Posted on February 29, 2012 by Jason Bauer, Director, Private Sector Development
Two weeks ago, Ghana successfully completed its five-year MCC compact, a $547 million program designed to improve the agriculture and transportation sectors. Over one million Ghanaians will benefit from the compact. In early 2011, the MCC Board of Directors selected Ghana as eligible to develop a new compact. As part of this compact development process, the Government of Ghana has initiated broad-based consultations with representatives from civil society and the private sector.
On January 24, 2012, MCC partnered with the Initiative for Global Development and the Corporate Council on Africa to host a forum for business firms – some already active in West Africa, some newcomers to opportunities in the region. The forum’s program was designed to help MCC and the Government of Ghana identify opportunities, obstacles, and solutions to private sector participation in Ghana’s power sector. More than 60 participants representing more than 20 companies across the power value chain participated in the day-long session.
Government of Ghana officials, including from the Ministry of Energy, spoke in an open forum about the types of private sector participation Ghana is most interested in attracting. A number of potential investors shared their views, both in group settings and individual meetings, about Ghana’s constraints to foreign investment. Participants also recommended concrete actions the Government of Ghana could take within the proposed new compact to alleviate those constraints.
This event is just one example of MCC’s efforts to enhance engagement with the private sector during program development. Feedback from attendees was encouraging; one noted that it was the first time his company, a U.S.-based energy firm, had engaged with a donor and partner government during the process of defining a proposed grant program.
Once the Government of Ghana completes the concept paper for its proposed second-generation compact, the MCC Board of Directors will review project proposals and vote on compact approval. We look forward to further engaging the private sector to incorporate its innovation, capacity building, capital and expertise to the MCC compact development process.
Posted on February 28, 2012 by Tom Campbell, Senior Director
I served as a panelist today at an event MCC co-hosted with the World Wildlife Fund that focused on strategies, implementation and lessons learned from promoting community-driven approaches to natural resource management and eco-tourism in Namibia. We discussed the ways the Government of Namibia is involving the community in a wide-ranging approach to attract tourists while safeguarding the environment.
MCC hosted this event because of its compact with Namibia: a five-year, $305 million investment that is creating business opportunities and jobs in rural Namibia. Our focus today was the compact’s Tourism Project, which seeks to grow the tourism industry in northern communal areas and increase the income of households living in these communal areas.
To do this, MCC is working closely with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), conservancies and the private sector to improve the management and infrastructure of Etosha National Park, enhance the marketing of Namibian tourism and develop conservancies’ capacity to sustainably manage their natural resources, attract investments in ecotourism and develop tourism skills.
Three examples illustrate our efforts:
Etosha Management and Infrastructure: MCC and MCA-Namibia are working with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on reforms that will offer tourists a better product, encouraging longer stays and boosting revenues to the ministry and conservancies. MCC is also working with the Government of Namibia to open the western half of Etosha to tourism, which should also help attract additional tourists and revenue.
Conservancy Ecotourism Development: MCC and MCA-Namibia are helping conservancies increase their roles and benefits from tourism, generally through joint ventures with the private sector. MCA-Namibia has contracted with the World Wildlife Fund to provide technical assistance and training to 31 conservancies with high tourism potential. MCC funds are also being used for grants to leverage private sector investment in new tourism businesses. Through these partnerships, conservancies and the private sector develop agreements that lead to increased revenue and employment for the conservancies.
Two community joint venture lodges have already received partial grants, and we hope the compact will lead to as many as seven new lodges.
Marketing Namibian Tourism: To promote Namibia as an attractive tourism destination and to increase the number of tourists to the country, the Namibia Tourism Board has launched a redesigned website.
The Namibian delegation that attended today’s event are in Washington as part of the marketing campaign focused on increasing the number of American businesses that market vacations to Namibia, as well as increasing the number of tourists from the United States and Canada. This effort is already showing results: More than 120 travel agencies now offer trips to Namibia, up from 106 agencies at the beginning of the compact.
If you visit Namibia, you can be assured that your money is contributing to community-driven approaches that help increase incomes for some of the country’s poorest people.
Posted on February 15, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I just witnessed an incredible celebration here in Ghana: thousands of people rejoicing at the opening of the long-awaited N1 highway—renamed the George Walker Bush Motorway—which links the capital, Accra, with major ports, the international airport and the country’s major agricultural regions. This has been a Ghanaian dream since 1965, and it’s finally coming true.
As I drove down the road, thousands of people that live along the road greeted us. School children celebrated. People stood on banisters to catch a better glimpse of the celebration, and crowds waved from their nearby apartments.
There was dancing and chanting. The American and Ghanaian flags swayed together. A nearby large banner read, “Thank you, America.” The celebration resonated deeply with me.
MCC helped improve a 14-kilometer stretch of the highway as part of its five-year, $547 million compact. It runs through the heart of the capital city and for decades has been clogged with people and traffic. The need to widen the highway has been in the planning 40 years, but it only became a reality thanks to the Ghana and MCC partnership. It’s not hard to see why people were so excited.
The highway project was Ghana’s largest public works project in decades, and workers labored until the final minutes of compact closeout to ensure project completion. As President John Atta Mills told the crowd, “This is not President Kufuor's compact. This is not my compact. It’s Ghana's compact.”
During closeout speeches, the chief executive officer of Ghana’s MiDA, the entity in charge of implementing Ghana’s MCC compact, said it best: “MCC is the spearhead for development.” In Ghana, we certainly are spearheading a true partnership based on goodwill, trust and collaboration.
The opening of the N1 highway is a major event in Ghana’s development and a highly visible reminder of MCC’s partnership. It’s a milestone that transcends political parties, both in the U.S. and Ghana. And most importantly, it’s a reason all Ghanaians have to celebrate.
Posted on February 14, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC
A few days ago, I arrived in Cape Verde to sign MCC’s newest compact. Cape Verde is surrounded by ocean, but access to clean, reliable fresh water and sanitation services is a serious problem; only nine percent of poor households are connected to a networked public water supply.
During my trip I stayed in the capital city of Praia, where many residents get their water from communal fountains and lug it back to their homes in large plastic jugs. They use that water for drinking, cooking, and other household functions. Communal fountains are usually only open for one hour each day, and long lines form down the block as people patiently wait their turn at the tap. If the local water utility is experiencing problems the fountain may be shut off for days, forcing local residents to travel farther to reach a functioning water source.
The water utility delivers water to fountains in tanker trucks—an expensive and sometimes unreliable process. While utilities do not profit from water delivery, residents still must pay fees to cover costs. Cape Verde’s water tariffs are some of the highest in Africa.
At the fountain pictured here, users pay 500 escudos, about $6.00, per cubic meter of water, more than five times what I pay in Washington, DC. For a country with nearly 40 percent of the population living on under $2.00 per day, many families cannot afford the water they need. All sectors suffer: health and well-being deteriorate; agricultural crops fail; tourism slows; and economic productivity falters.
The $66.2 million compact that I just signed channels $41 million toward reforming national water policy and regulatory institutions; transforming inefficient utilities into independent corporate entities operating on a sustainable, commercial basis; and improving the quality and reach of water and sanitation infrastructure, benefitting over 250,000 Cape Verdeans.
The compact also includes a $17 million Land Management for Investment Project, which will support the Government of Cape Verde in creating a single reliable, accessible source of land rights and land boundaries information. This project is designed to strengthen Cape Verde’s investment climate and reduce time and costs associated with land registration.
I’m extremely proud of this compact, and of the successful partnership it represents between MCC and Cape Verde. We are looking forward to working with the government and people of Cape Verde to implement this program on time, on budget, and with a constant focus on achieving results.
Posted on February 13, 2012 by Katerina Ntep, Resident Country Director, Ghana
As the Ghana Compact closeout date rushes toward us—less than a week remains to finish the ambitious set of projects we put in motion five years ago—I was honored that seven members of Congress visited West Africa to inspect the progress and impact of the compact, as well as the status of the U.S.-Ghana partnership.
Senator Lindsey Graham, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, and Representative Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, led the delegation, which visited Ghana in early January. Both have the enormous responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively overseas.
Senator John Thune, Senator Kay Hagan, Senator John Barrasso, Senator Mike Johanns, and Senator Richard Burr also joined the delegation. Much of the trip was coordinated with the ONE Campaign; the organization’s founder, Bono, and a board member, Josh Bolten, accompanied the lawmakers.
The delegation inspected progress of the MCC-funded section of the N1 Highway that connects the central region, the country’s main seaport in Tema and the international airport in Accra. The highway improvement is part of the compact's $215 million Transportation Project, which is expected to benefit more than 314,000 people and raise household incomes by $321 million over 20 years.
It is already clear that MCC’s investment will significantly alleviate Accra’s legendary traffic congestion and help small farmers export their crops. The highway improvement—including construction of a six-lane, 14-kilometer motorway in the heart of Accra—has been a massive engineering feat. The workers are laboring around the clock to finish this project before the compact closes.
I was particularly proud that the delegation joined me to cut the ribbon on a newly constructed primary school in Bontrase—a shining example of the 249 rural school blocks MCC has rehabilitated or built as part of the $75 million Rural Development Project. As Senator Graham said, “every child deserves an education,” and MCC-funded schools are providing that access to poor rural children.
Throughout the trip, Bono and Senator Graham stressed that MCC was a different type of foreign assistance program. MCC’s country ownership model means we work with governments to deliver assistance where it is most needed. MCC partner countries identify their constraints to economic growth, and implement solutions to those barriers. Ghana is a perfect example of effective country ownership. In fact, Bono noted MCC was founded in “partnership, not patronage.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Posted on February 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I bought lunch today for the first time from a food truck. From Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, food trucks are transforming how this country eats, offering alternatives for every culinary appetite. In the spirit of creative entrepreneurship, Morocco’s fish vendors leveraged MCC funding to pursue a similar concept and go mobile. That country’s MCC compact is replacing donkey-drawn carts with three-wheeled, heavy-duty motorbikes equipped with insulated ice chests, empowering Moroccan fish venders to sell more fish to more consumers with a focus on quality and freshness. More than this literal parallel, I think MCC and food trucks have a lot in common. Think about it.
Innovation: Both MCC and food trucks are built on innovation. Food trucks offer one or two signature dishes, giving proprietors the opportunity to highlight and celebrate their innovative food specialties, which might otherwise be lost on the full restaurant menu. MCC has taken more than half a century of development practices and incorporated the most innovative principles into our model for development effectiveness, focusing simultaneously on results, country-owned solutions, accountability, and transparency.
Technologically-powered: Because of Twitter, food trucks have proliferated. Technologically-savvy customers are turning to their mobile devices and online communities to track when and where their favorite food trucks will be serving. I saw the same positive use of technology in Armenia, for example, as farmers, benefitting from MCC’s investment in the most extensive modernization of the country’s irrigation system in 30 years, use their cell phones to obtain the latest market prices for their agriculture products to maximize sales. MCC compacts increasingly are leveraging the power of technology to achieve sustainable development and increase incomes, from computerizing banks in Ghana to give rural families and businesses efficient access to financial services, to optimizing global positioning systems in Benin for accurate land mapping to provide individuals with secure title to their property, to using latest breakthroughs to grow, irrigate and harvest quality crops that both promote greater food security a
nd make farmers more competitive in the marketplace.
Customer-driven: Given the long line I stood in, I am struck by how many people are drawn to the food truck experience. There’s obvious market demand. MCC, too, is approached constantly by countries eager to reform their policies and partner with us. The partnerships we do form with a select group of poor, but well-governed, countries are based on shared responsibility and mutual accountability to achieve their homegrown development solutions.
Just as food trucks serve a cornucopia of cuisines from around the world, MCC partners span the globe in a common drive to reduce poverty through economic growth. By opening gateways to opportunity, MCC’s worldwide partnerships help local businesses and entrepreneurs thrive, so that our development dollars, ultimately, can be replaced by economic growth led by the private sector.
I am preparing to travel to Africa this month to sign MCC’s compact with Cape Verde and to mark the completion of Ghana’s MCC compact. Such milestone events in these countries will serve as opportunities to see MCC’s approach to innovation, technology and country-owned development strategies in action. Check back to read my blogs from those upcoming travels. In the meantime, please let me know if there are any food trucks in Cape Verde and Ghana I should sample.
Posted on February 7, 2012 by Jon Anderson , Resident Country Director, Mali
Secure land tenure is a key to poverty reduction. It can improve access to credit, increase incentives for better land management and investment, and allow people the ability to capitalize on their assets.
In some African countries, land “grabs” by large companies are a growing concern for small farmers, many of whom lack formal title to the land their families have used for generations. In the struggle for land resources with big players, poor farmers are often on the losing end.
But in Mali, MCC is helping the government strengthen the land rights of small farmers.
Prior to the MCC-funded Compact in Mali, formal land titling was almost unheard of in rural areas. The Mali Compact’s Alatona Irrigation Project is changing this by employing an integrated approach to agricultural development to bring almost 13,000 acres of intensively irrigated agricultural land into production and provide secure land rights for almost one thousand farming families.
The Project is allocating most of the twelve-acre farms it develops to the people who used or lived on it prior to the Project, with the rest going to small farmers from elsewhere in Mali. In addition, the Project is providing support to ensure that smallholder farmers have what they need to succeed, from infrastructure like housing, markets, latrines, schools, health centers, and wells for potable water, to services like agricultural training and access to credit. An improved road will also provide local families better access to markets in which products can be bought and sold.
The land component of the Project strives to incorporate women into the formal economy partly by providing them with land for market gardens and giving them the chance to be listed as owners on land titles to twelve-acre farms. As a result of this and other efforts to include women in Project activities, women are emerging as a force in the local economy, striving for better lives for their daughters and sons. Some of the highest yields to date have been produced by women farmers.
The Mali Compact serves to enhance the property rights of local families and communities, thus helping the poor and vulnerable to participate in sustainable economic growth. MCC is proud to support such efforts.