Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Ceo
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 May 1, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in MCC’s 2013 Forum on Global Development this past Monday and engaged in a lively discussion with Frank Sesno, the Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University. Dr. Rice described the MCC model as the best combination of American interests and values. She sees this in the U.S. Government’s willingness to partner with the developing world through MCC to help countries determined to help themselves. She sees this in how MCC partners within countries, engaging directly with citizens, businesses, government ministries, and nongovernmental organizations and encouraging them to map out their own, homegrown path to development. And, she also sees MCC’s strength in catalyzing partnerships between developing countries, who motivate each other to reform their policies in order to compete and qualify for MCC funding, in what she—and so many others—aptly call the MCC Effect.
We share Secretary’s Rice affirmation of the power of partnerships. Results-focused partnerships that leverage our limited resources, amplify our intended impact and sustain the benefits of our investments have been—and will continue to be—a priority for MCC. With support from both Chevron and the United Nations Foundation, Monday’s Forum created the perfect opportunity to discuss how partnerships advance effective development and make a lasting difference in the lives of the world’s poor. More than 200 people attended as we celebrated such partnerships by recognizing the achievements of this year’s recipients of MCC’s Country Commitment Award, Corporate Award and Next Generation Award.
Mrs. Sophia Mohapi of MCA-Lesotho received MCC’s Country Commitment Award, recognizing her efforts to partner with Lesotho’s government to secure additional funding to sustain the MCC-funded investments made in health and water. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc. won MCC’s Corporate Award, recognizing this Vermont company’s strong partnerships with fair trade coffee growers in MCC partner countries that help promote food security and long-term prosperity. Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman of Uncharted Play were presented the Next Generation Award by DC United star player Dwayne De Rosario for their SOCCKET, a clever soccer ball invention that doubles as an eco-friendly portable generator. By forging partnerships with sponsors and local implementation partners around the world, the SOCCKET creators have ensured that minutes of play can lead to hours of electricity for those families struggling off the electrical grid. These honorees demonstrate what is possible through partnering. I invite you to learn more about their stories and be inspired by their compassion and creativity to uplift the poor and vulnerable.
We were also pleased that Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman could join us. Senator Leahy concluded the Forum by presenting MCC’s Corporate Award and reaffirming that partnerships are key to delivering development assistance effectively. Mr. Froman highlighted the importance of integrated and coordinated strategies, including input from MCC as well as private companies, to the Administration’s global development strategy.
What continues to resonate with me from this week’s Forum is the sheer determination and commitment by government, civil society and the private sector to do more by partnering more. This is what has made—and will continue to make—a tangible difference in the lives of the world’s poor.
Posted on February 15, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
In the State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama highlighted the urgent need to make progress in the world’s most impoverished countries. He spoke about empowering women and youth, helping communities feed and educate themselves and connecting more of the world’s poor to the opportunities of a thriving global economy. The President’s eloquent statement that “progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all” is what motivates much of MCC’s work as we partner with developing countries to reduce poverty through economic growth. Take for example the enormous strides MCC continues to make in advancing gender integration and food security for the world’s poor so that economic growth can be as inclusive and sustainable as possible.
I am also proud of the ways MCC supports the President’s agenda to boost American exports and create opportunity for American businesses. Our own economic prosperity is linked inextricably to economic prosperity around the world. MCC's goal is not only to lift poor countries out of poverty but also to create stable trading and investment partners for the United States over the long term. By making investments targeted at unlocking the constraints to growth in developing markets, MCC serves as a gateway to opportunity for local and American companies eager to invest, tap new consumers and grow. The day after the President’s State of the Union address, MCC hosted a number of private sector companies for a comprehensive discussion on finance, investment, trade, and collaboration opportunities throughout MCC partner countries.
The President also spoke about the need to “stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy.” MCC is already a strong catalyst for incentivizing policy reforms that help create an enabling environment for trade and investment. In addition, our focus on sound democratic governance and on standing up to corruption highlights MCC’s most distinctive approach to development: We only partner with those poor countries that have objectively demonstrated their commitment to sound policies focused on ruling justly, investing in their people and pursuing economic freedom.
The President’s vision for creating economic opportunity and well-being at home is furthered as we open markets and reduce poverty around the world. In pursuit of this vision, MCC will continue to contribute in tangible ways to advancing our common prosperity. By creating real change in the lives of the world’s poorest, focusing on markets of opportunity for trade, investment and job creation and supporting policy reforms that promote fundamental rights and values, we are doing our part at MCC to deliver on the President’s vision to “remember that today’s world presents not just dangers, not just threats, it presents opportunities.”
Posted on January 22, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Albert Einstein once said, “Only a life lived in the service to others is worth living.” I couldn’t help thinking about this correlation over the course of this past weekend. As millions gathered in Washington, D.C.—or watched from around the country and world—Americans marked a peaceful presidential inauguration that demonstrates the proudest American traditions of democracy and public service. The fact that the inauguration coincided with the commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day reminded us of the extraordinary power that we all can have to stand up, get involved and generate meaningful change through acts of genuine service in ways both big and small.
This commitment to service defined the weekend.
Saturday’s National Day of Service saw record attendance at the Service Summit on the National Mall. I was so pleased that the Millennium Challenge Corporation had a booth at the Service Summit, along with other federal agencies and over 100 service organizations from across the country. Those who visited the MCC table learned more about our unique approach to economic development. We value our partnerships with the world’s poor because we recognize that our own prosperity and economic strength here at home are linked to the prosperity and economic strength of countries around the world.
I was also pleased to join USAID Administrator Raj Shah for a service project at the DC Armory. There, I joined other volunteers in an effort to assemble 100,000 care kits for members of the military, veterans, those wounded in service, and first responders. It was humbling to contribute in such a small, yet meaningful, way to those who exemplify the best principles of selfless service.
Serving others and doing our part to make our families, communities, country, and world better is more than a cliché. It is what truly motivates so many of us working in government and in international development. When I report to work each day, MCC’s dedicated and passionate employees remind me of this reality. Their stories are proof that lives lived in service to others can make all the difference in the world.
Posted on January 8, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Yesterday, I had the great honor of representing the American people at the inauguration of John Dramani Mahama as Ghana’s next president. President Barack Obama asked me to lead our country’s official delegation to the inauguration. It was a privilege to stand alongside the other delegation members--U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Gene Cretz, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Teitelbaum—and witness a peaceful transition of power in Ghana.
Ghanaians traveled from every corner of Ghana to participate in Monday's inauguration; some arrived as early as Sunday night in order to secure a coveted place in Independence Square. In his inauguration speech, President Mahama talked about how a farmer named Tetteh-Quarshie introduced the cocoa bean to Ghana, and today Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world. The president’s point was that every Ghanaian can contribute in a meaningful way to Ghana’s economic development.
I am proud that MCC too played a part in furthering Ghana’s economic development goals. I had been to Ghana previously to assess progress on MCC’s $547 million compact partnership with the country and later to celebrate that compact’s successful completion. The strong political will to deliver on the compact’s promise for sustainable development that would improve the lives of Ghanaians impressed me from the start. As Ghana continues to work on a second MCC compact under the Mahama administration, I welcome this level of engagement and dynamic leadership.
Meeting with President-elect Mahama right before his inauguration as well as with Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Kwabena Duffour during my brief stay in Accra reaffirmed such engagement. I remain encouraged and excited by the commitment to inclusive economic growth and self-sufficiency these leaders envision for Ghana. President Mahama said that the U.S.-Ghana relationship is close and he is looking forward to making it even closer. His administration is hoping to keep Ghana’s economy growing at 8 or 9 percent per year between 2013 and 2016. This will require investments in areas such as infrastructure and energy (the focus of a proposed second MCC compact) as well as agriculture (the focus of Ghana’s first MCC compact) in order to create opportunities for Ghana’s youth.
As the United States prepares for our own presidential inauguration later this month, I recognize that the freedom to choose our leaders and hold them accountable is what unites so many of us around the world in a journey toward democratic values, pluralism and civil liberties. Witnessing what happened in Ghana on Monday with President Mahama’s inauguration affirms our common humanity united by such shared principles.
Posted on June 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I am in Jordan, one of the world's driest countries, where severe water scarcity impacts every aspect of daily life.
I met with Fatima Ali, a widow, whose entire income is spent on rent. The water pipes to Fatima's home leak and the wastewater pipes overflow regularly. When water does flow in, Fatima uses old paint cans to store it because she does not have proper water storage containers. Fatima's neighbor, Sulaiman Ali (no relation to Fatima), has similar challenges. The diabetic father of three lacks proper water storage capabilities, and the inconsistent water supply makes operating his dialysis equipment extremely difficult.
MCC's $275 million compact with the Government of Jordan is designed to address some of these challenges.
Through the repair and replacement of broken or leaking pipes and the installation of proper water storage tanks, MCC will increase water availability and quality in poor neighborhoods like the one where Fatima and Sulaiman live. MCC's grant will also extend modern sewers to urban neighborhoods, improving wastewater collection and decommissioning the use of cesspits.
Today, I presided over the signing of a critical private sector agreement, a major step toward expanding the As Samra wastewater treatment plant. Originally built with help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the As Samra wastewater treatment plant, once completed, will be one of the largest in the region. Approximately half of the financing for this expansion is being provided through private sector partners, proving once again that when governments create the right atmosphere for investment, the private sector will respond.
Together, these activities will benefit approximately 3 million Jordanians. For Fatima and Sulaiman, it means a better quality of life. For MCC, it means economic growth and development for a critical partner country in the Middle East. Truly, when water flows, prosperity follows.
Posted on May 22, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
When countries lead their own development, they put themselves on the path to sustainable economic growth that ultimately breaks the cycle of aid dependence. We repeatedly heard this empowering theme throughout last week’s events surrounding the G-8 summit, particularly from Benin, Ghana and Tanzania, three MCC partner countries who are leveraging assistance to attract private sector-led investment. These African partner countries—each of whom have close bilateral partnerships with the United States—are practicing MCC’s country ownership principle and exemplifying a move toward greater growth and opportunity in Africa today.
President Jayaka Kikwete’s presentation at the Statesmen’s Forum at CSIS on Thursday, and the dialogue we had afterward, drove home these points. His vision for a more food-secure Tanzania, where families and businesses can thrive, reflects Tanzanian priorities for economic development and shares MCC’s vision that the private sector work to replace aid with greater trade and investment.
President Kikwete joined President John Atta-Mills of Ghana at Friday’s high-level symposium on global agriculture and food security to discuss new ways of accelerating growth in Africa’s agricultural sector. As chairperson of the African Union, President Boni Yayi of Benin took part in the conversation too. President Barack Obama’s speech set the tone for the symposium when he confirmed that “…true development involves not only delivering aid, but also promoting… inclusive growth that actually helps nations develop and lifts people out of poverty. The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient… And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it's got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector.”
With over half of our investments—$4.6 billion—related to food security, MCC has been and remains at the forefront of addressing this critical development priority. And, MCC’s partnerships with African countries to promote food security give the private sector another reason to get involved and invest.
To deepen such partnerships, MCC hosted a conversation over dinner with several African leaders and U.S. Administration officials. The discussion focused on how to advance our shared goals, including enhancing long-term food, water and energy security; investing in Africa’s human development through health and education initiatives; and building the infrastructure and partnerships businesses need to succeed. Our African partner countries are leveraging development assistance to attract the private sector and exploring ways for entrepreneurs and enterprises to build on our development successes so as to maximize impact and sustainability.
Our focus on country-led development is key to MCC’s model and essential for replacing the dependence of poverty with the independence of investment. If the positive rhetoric we heard last week is followed up with continued results on the ground in partner countries in Africa and elsewhere, I am confident that we are well on our way to sustainable, life-changing development that will make a difference in the lives of the world’s poor.
Posted on April 25, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
This post first appeared on Visa Viewpoints, the official blog of Visa Inc., on April 25, 2012.
Since 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has been leading the fight against global poverty. As an innovative and independent U.S. development assistance agency, we are changing the conversation on how best to deliver smart assistance by focusing on good policies, country-owned development solutions and results. Our success rests in large part on our ability to forge successful partnerships for sustainable development. This means partnering with countries around the world, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and other government agencies.
One lesson we know for sure: Assistance alone is not enough. What will be enough to tip the scale toward sustainable growth is the innovation and investment driven by the private sector. The private sector creates jobs and new products. The private sector is where entrepreneurs are born and thrive. And, the growth, investment, trade, and business generated by the private sector will help lift people out of poverty.
Today, the Millennium Challenge Corporation convenes our first Forum on Global Development. This will be a unique occasion for visionaries and practitioners in international development to meet, exchange ideas and honor three outstanding awardees for their work on gender integration, investment and innovation.
On behalf of MCC, I am proud that we will recognize Visa as the recipient of our first Corporate Award for demonstrating exemplary commitment to eradicating poverty in the developing world. We are impressed with Visa’s commitment to advancing financial inclusion by leveraging its core business along with innovation, strategic partnerships and financial literacy. We applaud Visa’s public-private partnership with the Government of Rwanda, including the extensive Charter of Collaboration as well as partnerships with organizations such as Women’s World Banking and GSMA mWomen, to advance financial access for women and their efforts to bring financial literacy education to millions of people worldwide.
In the global fight against financial exclusion and poverty, no single organization has all the answers. But through innovative solutions from—and partnerships among—governments, the private sector and civil society, we are making a difference.
Posted on April 4, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
As Senegal today celebrates the 52nd anniversary of its independence, I just returned from the inauguration of the country’s new president, Macky Sall. Last Thursday, I was honored to receive a call from the White House asking me, on behalf of President Obama, to lead the official U.S. delegation attending his inauguration. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and General Carter Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, joined me on the delegation, which was rounded out on the ground by our U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Lewis Lukens.
The delegation represented agencies which carry out the three “D”s of U.S. foreign policy: diplomacy, defense and development. We share these interests with Senegal, our longstanding ally. Our delegation joined world leaders from across Africa, Europe and beyond to witness the historic inauguration of Senegal’s fourth president. Pride, promise and peace—and a celebratory mood—pervaded the historic transfer of power from former President Wade to President Sall. It was an important moment to witness, and our delegation’s presence affirmed the strong ties of cooperation and friendship between Senegal and the United States.
The inauguration ceremony uptown was well-attended; the chairs and aisles were full. Spectators filled the streets afterward as President Sall met former President Wade at the presidential palace, bringing downtown traffic to a halt. While the delegation presented congratulations on behalf of President Obama, the Senegalese were congratulating each other. One Senegalese would greet another with “felicitations,” French for “congratulations,” to which the other would respond “ño ko bokk,” which means “it [this peaceful democratic transition] is ours collectively to share.” Several Senegalese shared with me their disappointment that this election was viewed as unusually calm, because they think peaceful elections should be the norm, and until they are, much work needs to be done.
In fact, Senegal’s festive occasion unfortunately did not garner as much press attention as the crisis unfolding in neighboring Mali. What a sharp contrast between the march toward democracy and the regression from it. On the one hand, thousands had gathered to celebrate Senegal’s commitment to a strong and mature democracy and to a peaceful and orderly transfer of power, where the needs of the nation and its citizens trump the agenda of individual politicians. On the other hand, the seizure of power by elements of the military in Mali was an unconstitutional, anti-democratic action, which the U.S. Government and the international community have condemned and which prompted MCC to halt operations in the country.
Both in his public speeches and our bilateral meeting, President Sall reiterated Senegal’s commitment to good governance, transparency, economic opportunity, and food security, which align with the country’s MCC compact. These are the same priorities I heard from the Senegalese people as I met with small groups of private sector and civil society representatives.
Although a short trip, Assistant Secretary Carson and Ambassador Lukens joined me to meet briefly with the team implementing our compact. We commended the team’s ongoing work and congratulated them for launching the first work tenders, signaling the end of the design phase and the beginning of the works phase. We reminded the team to stay on top of its game as so many people in the regions of Casamance and St. Louis are counting on the construction of the MCC-financed roads and irrigation infrastructure to unlock agricultural productivity and deliver greater access to markets and services.
Our partnerships thrive with countries committed to democratic governance and the rule of law, and what I saw unfold in Senegal is proof of this commitment. We are encouraged that the Sall administration has prioritized the full implementation of Senegal’s MCC compact. The people of Senegal deserve and expect nothing less. Let’s continue this work that transcends politics and personalities and belongs to the people of Senegal, eager to replace poverty with prosperity and continue forward on a path to greater economic progress.
Posted on March 30, 2012 by Daniel Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Today’s release of MCC’s 2011 Annual Report, appropriately titled Gateway to Opportunity, captures the milestones of the past year and articulates clear priorities moving forward. In the report, you can read about the significant strides we have made in delivering results, forging partnerships with countries and civil society, and championing policy reforms to create opportunities for sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries. This foundation allows us now to expand our work not just to help poor countries rise out of poverty and break the cycle of aid dependency but also to create stable trading and investment partners for the United States, which means more jobs here at home.
By incentivizing the right policy conditions and generating an enabling environment for growth, MCC builds a Gateway to Opportunity for American businesses interested in exporting to or doing business in these next generation emerging markets as they climb out of poverty. Because of this, MCC’s mission is key to Secretary of State Clinton’s 21st century economic statecraft and President Obama’s efforts to put in place an American economy that is “built to last.” MCC is pushing the envelope on development effectiveness and sustainability through our commitment to transparency, accountability, results, policy reform, and country-driven solutions.
MCC’s approach has not gone unnoticed. A November 2011 Fortune Magazine article concludes that MCC “certainly gives the taxpayer real bang for the buck.” A recent MarketWatch commentary by Thomas Kostigen arguing for a robust MCC budget sums up the impact best: “MCC deserves its fair share so the U.S. can gain its fair share in the emerging markets. The global impact of these investments comes back to us all in the form of food, jobs, more open markets for trade, and doing good and right by others. It’s a boomerang effect.”
We agree, and we’re committed to showcasing even more investment and procurement opportunities for U.S. businesses in the months ahead to ensure the full “boomerang effect” of positive impact for the world’s poor as well as American businesses and workers.
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 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 December 1, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC
The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness took place this week as government leaders from over 150 countries gathered to discuss progress made on donor promises to tackle global poverty. These discussions started with the Paris Declaration in 2004, then the Accra Agenda for Action in 2008 and continued in Busan. Delegates talked about “ownership,” “mutual accountability” and “outcomes.” Ownership is about countries determining and driving their own development priorities. Mutual accountability means we work in partnership—as donor and recipient countries—to achieve development solutions and share responsibility for successes and failures. And as partners, we are committed to delivering tangible outcomes and meaningful impacts–the ultimate result of any assistance.
MCC's Sheila Herrling, Daniel W. Yohannes, and David Weld participate in discussions at this week's 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.
Achieving results was a major theme that weaved through discussions at Busan. Results-focused aid is a shared objective. Yet, an interesting set of questions around “how” and “for whom” remains. Who defines results? How are they obtained? Do process results no longer matter? Are we measuring results for donors, for recipients or for both? MCC brings much to the table in terms of putting a results-focused assistance program into practice. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in her speech at the forum’s opening ceremony, MCC is a pioneer in measuring results. Some thoughts based on our experience at MCC:
First, how we pursue a results-focused approach matters. Country ownership is bigger and deeper than consultations around a national development strategy. As MCC Vice President Sheila Herrling mentioned during Tuesday’s Results Thematic Session, a big part of that ownership is how countries include civil society in results setting and results monitoring, and how countries and donors find ways to share that information transparently and accessibly with the public. During my remarks at the Results Plenary, I stressed that inclusive, country-driven development must embrace the voices of women because we know gender equality is key to development effectiveness. Efforts to more purposefully examine how a results agenda can strengthen country systems and institutions will ultimately lead to better and more sustainable outcomes.
Second, focusing on outcomes and impact is absolutely the right approach. That said, we should not lose sight of monitoring and evaluating policy reforms and intermediate targets, which help us establish the path to outcomes and impact. At MCC, we embrace an innovative “continuum of results” — tracking, measuring and publicly communicating results along the entire lifecycle of each country-determined program we fund, from inputs, to outputs, to policy reforms, and ultimately to measurable outcomes for beneficiaries. We count interim milestones met along the way because each one brings us a step closer to reaching the program goal. MCC’s continuum of results also includes post-program impact evaluations to help us improve accountability, determine if observed outcomes are attributable to MCC’s investments and to learn whether programs were designed correctly. Because MCC’s continuum of results is built on transparency and critical learning, it becomes a tool for assessing what works and does not work in development and what can be improved for the future.
Third, the question of “results for whom” got a lot of play in Busan. To be accountable to their own citizens, partner countries must answer this often difficult question and demonstrate how development resources are used and what results they achieve. As we discuss our drive for positive results, we must never lose sight of what an actual result means for ordinary men and women around the world. Ayesha Otibo, the chairwoman of a farmer-based organization comprised of 50 female rice processors in Ghana, received training on ways to develop her business and increase crop production. Ghanaian pineapple farmers, like Tony Botchway, used MCC support to seek new markets. Andre Soui-Guidi, a business owner in Benin, is now able to access credit in order to expand his operations and create more jobs for his fellow citizens. At the same time, we cannot and should not ignore the fact that results matter also for the taxpayers of donor countries who, even during these challenging economic times, want to continue funding for development. Our ability to demonstrate that their investments are paying off—that developing countries are improving governance and democratic rights, assistance is reaching the poor, and investments are yielding positive returns--is critical to sustaining strong development cooperation.
Lastly, international events like Busan tend to focus on what hasn’t been achieved. That’s fine in terms of accountability and the need to keep progressing toward commitments. But, let’s remember the real advancements made, including by the United States. Major U.S. development efforts—from the multilateral development banks, to Feed the Future, to Partnership for Growth, to MCC—all emphasize inclusive, country-led, outcomes-focused approaches. For MCC’s part, we look forward to continuing our work to break new ground in advancing and innovating on development effectiveness, and putting principles in this area into practice.
Posted on December 1, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC, and Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
This post first appeared on DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State, on November 30, 2011.
Under an initiative called Partnership for Growth, the United States, El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines and Tanzania are pioneering a new approach to long-term, sustainable development.
PFG is designed to transform the character and conduct of our bilateral relationships with a select group of high-performing lower-income countries poised to be this generation's emerging markets. The initiative aims to improve coordination, leverage private investment, and focus political commitment to accelerate and sustain broad-based economic growth. With mechanisms in place to hold us accountable for more effective, efficient development results, PFG puts President Obama's Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development into action.
Today marked the first time we have convened a meeting with the United States and all four PFG partners. The setting is especially significant: we are all gathered in Busan, South Korea for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Throughout our meetings, we have focused extensively on ways to deliver meaningful results, ensure mutual accountability and empower country ownership.
State Department Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills led the meeting with El Salvador Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Fiifi Kwetey, Philippine Minister of Finance Cesar Purisima, and Tanzanian Minister of Finance Mustafa Haidi Mkulo. After addressing the High Level Forum, Secretary Clinton was also able to join us.
We partnered with these countries based on their demonstrated commitment to democratic principles and good governance, their sound policy performance, their potential for continued economic growth, and their track record of cooperation with the United States.
The PFG is an attempt to approach development differently than we have done in the past. PFG is not about more aid; rather it is about fostering a mature economic partnership to unlock a country's growth potential. Together, we analyze the binding constraints to growth, prioritize a set of clear, measurable actions, and work to overcome those barriers through five-year action plans. Along the way, we review our progress through a formal evaluation process or in more informal meetings, as we did today.
Our PFG partners are all at different stages of this process and have unique insights to share. We had frank discussions about the challenges each country faces, and how the U.S. government can improve coordination to assist these countries in strengthening long-term economic growth. We applaud El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines, and Tanzania for their commitment to taking the difficult steps required through the PFG, and look forward to continuing our close collaboration in the months ahead.
The session represented exactly why we have come to Busan this week: to take a hard look at our efforts, identify areas for strengthened coordination, and -- ultimately -- improve our ability to deliver effective development assistance.
Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Daniel W. Yohannes is the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Posted on November 21, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
With great hope that we can transform the lives of Indonesia’s poor for the better, I joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Indonesia’s Finance Minister Martowardojo, along with other distinguished government ministers, ambassadors and guests, for the signing of Indonesia’s $600 million MCC compact in Bali this past Saturday. As Secretary Clinton said, each of the elements of the compact represents a step forward in the relationship between the United States and Indonesia. I am proud that MCC is partnering with the Indonesians to achieve their goals for long-term poverty reduction and economic growth.
MCC’s investments in low-carbon economic development, better natural resources management, nutrition to prevent childhood stunting, and procurement modernization create new opportunities to improve the quality of life for Indonesians. Our partnership will work to raise productivity, increase household incomes, reduce household energy costs, and improve the delivery of growth-enhancing goods and services by the public sector. I am struck by how open the Indonesians have been to MCC’s distinct model for development—one that is country-driven, reform-centered and results-focused to maximize effectiveness and sustainability. This innovative compact embodies Indonesia's priorities and its strong commitment to our partnership.
As I shared with the Indonesians, much hard work awaits us. Our partnership must now turn the inspiration of a momentous signing into the implementation of an action plan that will deliver lasting impact. Through an unfaltering commitment to tangible results, accountability and transparency, we can achieve the full promise of the compact. Let’s get to work.
Posted on October 23, 2011 by Daniel W.Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
My travels as MCC CEO bring me to many memorable places, but it’s the people who inspire me the most. Nicolas Kinsou Ahouandjiinou is one such person who I met in the Beninese village of Djeregbe.
Nicolas was born in Djeregbe and his father was a traditional healer in the village. Nicolas earned degrees from the University of Benin and the Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, and had been travelling the world as an agronomist. One day, more than 20 years ago, Nicolas’s father called him home with a request: use your degrees to adapt the use of native medicinal plants to the modern world.
During their conversation, Nicholas’s father gave him a 200-page notebook that contained his acquired knowledge of the medicinal properties of West African plants, including eucalyptus, lemongrass, laurel, chayote, and ginger. Paging through the notebook, Nicolas knew that he had to return to Djeregbe to realize his father’s dream.
After years of research and trial and error, Nicholas invented a process -- which he believes to be the first of its kind -- to mix the essential oils of traditional African medicinal plants with water to produce a flavored, bottled water. Having successfully mixed oil and water, and devised a way to modernize his father’s age-old practices, Nicholas then faced one more challenge: inadequate access to capital to grow his business, DETAREN SARL.
That’s where MCC came in. With grant support from our Access to Financial Services Project, DETAREN SARL purchased new machinery to produce and bottle the water. According to Nicolas, production has already increased from 1,200 to 8,000 bottles a day. The flavored water, which Nicolas named “Eau Noble,” is now sold in Benin and limited quantities are exported to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo. With his new capacity, Nicolas plans to double his staff to 15, and increase sales by expanding his distribution network to all of West Africa.
MCC has provided DETAREN SARL, and other members of the GATID consortium it has joined, with the assets and credibility they need to gain the attention of financial institutions like Bank of Africa and Oikocredit, which are working with the consortium to provide credit. Nicolas knows that access to credit is essential to growing his business and realizing his dreams -- and the dreams of his father.
Nicolas’s story shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Benin. DETAREN SARL exemplifies the transformation that is happening all over Africa as old traditions give rise to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing business. MCC is proud to be working with entrepreneurs and innovators like Nicolas who are trailblazing Africa’s path to prosperity in the 21st century.
Posted on June 12, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Earlier this year, President Obama made clear in his State of the Union address that his focus is on winning the future – getting our economy going after the worst recession since the Great Depression, while laying the foundation for long-term economic growth and job creation.
Some might wonder how an international development agency like the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) fits into this vision. America has always been a generous nation, and our moral leadership is reflected in MCC’s goal of reducing poverty through economic growth in developing countries. But MCC’s investments not only benefit poor people overseas, they are critically important to our future prosperity here at home.
That fact is illustrated in Tanzania where MCC investments are both helping to reduce poverty and providing opportunities for American companies. In 2008, MCC signed a $698 million compact with Tanzania. Two American companies, Symbion Power and Pike Electric, were awarded -- after an open, competitive bidding process -- contracts to build more than 20 power sub-stations and install approximately 1,000 miles of power lines in Tanzania, which will provide electricity to over 330 communities previously without power.
This weekend Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I are visiting with these American entrepreneurs, who have used MCC-funded contracts as an opportunity to enter a new market and make their own investment in Tanzania.
While still one of the poorest countries in the world, with a gross national income of approximately $500 per capita, Tanzania is among a group of relatively well-governed African nations that are moving in the right direction. Real GDP growth has been 6 percent or higher in Tanzania in every year over the last decade – even in the midst of the global financial crisis.
In short, Tanzania is a next-generation emerging market that is a smart place to invest for American companies with an eye on the long term.
That is exactly the thinking of Symbion Power, which has just purchased a 112-megawatt power plant in Tanzania that it plans to modify and expand. Secretary Clinton and I are touring the plant with Symbion Power CEO Paul Hinks, and we are excited about this new venture and its potential to improve electrical service in Tanzania and provide an American company with a stronger foothold in Africa.
In this increasingly globalized economy, we need innovative companies like Symbion and Pike to aggressively pursue opportunities in fast-growing African markets. Their investments will help reduce poverty in Tanzania, but will also support jobs and economic growth in the United States. And the ties they forge will encourage Tanzania to look to America as a trading partner.
That is why MCC is excited to be partnering with companies like Symbion and Pike. As the progress we are making here shows, smart investment in the developing world and close partnership with the private sector can allow us to improve the lives of those who live in poverty even as we build a stronger America for our children and grandchildren.
Posted on November 4, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Late last month, I surveyed progress in two MCC partner countries: Moldova, which is just beginning the implementation of its compact, and Georgia, which is on track to bring its compact to a successful close in the next six months.
In Moldova, I was impressed with the farmers I met in Slobozia-Dusca, a village not far from the capital of Chisinau. These farmers will benefit from MCC-funded irrigation projects and are already talking about the impact a centralized irrigation system will have on their livelihoods, as it will lower operating costs and allow them to diversify into high-value crop production and increase their yields. I was particularly moved by my conversation with Iurie Stahi. He told me he was grateful for America’s assistance from the bottom of his heart, and he explained that, as a result of MCC’s planned investments in the agriculture sector, he intends to plant apple orchards and sell his apples during the winter when they command a higher price, as well as during the summer and autumn seasons. I’m looking forward to following Iurie’s progress as the Moldova compact ramps up implementation.
In Georgia, I was deeply impressed with the transformative power of a road. I traveled the Samtske-Javakheti road, which Georgia is rehabilitating with MCC compact funds, from Tbilisi to where it nears Georgia’s border with Turkey and Armenia. What I saw and whom I met along the way showed me exactly how paving a reliable road is essential for generating economic opportunities.
I first witnessed this when I met Valodia Mestvirishvili at his trout farm in Algeti, just off the Samtske-Javakheti road. The agricultural development activity of Georgia’s compact supplied hatchery equipment, oxygen tanks, a transportation vehicle, and veterinary supplies to his farm to raise the trout, and the road rehabilitation funded by the compact provides him much-needed access to markets to sell his product to Georgian retailers and consumers. Valodia shared with me that his annual trout yield has skyrocketed from 5 to 12 tons. I am proud of the fact that MCC funding has provided this hardworking entrepreneur the tools he needs to succeed.
My road trip took me past Georgia’s Lake Sagamo, a place of serene natural beauty. Against a mountainous backdrop, as the sun was setting and the moon was rising, I planted trees along the Samtske-Javakheti road. These trees are critical; they provide proper landscaping and better wind protection and they help advance the sustainability of the MCC-funded road. Tree planting also reaffirms that sound environmental stewardship protecting natural resources goes hand-in-hand with economic development.
I was particularly pleased to see that MCC’s funding of the Samtske-Javakheti road has enhanced the Georgian people’s accessibility of Vardzia. Vardzia is home to a cave monastery, an unforgettable historic treasure of great cultural and religious significance dating back to the 12th century. I learned that, for too long, this part of Georgia was lost to outsiders; the trip to reach Vardzia was treacherous and the roads were literally impassible in some sections. Buses risked overturning on the dangerously unpaved roads. Now, the rehabilitated Samtske-Javakheti road is reconnecting Georgians with Vardzia and their heritage, and opening up this area to tourists. Boosting tourism in this otherwise underdeveloped area is generating economic development and growth vital to the prosperity of Georgians.
The MCC-funded Samtske-Javakheti road also nears Georgia’s border with Armenia and Turkey in the town of Akhalkalaki. This once quiet outpost is now bustling with activity, which will increase as a bridge, currently under construction, is completed. New shops are already opening, and the prospects for increased trade and commerce create further opportunities for Georgians to prosper.
In all these ways, Georgia proves that the MCC model is working well. Our partnership is creating conditions for sustainable economic growth that are increasing incomes. As the compact moves toward completion, I am looking forward to the independent evaluations that will assess the impact of our investment. True to President Obama’s new vision for U.S. global development, what I saw in both Georgia and Moldova already reaffirms for me that MCC practices the principles essential for long-term impact: investing in economic growth, promoting country-led development, demanding accountability and transparency, and delivering sustainable results that matter in the lives of the poor.
Posted on October 22, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Last week marked another milestone moment in MCC’s history—the completion of MCC’s compact with Cape Verde. The last time I was in Cape Verde, I visited the unfinished Port of Praia project being implemented by MCA-Cape Verde with funds from MCC. What a difference eight months makes! Together with Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves, I witnessed the inauguration of Phase I of the Port of Praia. The port is now more efficient, with a new access road, cargo village for storage, and a strengthened security system.
Also on this visit, I traveled to the island of Santo Antao, which has the largest population of farmers in Cape Verde. There, we inaugurated the post-harvest center. At this modern facility, farmers can now have their produce inspected by trained sanitary inspectors and store their agricultural products to maintain freshness and quality.
One of the most moving experiences for me was meeting Cape Verdean farmers. Celso Duarte, a young farmer who leads his farmer association in Paul, told me that, thanks to MCC’s assistance, he received training and acquired the necessary skills to use the new watershed management system. As a result, he now has drip irrigation on his land. Sousa told me how he ensures that he and his fellow farmers are using the technique properly to diversify their crops and get them to market. And he added: “I wanted to personally thank you and the American people for funding my training and giving me and my family the chance to improve our lives.”
Hearing words like this further convinces me that we are making a difference.
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