Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Africa
Posted on December 9, 2014 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director, Senegal
I am often asked by colleagues, contacts, friends, family, former university classmates, and many more, “What exactly do you do in your job?” There is not always a simple, straightforward response. Foreign assistance encompasses many things and even more so at MCC, given our unique and innovative country-ownership model used to implement large-scale international development programs.
My response to the question ranges, from “MCC’s mission is poverty reduction through economic development,” to “we build roads, bridges and irrigations systems,” to “I work for the U.S. Government on a large-scale, $540 million program that will change the lives of many Senegalese in a multi-faceted role as a diplomat, project manager, communicator, steward of taxpayer money, cultural interpreter, face of the American people, and much more.”
It is the aspect of changing people’s lives that is so rewarding in the work we do at MCC. On October 28, I attended the Ndioum Bridge inauguration in northern Senegal. I joined President Macky Sall; Sandra Clark, the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar; MCC and MCA-Senegal teams; many local authorities; and, most importantly, hundreds of citizens of Ndioum.
It is at such joyous ceremonies that you see all the facets of what MCC does in countries like Senegal: cross-cultural diplomacy, results, impressive infrastructure and economic potential for many and their future generations. At the ceremony, Senegalese of all ages were present. The crowd was lively and pleased to showcase the bridge. Many American and Senegal flags were waiving. Legendary Senegalese singer Baaba Maal performed songs specific to the region, including one previously written about the division of the people of Ndioum created by the Doué River—a divide that the MCC-funded bridge is helping to connect.
The people of Ndioum and the Island of Morphile have long been separated—physically and economically—by the Doué River. They have waited 70 years for this bridge. MCC’s $20 million investment in the bridge is a beautiful splendor of infrastructure, 160 meters long with two access roads totaling 1,300 meters.
But like all of MCC’s projects, the bridge is notable for how it can help improve livelihoods in local communities. The span now connects a fertile agriculture area to the primary road network and opens up greater economic potential for efficiently, safely and cost-effectively transporting goods and people. It also provides better access to post-primary education. This is life-changing for local communities, who previously could only access the mainland via unsafe large canoes or small-scale ferries.
This is why there were so many smiling faces, proudly worn MCC T-shirts, dancing through the night, a renowned Senegalese singer, and a presidential visit to inaugurate the Ndioum Bridge. This is how MCC is changing lives.
Posted on December 9, 2014 by Randy Wood, Resident Country Director, Senegal
I’ve been traveling regularly to the Ngalenka area for four years now, starting in 2010 when the Senegal Compact entered into force and the first design and engineering studies of our irrigation and water management project began. But this time it was different.
In 2010, the soil at Ngalenka was brown and dry; local farmers eked out crops in small plots poised among the scrub brush, watering them with buckets carried laboriously from the Ngalenka Estuary of the Senegal River again and again – work that often fell to the women and girls to do. But over that time, design studies became finalized plans, plans became contracts, and the contracts led to a steady flow of workers, equipment and professionals that made the plans into reality. So imagine my joy and pride this time as we drove out into the center of the Ngalenka irrigated perimeter to see for the first time that the whole site was green with rice!
We lined up on the embankment by the inflow pumping station as President Macky Sall’s convoy arrived. The evening air was finally cool, and the people of Ngalenka and Podor had turned out en masse, dressed in their finest, to celebrate the completed project. Construction of the 1,112-acre system was finished earlier this year, and the farmers had been settled onto their allocated plots and begun farming.
Furthermore, the construction was matched by an ambitious, $4.1 million land tenure program that codified existing occupants’ rights and ensured they would be the ones to benefit from the newly improved lands. That four-year consensual process wasn’t easy, but it led to full agreement on how the land would be shared and managed as well as a community-led decision to attribute 10 percent of the land to women’s groups. It ensured fairness and equity of access to land across multiple family lineages and ethnicities. But despite the difficulty, anyone would agree it was worth it!
Much of northern Senegal experienced a drought in 2014. The surrounding countryside looked parched to me, but the fields of Ngalenka were thick with green blades of rice. And they’ll stay that way through rainy seasons and dry seasons for many years to come.
President Sall threw a lever, and water began to pour from the pump’s gates and flow through the network of canals that nourishes the fields as the people applauded. I thought back to the early days, when MCC’s investments were being chosen and prioritized. Tests had shown the land was fertile and could be used to grow rice – Senegal’s staple crop and the basis of any Senegalese traditional meal – if enough water could be brought onto the fields for irrigation. In fact, the lowland of Ngalenka was just one of five sites identified and studied. Now that Ngalenka has been built and is fully functional, the remaining sites can be easily developed by the Senegalese government and other partners.
Ngalenka is just a small part of a much larger investment in irrigation systems in Senegal’s northern Delta breadbasket. As the water began to seep through the roots of all that rice, it was easy to be excited about just what the $170 million investment in both the Delta and Ngalenka mean: the impact it could have on the estimated 1.2 million beneficiaries who look forward to a meal of warm rice every evening with their families and for whom this project aims to increase food security and open new opportunities to participate in Senegal’s rural economy and reduce poverty.
Posted on September 29, 2014 by Tom Haslett, Program Officer
Earlier today, MCC hosted a panel with leaders from Malawi’s key power sector institutions to discuss efforts underway to reform their organizations and the sector to help increase access to reliable electricity for Malawians. This event, part of a U.S. Trade and Development Agency reverse trade mission, comes at an interesting time. President Obama’s Power Africa initiative—a presidential initiative to triple the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa—has turned a spotlight on the challenges of bringing electricity to growing economies throughout the continent.
The challenges Malawi faces in developing its power sector are representative of the issues Power Africa is designed to tackle. Only about 8 percent of Malawians are connected to the electricity network. The country has just 351 megawatts of generation capacity, and demand is expected to grow far beyond this level in the next several years.
The challenge is clear. Yet the government and the electricity utility, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), do not have the resources required to invest in generation to give Malawi’s economy the power it needs to grow. Bringing in private investment is a priority, and the country’s power sector institutions are adapting to improve the conditions for this to occur. MCC’s five-year, $350.7 million compact with Malawi—the agency’s first program focused exclusively on the power sector—is designed to help the country overcome these challenges.
Several factors currently limit the prospects for private investment. Any privately funded generation projects must sell electricity to ESCOM to reach consumers. This is because the utility owns all transmission and distribution infrastructure in the country. To date, no deals have been concluded, despite a number of ongoing negotiations. In the past, the utility was not viewed as a creditworthy partner for independent power producers because of concerns about its financial and operational health. However, recent improvements, in part supported by MCC, may help allay these concerns.
Additionally, the Malawian regulatory environment is still in its formative stages, creating uncertainty about key issues like access to the electricity grid and tariffs that independent power producers could receive. Finally, the government and ESCOM lack the experience and an established framework to structure complex power purchase agreements that maximize benefits for the Malawian public while ensuing value for money and minimizing potential risks and liabilities.
Malawi’s MCC compact is addressing these constraints head on. It recognizes the fundamental role that strong sector institutions and an appropriate governing framework must play to attract investment into any growing power sector. Our support includes a comprehensive set of technical assistance services to strengthen ESCOM’s finances and operations.
The compact also includes capacity building for the country’s energy regulator so it can play an effective role delivering reliable electricity service while deepening the confidence of investors and companies considering entering the market. The compact is also providing high-level advisory services to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining and supporting the development of a roadmap for restructuring the power market to ensure that roles are clarified as the sector matures.
Collectively, these reforms intend to create a more suitable environment for private sector investment in new electricity generation in Malawi. And the compact’s investments will also strengthen the transmission and distribution infrastructure to facilitate the delivery to customers of any new sources of electricity.
During the panel discussion at MCC today, the CEO of ESCOM, the acting CEO of the energy regulator and the Principal Secretary for Energy described their organizations’ experiences through the compact as well as their own efforts to drive change. Each of them emphasized the need to change the status quo to spur development in Malawi. For example, the Principal Secretary noted that mining is a potential growth avenue but the national grid can’t supply the power they need with the gap currently filled with expensive diesel fuel generators.
The CEO of ESCOM noted that this demand, combined with the ongoing reforms, will attract investors who need to know someone will buy the power they produce. And the CEO of the regulator highlighted the fact that his agency has developed a template for power purchase agreements that they hope to put to use for investors interested in the opportunities the country presents.
Throughout the discussion, one message was clear: Malawi is ready for growth in a power sector that is now open for business—and, with the changes afoot, the future is bright.
Posted on June 23, 2014 by Scott Fontaine, Corporate Copywriter-Editor
MCC’s five-year compact with Burkina Faso ends on July 31. This story is part of a series of blogs and stories that highlights the accomplishments of this compact through the voices of the people who will benefit most from MCC’s investments in Burkina Faso. Read the stories and learn more about the Burkina Faso compact.
Aboubacari Tall has a different approach to raising his cattle.
His neighbors’ herds roam free, but Tall has built a wooden stable just outside his home in northern Burkina Faso.
His neighbors’ herds reproduce naturally, but Tall selects his best cows to undergo artificial insemination, producing a stronger herd.
And his neighbors’ cows feed on whatever grass they can find. Tall, however, wades into a nearby stream to uproot wild vegetation, dry it, and feed his cows on a schedule—a feed mixture for which he is the top contender in his region for a national award.
The hard work is paying off. While many other cows in the region sport loose skin and visible ribcages, Tall’s seven dairy cows are plump and appear healthy.
The difference, he said, is because MCC-funded agricultural agents taught him better ways to take care of his herd.
“Before, I did everything in the traditional way,” said Tall, a father of five children. “The cows just roamed in the fields behind my house. Now I’m using new techniques, and I’m making more money.”
Tall received training on improved livestock techniques as part of MCC’s five-year, $480.9 million compact with Burkina Faso. The $142 million Agriculture Development Project is helping Burkinabé better manage irrigation and water resources, diversify agriculture and improve access to rural finance.
Cattle breeders have already started seeing changes since the beginning of the project. Monitoring data indicates the average weight of their cows jumped from 213 pounds in 2008 to 549 pounds in 2013.
And because of the MCC-funded training, improved techniques and receiving a cow with better genetics, Tall is expecting more than double his daily milk production—a boost that would net Tall another $6 each day, he said.
Tall also collects the cow manure and sells it to his neighbors for fertilizer—a practice that has earned him almost $550 over the past 18 months.
Agricultural agents taught Tall the value of stabling a herd, investing in better feed and using selective breeding. The latter holds great promise for cattle producers in the region, said Stephane Tuina, a veterinarian who trains local farmers on behalf of MCC.
“Before this project, no one in the region knew about artificial insemination,” he said. “But it can be very effective, and people are beginning to learn. [Tall] is really setting the example for his community.”
And Tall’s neighbors are noticing. One of his cows recently gave birth to twins—traditionally a sign of good luck to come for Tall and his community.
Posted on April 7, 2014 by Tamara Heimur, Liberia country team
Each MCC compact is designed to create economic growth. Since the private sector is a key driver for sustainable growth, MCC’s Finance, Investment and Trade team works with partner country colleagues to ensure that companies have input throughout the compact development process.
This work includes consultations with American, Liberian and international businesses to learn firsthand about the challenges they face when considering investment in our partner countries. We then work with our partner countries to design compact grants that address these challenges.
MCC, the Government of Liberia and The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) recently hosted a roundtable meeting in Washington, DC for companies that are active in Liberia or are interested in investing.
At the roundtable, the Government of Liberia (GoL) and MCC presented the Liberia Constraints Analysis, a report outlining the primary constraints to economic growth and investment in Liberia.
Every MCC partner country develops a constraints analysis, which takes an evidence-based approach to identifying the primary factors that limit investment. The analysis clarifies priorities among a country’s many development needs and identifies potential areas of focus for an MCC compact. The Liberia Constraints Analysis identified the lack of roads and electricity as the primary constraints to growth.
After the presentation of the constraints analysis, the Liberian government delegation presented some initial concepts for potential projects in the roads and energy sectors. We invited feedback and questions from attendees, which helped start a conversation that will help the GoL to refine the proposed projects.
This event is part of a series of conversations that MCC and the GoL have hosted since Liberia qualified for MCC assistance in December 2012. In mid-2013, the GoL organized roundtables with businesses in Liberia to learn what is constraining the growth of local companies, and in late 2012, MCC, the GoL and CCA hosted another event for companies in Washington, DC to provide feedback on the proposed compact projects. We expect to continue the dialogue with companies through more events, webinars, email updates, and other forums as the GoL continues its compact development process.
This type of private sector engagement is an important component of the MCC model. Together with our partners in the GoL, we are ensuring the private sector and other stakeholders provide input every step of the way.
We invite additional input and feedback from private sector firms; please contact the following individuals for more information:
Government of Liberia:
- Monie Captan, National Coordinator, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Philip Pleiwon, Private Sector Lead, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, email@example.com.
Millennium Challenge Corporation:
- Evan Freund, Country Team Lead for Liberia, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tamara Heimur, Private Sector Lead for Liberia, email@example.com.
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Christopher Davis, Development specialist, Burkina Faso
Scents of onions, tomatoes and damp earth permeated the morning air as we spoke with representatives of women’s associations in the Dî Perimeter, one of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s principal investments in Burkina Faso. My colleagues and I were visiting the construction site to listen to community members who received their newly irrigated land last spring.
Located only a few miles from the country’s border with Mali and near the convergence of the Sourou and Mouhoun rivers, the village of Dî and its namesake 5,535-acre perimeter provide the region’s farmers with irrigation all year. In the past, most of these farmers could cultivate only during the rainy season. The women told us they were grateful to finally have the opportunity to farm land of their own.
“Before the MCC project, women [in this area] didn’t have the right to cultivate on their own land unless they were widows,” said Sayibata Ki, president of Association Benkadi No. 3. “We took care of the kids at home, prepared meals and had little work to do outside of market days. Now we can go out to farm our fields and make our own decisions about which part of our harvest we keep or sell.”
MCC's five-year, $481 million compact with Burkina Faso contains four projects: agriculture, roads, rural land governance, and education. In addition to the irrigation of the Dî Perimeter, the compact’s $141.9 million Agriculture Development Project is working with the Burkinabe to improve water management, diversified agriculture and access to rural finance.
An estimated 4,500 farmers and their families in Dî are expected to be working in the perimeter by the time the compact ends in July, and the trip gave us an opportunity to talk personally with some of them following their first growing season. Preliminary reports indicate that farmers harvested more than 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans and other legumes on the land on which construction had already been completed.
The project included a strong focus on ensuring benefits reach local women, who are often not recognized as landholders and are therefore last in line to receive land security. More than 130 agricultural associations are receiving land in the Dî Perimeter, composed entirely of women and youth from neighboring communities. Each cooperative member receives a plot of about one-tenth of an acre; last year, more than 2,000 individuals formed organizations to be eligible to receive the land.
Cooperative members are receiving kits containing tools, seeds and fertilizers. MCC is also funding trainings on how to plant and apply fertilizers to maximize yields, efficient irrigation methods and ways to increase soil fertility.
Most of the cooperative members are learning these techniques for the first time.
“We were taught how to make compost in our courtyards with things we can easily find around our village,” Ki said. “I give my children a bit of money to go and search for the supplies and then I use the compost on my land. It is much cheaper than buying fertilizer.”
The association members dug canals to deliver water directly to their parcels and learned that they would manage water resources that feed their canals.
“Mastering the irrigation schedule and working well together was very difficult in the beginning,” said Elisabethe Tiama, a member of the Hérakaura cooperative. “[MCA-Burkina Faso contractors] helped us to get organized and we were able to set a five-day watering calendar based on the rotation of the village markets. They also showed us the best ways to grow our corn and onions.”
All of the farmers we spoke with said they were pleased with their yields and looking forward to harvesting the lucrative dry-season cash crops they planted a couple of months ago. I was most impressed with the initiative and ingenuity some of these entrepreneurs exhibited, quickly solving problems and adapting to a more formal and communal irrigation schedule.
By April 2014, these businesswomen will be joined by their neighbors from throughout the region as the full 5,535 acres are delivered to beneficiaries. Additional plots of land will be distributed via a lottery before then.
Ki can’t wait.
“My husband and I both put our names into the land lottery,” she said. “We are ready for more farmland!”
Posted on February 14, 2014 by Damiana Astudillo, associate director, agriculture
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
How do you ensure the sustainability of a post-harvest investment after a donor project ends? And how do you incentivize private sector investment without providing giveaways that risk being underutilized or benefiting businesses that are financially better off?
When post-harvest losses were identified as a major cause of inefficiency in Ghana’s agriculture sector, MCC struggled with how to make investments to reverse these losses sustainable and private-sector driven while simultaneously benefiting poor smallholder farmers. One answer involved constructing 10 agribusiness centers throughout the country as part of the country’s five year, $547 million MCC compact. The agribusiness centers have the objective of reducing post-harvest losses by offering processing, drying, storage, and marketing services for staple crops.
Each agribusiness center is jointly owned by a private sector investor (with a 70 percent share) and an agriculture cooperative of about 1,000 smallholder farmers (30 percent share). In exchange for its share, the private investor was required to contribute the land on which the facility was built and about $35,000 in start-up working capital, as well as business plan, documented financial and management capacity and market connections. Each farmer shareholder was required to contribute a 100-pound bag of grain as a membership fee. MCC funds covered the building and basic equipment of the centers and legal support to formally establish the new companies as well as capacity building for the farmer cooperatives. In this way, both the investor and the farmers had a stake in the profitable operation and maintenance of the facility.
Selecting individual investors, selecting and building the capacity of farmer-based organizations (FBOs) and training shareholder members on what it means to hold a share of a business were the most challenging parts of the project. Building trust between the farmers and their FBOs—as well as between the FBOs and individual investors—took time.
The legal technicalities of setting up these ownership arrangements, which were unprecedented in Ghana, required significant legal resources. And to select which businesses would receive the assistance, the Millennium Development Authority of Ghana (the local organization implementing the compact) evaluated proposals from 30 businesses who competed for the 10 partnership opportunities.
Some of the challenges included determining which businesses were most capable of sustaining operations and which private sector investors had the greatest potential of partnering with smallholder farmers. Additionally, assessing which locations made sense as aggregation centers, based on the availability of infrastructure and access to markets, was challenging. The end result is a set of agribusiness centers that will be able to reduce post-harvest losses by 20-30 percent.
Share your experiences! Have you worked on a project that facilitated partnerships between investors and smallholder farmers? How have other projects addressed the problems of losses and under-investment in post-harvest infrastructure? How have projects attracted investors to work with smallholder farmers in various parts of the value chain?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on February 7, 2014 by William Valletta, MCC due diligence officer, Access to Land Project
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
Does having a title to your land lead to increased food security for you and your family?
A rigorous impact evaluation of MCC’s Access to Land Project in Benin hopes to prove it does. Noting unclear property rights can act as a binding constraint to economic growth in Benin, MCC set out to map and formalize land rights throughout the country. In addition to an urban parcel titling program, the project worked with 400 villages to create rural landholding plans, which map the land around each village and define and record the customary rights of possession to each parcel.
These records are archived, creating a system of recording land transactions and settling land disputes. The planned impact evaluation, conducted by the World Bank and projected to be published later this year, asks questions about changes in behavior as a result of participation in this rural landholding planning endeavor:
- Are land rights perceived as more secure?
- Do land markets work more efficiently and is land used more productively long-term?
- Is there an increase in the planting of perennials, tree crops and other agricultural investments?
- Is there an increase in trust in local institutions?
- Are people more engaged in village land management?
- Does paid wage employment change?
- Do women participate more in household decision-making?
- Does the experience of women-headed households differ from that of male-headed households
Though it is too early to answer these questions with statistical data, anecdotal evidence suggests that villages that have formalized their land rights through this process have seen an increase in the active use of fields and the planting of higher-value perennial and tree crops. When the findings of the evaluation are released, positive results will indicate that this model is an effective way to increase investments in the agricultural sector and contribute to food security in rural areas throughout Africa.
Tell us what you think! Have you observed or experienced increases in agricultural investment following the formalization of land rights? What other models of land formalization elsewhere have been successful?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on February 3, 2014 by Oliver Pierson, resident country director, Malawi
MCC and MCA-Malawi staff are working hard to strengthen Malawi’s energy sector. The country's five-year, $350.7 million compact will address its inadequate and unreliable electricity and make a major contribution to the country’s economic growth over the next five to 10 years.
The compact comes after more than five years of development and preparation, and at an event full of high expectations and significant anticipation, more than 100 people gathered at the Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe late last year to mark the Malawi Compact’s entry into force—when the compact projects officially begin, and the countdown toward the five-year deadline begins. There was excitement about what lies ahead, relief that the compact was finally getting going and a bit of nervousness about all the work that lies ahead.
It took a lot of work to reach this point.
Development was marked by a delay from July 2011 to June 2012 due to the operational hold and suspension resulting from a pattern of actions by the Government of Malawi that was inconsistent with MCC’s eligibility criteria. Since compact reinstatement in June 2012, MCC and the Government of Malawi have worked diligently to both prepare for implementation and meet the conditions both sides agreed upon before the compact would begin; these conditions involved a number of power sector reforms to ensure the compact’s sustainability.
The reforms the Malawian government made were difficult, necessary and showed their strong commitment to the compact.
Access to power is a major issue in Malawi and creates a drag on the nation's economy. Only 6 percent of Malawi’s nearly 14 million people have electricity, and even those with access experience frequent outages and blackouts. What now is underway is fulfilling the compact’s ambitious infrastructure program. This includes constructing a new 400-kilovolt transmission line linking Blantyre to Lilongwe—a distance of about 150 miles or equivalent to the distance from Washington, D.C. to Virginia Beach—that will greatly improve power supply reliability.
The program also includes rehabilitating a hydropower plant to increase generation capacity and the development or rehabilitation of approximately 25 substations to deliver more reliable electricity to the homes and businesses of nearly 1 million Malawians.
The compact aims to reduce the costs of energy for domestic and business uses, and we project the compact will boost household incomes nearly $570 million. And that figure doesn’t include the benefits of improved governance and regulation in the power sector that the compact l helps motivate.
People often ask me when the compact will show some impact in Malawi. I can confidently respond that, with entry into force behind us, the impacts of our investments on Malawi’s power supply should be felt within four years, once our new transmission lines and substations are in place and our work to rehabilitate the Nkula A hydropower plant is complete.
While that may seem like a long time to some, the significant improvements these policy reforms and investments are expected to bring will be worth the wait.
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 August 5, 2013 by Glenn Lines, Farmer Income Support Project Lead, Mozambique
Sustainable development is a term frequently used in foreign assistance, but it is poorly understood and seldom given the prominence it deserves. Development practitioners often focus on making disbursements and reaching final project targets while neglecting to ensure investments will be maintained and continue to benefit community members after a project ends.
At MCC, we want to ensure that our projects provide the best possible impact by helping boost household incomes after we leave.
In Mozambique, MCC made great strides toward emphasizing sustainability. Like many other development projects, MCC’s Farmer Income Support Project (FISP), a key component of Mozambique’s $506.9 million MCC compact, has taken several innovative steps to advance the principle.
Over the past 3½ years, the project worked to reduce the prevalence and impact of Coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease (CLYD), a deadly disease. CLYD causes affected trees cease producing coconuts and eventually die; the trees must be removed and replaced to stop the spread of the disease.
This involved mass mechanized felling and burning of infected and dead trees; planting new, disease resistant seedlings; community education and awareness programs to assist coconut growers to identify infected trees and prevent the future spread of the disease; and technical assistance for crop diversification.
Now in the last year of implementation, the project largely has met or exceeded its targets. Communities are identifying infected trees and monitoring the spread of the disease. The disease incidence rate has fallen from an estimated 5 percent to 1 percent in project areas. Nurseries are producing disease-resistant seedlings to replace trees lost to the disease. And small-scale coconut producers affected by the disease are diversifying into cash crops.
For example, one smallholder farmer working with FISP produced and marketed more than 500 metric tons of pigeon pea, cow pea, sesame, and groundnuts at regional and international markets last year.
Even with this substantial progress, the question of sustainability remained: How can beneficiaries continue to control disease transmission without mass mechanized tree felling?
The answer lay with affected farmers, who have been felling trees manually for much longer than the life of the compact and putting economic incentives in place to continue promoting farmer-led manual felling.
MCC and MCA-Mozambique asked the project implementation team to modify their focus to reflect this reality. Transitioning from a project-driven, chainsaw-reliant strategy to a more sustainable, community-based felling strategy is well underway now. All mechanized tree felling has stopped. Instead, community felling teams equipped with personal protective equipment and well-stocked first-aid kits are following best practices for manual felling.
Farmers are not only felling dead trees but also actively identifying and removing infected trees and replanting them with disease-resistant varieties using skills they acquired through the project’s training. In the long run, this will help manage the disease incidence rate after the compact closes in September.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspects of the transition has been the way the felling teams have handled the logs harvested from felled trees. The initial plan was for community manual felling teams to sell the logs to local carpentry shops as raw material. However, with additional business training and equipment supplied by the implementing contractor, the felling teams capitalized on market dynamics and are now producing planks and beams to sell to local builders and carpenters, who are producing desks, chairs, tables, doors, and window frames for local schools and homes.
General demand for wood, which is increasing with a growing population, is now effectively linked to community-based CLYD disease surveillance and control. This provides the economic incentives to sustain farmer-led interventions apart from the compact’s project well into the future.
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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