Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Africa
Posted on October 10, 2013 by Vidya Spandana, White House Presidential Innovation Fellow
What do Africa, open data and the private sector have in common? MCC continues to champion the intersection among the three, and this month we’re excited to engage businesses in an interactive dialogue on their needs in Africa and how our data can help meet them.
Open data is information available for the public to use for any purpose, without licensing or copyright restrictions and at no cost. President Barack Obama made open data a priority in an executive order earlier this year, and MCC already leads the way in fulfilling the President’s vision for open and transparent data.
One way MCC is unlocking the potential of its data is by making it publicly available to private companies interested in doing business in Africa. Supporting private sector investment as the engine of growth is, after all, a fundamental part of MCC’s model. With the development and use of open data, we can further encourage companies to invest in our partner countries by using the publicly available data to identify business opportunities for growth and profit-making, mitigate risks or better understand market and consumer dynamics. Open data is the practical way to make business processes efficient and effective, which gives companies an incentive—and a greater degree of confidence—to invest in MCC’s partner countries.
However, availability and access to open data from developing countries—like those in Africa—is still limited. This makes it frustrating for MCC, African partner countries and businesses to realize the benefits of open data, which can drive the decisions that put communities and companies on the win-win path to growth.
In response, MCC will partner with the Initiative for Global Development (IGD), a nonprofit that understands how accelerating business growth and investment in the developing world is a key solution for reducing poverty. MCC and IGD will survey business leaders investing in Africa to figure out how they could best benefit from access to open data.
In addition to the open data survey, IGD and MCC will lead a Twitter campaign to help spread the word about open data, its benefits and uses. MCC encourages the public and private sector to participate in this initiative and learn more about how open data can benefit both business development as well as economic development in Africa.
Join MCC and IGD in the conversation on open data by following @MCCtweets and @IGDleaders on Twitter. Share your comments and questions about open data, using hashtags #Data4Africa and #OpenData.
Posted on July 2, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Standing in front of a large gas-fired turbine engine supplied by General Electric—in a modern power plant owned by another American company, Symbion Power—President Barack Obama today discussed Power Africa, a groundbreaking initiative to expand power connectivity in Africa. I was pleased to witness this in Dar es Salaam, as this endeavor reaffirms the power of partnerships to make the promise of energy security a reality.
Symbion first came to Tanzania after winning two contracts through that country’s MCC compact. As you would expect from the private sector, Symbion quickly realized the economic opportunities in a growing market like Tanzania. Since arriving just a few years ago, the company has established itself, with American ingenuity and expertise, as a key player in the Tanzanian energy sector. Just last week in fact, Symbion and GE announced a partnership on yet another investment opportunity in Tanzania. This kind of growth for a U.S. company, after initially working with MCC, is a win-win for the private sector, the people of Tanzania and the United States. And, this is an excellent example of MCC funds serving as a strategic catalyst for additional private sector investment.
But MCC’s portfolio is not limited to one company. Another American company, Pike Electric of Mount Airy, North Carolina, competed for and won a contract financed by MCC to erect more than 800 kilometers of transmission and distribution lines in central Tanzania. Pike completed this project on time and on budget, as part of MCC’s larger partnership with the Tanzanian government to fund a total of nearly 3,000 kilometers of transmission and distribution lines. Millions of Tanzanians are now experiencing the benefits of reliable power. I was also in Tanzania in April to celebrate the inauguration of a 100 megawatt submarine power cable linking Zanzibar to the Tanzanian mainland. Because of this new link, more reliable power is already flowing.
According to a United Nations study, 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, generate about 30 gigawatts of electricity, which equals the generation capacity just in Argentina. Nearly a quarter of this capacity is not actually available, however, for a number of reasons. This means that sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest electricity access rate at 24 percent; electricity access in rural areas plummets to 8 percent. To meet increasing demand, the study says that Africa’s power sector needs to install approximately 7,000 megawatts of new generation capacity annually. This translates into real market opportunities.
By working with partner countries to create well-functioning energy sectors that build institutional capacity, promote transparency and remove the legal and regulatory roadblocks for doing business, we are creating the right conditions and circumstances to attract more and more private power investments to meet the obvious demand. And, as President Obama noted, creating an enabling environment for greater private sector investment ultimately drives and sustains the economic growth that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Africans and create real opportunities for even more American businesses like Pike Electric, Symbion Power and GE.
Posted on June 28, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
After a number of events and meetings in Morocco that marked the upcoming completion of that country’s MCC compact, I flew to Dakar, Senegal, where I joined President Obama for the first part of his historic trip through Africa. What a magnificent opportunity!
The energy and excitement in our West African partner country were palpable, with signs and banners everywhere welcoming President Obama, the First Lady and our delegation. Alternating Senegalese and American flags lined the boulevard from the airport all the way to the Presidential Palace. From the street, Senegalese of all ages waited patiently for a chance to wave to the motorcade that carried us to meet President Sall.
The Senegalese have good reason to be proud that their country is President Obama’s first stop on the continent. And, I was just as pleased to be part of events that unfolded there, since MCC, through our $540 million strategic investment, is playing a significant role in strengthening Senegalese and American priorities, namely good governance, democracy and food security.
Sound democratic governance and the rule of law throughout Africa are fundamental ingredients for generating and sustaining the economic growth that will provide Africans a future of greater opportunity. They are also key to creating the right conditions to stimulate private sector-led activities and attract greater private investment—all of which fuel the growth necessary for families and communities to prosper. The Senegalese are rightly proud of their democratic traditions, from the fact that government has transitioned peacefully from leader to leader ever since the country’s independence to their role in the sub-region as peacekeepers. And Senegal’s blossoming civil society turned out in droves as President Obama and his family toured historic Gorée Island.
In Africa and elsewhere, MCC continues to set a high standard for governance, partnering only with countries that rule justly and democratically, invest in their people and provide citizens with economic opportunity, as evidenced through our annual country scorecards. African governments are stepping up to meet this challenge by reforming their policies to become eligible for MCC assistance.
President Obama and our delegation, together with the Senegalese, also emphasized joint efforts to advance Africa’s food security through mutually beneficial partnerships with governments, NGOs and the private sector. MCC is playing an essential role in ensuring Senegal furthers its ability to feed its people by investing in major irrigation and road projects that will help farmers in some of the country’s poorest communities expand their agricultural productivity and access markets more easily. At a roundtable attended by agriculture ministers from throughout West Africa, we discussed the importance of an enabling environment, the crucial role played by the private sector and the opportunities that good governance and strategic partnerships can provide in energizing agriculture as well as all the businesses and commercial ventures that result from greater agricultural production. One of the participants at the roundtable summarized the reality best: “Africans don’t want handouts; they want handshakes. Africa is ready for business.”
It has been rewarding to join President Obama during his visit to Senegal. I am proud that the MCC-Senegal partnership stands as one shining example of the kind of work we are doing and the progress we are making to support good governance and advance food security in Africa.
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Stacy Alboher, Program Officer for East Africa
Asbestos is a hazardous material that can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and other deadly respiratory diseases. In early 2012, MCC discovered that asbestos-containing materials—very common in older buildings in Africa—were present in the majority of health facilities being renovated under the Lesotho Compact’s Health Sector Project, leading to concerns about potential exposure of both workers and surrounding community members.
Additionally, many of the health facilities under renovation have been operating for decades without a systematic nationwide approach for disposing of the medical waste being generated. This waste was deposited in open pits, burned or buried onsite. It contained syringes, medicine or biological waste. And it had accumulated without any markings to indicate where the waste was located.
When contractors began digging at the health facility sites, they often came into contact with this material. In some cases, their earth-moving activities spread the waste across the sites, creating a bigger potential for exposure and contact.
Over the past year, MCC has been working closely with MCA-Lesotho, the project’s supervisory engineer and the construction contractors to put in place procedures for ensuring that the risks associated with both asbestos-containing materials and medical waste are appropriately mitigated. During a recent trip to Lesotho, we developed this video to document the issue and describe the processes put in place to respond to the challenge.
Through the Lesotho Compact, we are not only addressing the immediate risk related to our project but also helping Lesotho to develop a sustainable process to continue addressing these issues in the future.
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
What will it take to deliver on Africa’s economic promise?
On my way to compact closeout activities in Lesotho, I had the opportunity to attend some sessions at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town to help answer that very question. The energy and excitement generated by 12 heads of state, five former presidents and over 1,000 participants from the private sector, government ministries, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and development agencies inspired new thinking on unlocking Africa’s promise. And, I am particularly proud that MCC was able to play a part.
MCC participated in key discussions at the Forum that focused on some of the most fundamental building blocks for economic growth. We talked about strengthening land rights and governance. We highlighted the importance of policy reforms in the energy sector as key for sustaining other investments. We emphasized that helping African farmers boost trade regionally and beyond really depends on expanding their productivity to include a competitive range of diverse, high-quality products. MCC continues to be among the largest investors in African infrastructure for trade, but we first need to help equip African farmers and entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to generate the income-producing goods and services that will reach markets via the roads, bridges, ports, and airports we construct.
The World Economic Forum created a unique space to foster the kind of partnerships that can accelerate progress on these and other issues vital for Africa’s sustainable development. By partnering within the U.S. Government on a coordinated energy and trade strategy toward the continent, with African countries who know their development priorities best, and throughout the development and business community, we are working to create tangible opportunities to deliver on Africa’s promise and improve the lives of Africa’s people in meaningful and lasting ways. This commitment reverberated throughout the Forum and will continue to define MCC’s work in Africa.
Posted on March 28, 2013 by Ambassador Adrienne S. O'Neal, United States Ambassador to Cape Verde
I accompanied Cape Verdean Prime Minister Neves on his trip this week to Washington, D.C., where he was invited to meet with President Obama at the White House as part of a delegation of four African leaders, including the presidents of Sierra Leone, Senegal and Malawi. It was an honor to be a part of this delegation of leaders, who set a strong example on good governance and are living proof that democracy does work on a continent that has seen its share of conflict.
Prime Minister Neves recently said, "When a country is as small as Cape Verde, you have to be the best student to get noticed. We have opened up doors for women, set up an e-governance system that is working and are reforming critical policies that will help our country attract investments and improve our systems. We have to be innovative in everything we do or we will be ignored." Cape Verde is a shining example of the "little engine that could." The country has seen rapid development success relative to its peers and performs well on most indicators of economic and democratic governance. Cape Verde is an example for other African countries.
MCC's first compact with Cape Verde was a great success. When I visit various islands, people are still praising the work done during compact I. The impact was huge. Farmers tell me that because of MCC they are now able to think about agribusiness and engage the private sector. With the second compact, the Cape Verdeans decided to tackle tough issues surrounding land as well as water and sanitation. As the prime minister put it, they are tackling things that are vital to Cape Verdean lives, using the compact to make transformative policy reforms in key sectors. For the water, sanitation and hygiene sector, these reforms will help improve the investment climate tremendously. Reforms in land tenure and security will likewise help promote investments, particularly in tourist areas.
Cape Verde is primed for private sector investment. American firms may shy away from investing in Africa because of distance or perceptions of a weak policy environment. Yet, investing in Cape Verde offers an historic opportunity to be part of the momentum of change that continues to build this country. Cape Verdeans are courageous in taking on tough policy reforms and improving the business environment. I invite all firms, especially American ones, to take a look and explore Cape Verde’s potential.
For me personally, it's exciting to be witnessing the transformation with my own eyes. Cape Verde is a model of good governance that continues to push itself toward further growth opportunities.
Posted on November 30, 2012 by Marcel Ricou, Program Officer
About 23 percent of Lesotho’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS, one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. In response, MCC has invested $122 million in health infrastructure and to strengthen Lesotho’s health systems. A major portion of the Health Sector Project focuses on rehabilitating 138 health centers across the country, all of which play a pivotal role in providing primary health care to local communities. MCC’s investments leverage those from other donor and U.S. Government programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Program officer Marcel Ricou shows us how MCC and the Government of Lesotho are working together to combat HIV/AIDS.
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