small subsistence farmers to more easily access local and regional markets.
In order to ensure that both women and men have equitable access to the economic benefits associated with this road project and others in the Compact, MCA-Tanzania developed a national Gender Integration Program (GIP). In collaboration with MCC and local stakeholders, MCA-T recognized that gender inequality was a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, identified priority areas for intervention to address this issue, and is currently utilizing an existing network of trained Gender Focal Points (GFPs) throughout the country to implement their program.
MCA-Tanzania is funding targeted trainings to help raise awareness amongst women and men throughout the implementation of each MCC Compact project in the transport, energy, and water sectors. The training program was also designed to increase understanding of the concept of gender and differential benefits experienced by men and women in economic development projects, and to cultivate the skills and economic potential of new or already existing entrepreneurial groups at each Compact project site.
The training I attended in December was a two-day follow-up training session designed to provide knowledge, skills and resources for effective management of entrepreneurial groups from the Tanga region. The group consisted of both direct and indirect beneficiaries of the Tanga-Horohoro road project. Each participant received comprehensive training on topics such as microfinance, access to loans and credit, bookkeeping, mobilization/management of group membership, and hygiene/sanitation education. Approximately ten skill-based groups from eight different villages, and 12 different wards (sub-village level) in the Tanga and nearby Mkinga region were represented at this training.
There were approximately 15 men and 25 women present at the training. Their skill sets ranged from cooking services to masonry, and from small-scale farming to security services provision. Through group discussion and mock problem-solving, feedback from peers and Gender Focal Points, and selected presentations to all participants, it was clear that all attendees were able to brainstorm with like-minded community members, practice their presentation skills, and gain a much deeper understanding about how to access increased economic opportunities that exist while the road is under construction, and new opportunities to expand their businesses, once the road is finished.
Before leaving Tanga, I was able to speak with a number of participants and it became quite clear to me that many of these dynamic men and women would most likely return to their cities, villages, and wards to share their new entrepreneurial knowledge, and become champions of their families’, communities’ and country’s development—teaching others to access new opportunities for growth along the Tanga-Horohoro road. I am looking forward to seeing the impact of this program on the ground over the next year.
Posted on March 8, 2011 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor
Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Here at MCC, we’re using the occasion to continue to put a spotlight on the need for a focus on gender equality in global development efforts.
We are proud of the positive feedback we have received on MCC’s gender policy work, and today we release a paper in which Virginia Seitz, our lead expert on gender and social assessment, outlines some of operational lessons we’ve learned integrating gender into our programs. It’s recommended reading for anyone interested in making sure women and men have equal access to the tools of economic growth. You can read it here.
This is also a big week for two young girls from rural Burkina Faso. MCC is hosting Aissatou Hamidou Diallo and Fatimata Yanta, students who participate in the MCC-funded BRIGHT school program in Burkina. The BRIGHT program has given these girls an opportunity for an education, and they’re making the most of it; they are both at the top of their class. Aissatou and Fatimata were invited to be honored guests at a White House reception hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. It is our hope that this experience allows them to build lasting understandings of the essential role of girls’ education in fighting poverty and contributing to economic growth and inspires them to keep up their good work in the classroom.
This Thursday, Aissatou and Fatimata along with Madame Madeline Sorgo – a Burkina educator and board member of the Burkina Millennium Challenge Account – will also join our CEO, Daniel Yohannes, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and U.S. Representative Nita Lowey at an event on Capitol Hill. It will feature remarks from Mr. Yohannes, Senator Cardin and Rep. Lowey and a panel discussion on the importance of gender equality to our development efforts. If you are in the Washington area, please feel free to attend. The event is at 12 p.m. this Thursday, March 10, in Room 325 of the Russell Senate Office Building. Follow this link to RSVP.
Check back on this blog and on MCC’s Facebook page for photos from this week’s events.