Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Contractors
Posted on December 12, 2012 by Courtney Engelke , Director
Many people in the United States and Mongolia refer to Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project as “the stoves program.” While it is true that the project has successfully supported consumer purchases of more than 90,000 stoves in Ulaanbaatar, did you know that it also supported the purchase of nearly 25,000 other energy-efficient appliances like insulation, vestibules and energy efficient homes? Did you know that the project also supported small grants for greening and air quality research and the replacement of 15 heat only boilers at 10 student and residential sites throughout the city, representing more than 8 megawatts of heating capacity? And did you know that approximately $6.6 million of the project budget is dedicated to infrastructure and other support for the 50-megawatt wind farm now under construction at Salkhit Mountain?
The project recognized early on that it would not be able to resolve the capital city’s air pollution problem by itself, so we planned to make additional contributions beyond stoves in an effort to demonstrate what works. The Energy and Environment Project intends to provide a short term “bridge” to longer term solutions, such as developing a commercial market for energy efficient products, which we hope might be brought about through the application and enforcement of standards, certification and labeling policies, competition, and affordable finance, and providing more permanent housing and municipal infrastructure.
On my most recent visit to Mongolia, I confirmed that 15 heat only boilers were replaced with more efficient technologies and wet scrubbers to control particulate emissions. I also visited the expanded and upgraded Nalaikh substation, and confirmed the installation of a fiber optic cable that links that substation to the National Dispatching Center control system. I was also pleased to see the first three of 31 General Electric turbines installed at the very windy Salkhit site—a major step toward making the planned wind farm a reality.
The Energy and Environment Project will connect the wind farm to the national grid and train electrical dispatchers to manage variable power with the help of a dispatch training simulator. These achievements would have been impossible without the concerted cooperation of MCA-Mongolia, its consultants, contractors, the Ulaanbaatar government, the national grid company, the national dispatching center, and Clean Energy LLC, the sponsor of the Salkhit wind farm.
Each time I visit Mongolia, I increasingly see the positive impact that stoves are having on air quality and the daily lives of Ulaanbaatar’s poor. What I had not seen until this trip was the project’s larger-scale emissions control initiatives, such as the replacement of the boilers and progress toward the displacement of approximately 50 megawatts of thermal generation that will result from the Salkhit wind farm. As our experience has shown, controlling emissions at the household level in the ger districts is an incredible challenge. Single source solutions represented by heat-only boilers and the Salkhit wind farm demonstrate opportunities to control and reduce air pollution at greater scale, which we hope will help Mongolia more rapidly achieve and sustain its air quality goals.
Posted on August 24, 2012 by Oliver Pierson, Resident Country Director
MCC and our counterparts at MCA-Namibia are proud to see that Namibia has been chosen to host the 10th Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) taking place in October 2013. The ATWS will draw around 600 delegates and many of the biggest players in the adventure travel tourism industry to Namibia to discuss industry best practices and collaborate on issues facing adventure travel.
MCA-Namibia provided support to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism in developing Namibia’s bid to host the summit. The MCC-funded tourism project in Namibia, part of the country’s overall $304.5 million compact, is focused around encouraging private investment in the tourism industry, supporting communal conservancies to establish and manage tourism enterprises, and broadening the marketing of Namibia as a tourist destination.
MCC has also worked toward increasing the capacity of Namibia’s tourism industry and improving its management by funding training courses toward the certification of Namibian tour guides. The training courses create new jobs in the sector and work to promote a skilled and educated labor force to cater to the needs of a growing tourist industry. Tourism, already Namibia’s second-most lucrative industry, has the potential to be a strong source of economic growth, helping create more jobs and reduce poverty.
The selection of Namibia, the first African country to host the ATWS, will highlight Namibia’s tourism industry and ideally foster opportunities to build on MCC-funded work in this key sector and drive new private sector investments in tourism.
For more information about the Namibia Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/namibia.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director
This June, I traveled to Pissila, in the Sanmatega province of Burkina Faso. I was there to attend the closing ceremony for the Burkinabé Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed (BRIGHT) II Project, funded through the MCC compact with Burkina Faso. Speaking with students, teachers and parents participating in the BRIGHT II Project, I truly experienced firsthand the benefits of MCC’s investment.
The BRIGHT program is a collaborative effort of the United States and Burkina Faso to improve rates of children’s primary school attendance, completion, and promotion to secondary schools. To date, the program, including work performed under the MCC compact, has educated over 27,000 students, including 16,000 girls, and has built 132 primary schools across 10 provinces. The numbers are impressive—but they don’t tell the whole story.
In Pissila, the success and visibility of the BRIGHT program was evident from the high-level participation at the well-attended closing ceremony. The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Luc Adolphe Tiao; the Minister of Education and Literacy, Koumba Boly; and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty were all on hand to share in the celebration. Officials from MCC, USAID, and Plan International were also present. The stars of the show, however, were the 500 students from the BRIGHT school of Pissila, who were as proud as could be to show off their school and accomplishments.
We arrived early on Thursday morning to enthusiastic cheers and waves from students of all ages. Three large tents were set up at the center of the school, flanked by new classrooms, offices and teacher housing. Boys and girls, waving American and Burkinabé flags and proudly wearing their school shirts displaying the BRIGHT II emblem, greeted the prime minister and U.S. ambassador as they arrived. The atmosphere radiated with excitement and joy; students and teachers alike were proud that their school had been selected to host such an event.
The moving speeches and lively performances diverted our attention from the hot Burkina Faso sun and 100+ degree temperatures. Enthralling music and traditional dances had the whole crowd applauding, especially for the youngest dancer in a local troupe who was able to shake the prime minister’s hand. Later, Celia Ella Kafando, a fifth-grader, courageously took to the podium to make a speech on behalf of the students of Pissila.
Though her head barely reached the top of the podium, Celia spoke with a clear and strong voice, thanking MCC and the American people for building her school. To the visible enjoyment of the prime minister, the education minister (one of Burkina Faso’s two female ministers) and the region’s governor (also a woman), Celia shared that many of her fellow students aspired to become governors and ministers thanks to their education. Everyone smiled when the prime minister and education minister were given the “key” to the school, a beautiful, symbolic oversized key made by Burkinabe bronze workers.
The prime minister’s speech was unexpectedly touching and honest. Speaking directly to the students, he admitted that school was not always easy, recognizing that most of them had to move away from home, learn a new language (though French is the official language, over 60 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso) and—perhaps the most universal problem of all—wake up early to get to class. He encouraged the students not to give up and to follow their dreams. Ambassador Dougherty echoed these sentiments in his speech, stating, “We hope each and every BRIGHT school graduate will have success in realizing their potential in the years to come.”
Though two more years remain until the compact’s end, it was encouraging to see such a successful closeout of this project. The Government of Burkina Faso has pledged to maintain the schools and remain committed to supporting girls’ education. In the words of Prime Minister Tiao, “The American people can trust us. We will take care to meet the challenges of underdevelopment.”
For more information about the Burkina Faso Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/burkinafaso.
Posted on May 31, 2012 by Alain Diouf, MCA-Senegal Property Rights and Land Policy Director , and Kent Elbow, MCC Property Rights and Land Policy Specialist
We knew we were on to something in Senegal—that what we learned about the role customary land rights can play in alleviating poverty was worth sharing with the wider land practice community.
In recent years, many African governments have developed legislation to recognize the legitimacy of informal (mostly unwritten) customary rights to land. Governments have introduced a variety of legislative tools to formalize, protect and secure those rights. Each country brings a different approach to this, but in many instances the process helps lay the foundation for increased economic development.
Customary land rights are the starting point of any formalization initiative, which isn’t easy. We need to help contribute to economic objectives while preserving or enhancing the rights and interests of the powerless. We do this in two main ways.
The first task is to identify the holders of customary rights, which requires recognizing categories like individual and collective rights. Analyses of community resources, such as pastures and forests, need to include detailed socio-economic information. Where community land-use plans do not yet exist, we identify various interests and base our approach on the active participation of all parties in working toward a consensus on how existing rights are to be presented and preserved during the formalization process.
The Land Tenure Security Activity, funded by Senegal’s $540 million MCC compact, is working in the Senegal River Valley to determine the boundaries between agriculture and livestock while also accounting for the areas where the two overlap. MCA-Senegal will act upon some of the decisions negotiated during the first phase of the activity—such as the boundaries of cattle trails through agricultural land leading to water points—by planting trees.
The second major element of a successful formalization program is ensuring that fairness remains a dominant principle in ongoing and future land allocation. Formalization is not just identifying rights and issuing corresponding pieces of paper. Mechanisms must be developed and activated to provide for the exchange and reallocation of land rights so resources can be put to their most productive use while ensuring that rights are protected. Governance of land allocation works best when it is transparent, democratic and participatory.
The Land Tenure Security Activity in Senegal is demonstrating that existing customary land rights can be comprehensively identified and documented—if one incorporates careful design and planning, inclusive methodologies, copious work, and adequate time. It is also demonstrating that local land allocation principles and processes can be developed and recognized as legitimate if all stakeholders are given a voice in their development.
Yes, customary land rights are messy—but protecting customary land rights while moving toward a more formal land management system is both fair and economically productive. An even more fundamental goal must be to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the more permanent institutions of land governance. In the Senegal River Valley, land is governed at the community level, and there are positive signs that previously unheard voices are now finding a stage.
“These workshops have changed us as well as our community decision-makers,” the president of a women’s producer group said after a community workshop. “We no longer hesitate to speak our minds and address the Rural Council. This is a new situation for us.”
MCC, the Government of Senegal and MCA-Senegal are excited about the good work that has been accomplished and are committed to continuing to learn and share our learning with land practitioners facing similar challenges around the world.
Posted on May 29, 2012 by Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director, Technical Services Division
MCC and a majority of our partner countries believe that improvements to their agricultural and rural sectors are a crucial part of lifting people out of poverty and to improving food security. MCC’s portfolio includes $4.4 billion of investments in improvements to the agricultural and rural sectors that are relevant to reducing food insecurity. This includes a substantial focus on infrastructure investments in large-scale irrigation schemes to ensure reliable access to water and improved yields, as well as roads and post-harvest storage and packaging facilities to move goods to market more efficiently.
MCC projects also invest in direct assistance to farmers with a focus on smallholders. Training activities help farmers learn about cultivating high-value yields, deal with pests and diseases and manage scarce land resources. Rural credit programs are designed to raise incomes by expanding access to credit to help purchase inputs. Land tenure projects work to create secure land rights and efficient institutions for managing land rights.
In seven years, MCC-funded projects have trained nearly 200,000 farmers and assisted more than 3,500 enterprises worldwide. Roughly 170,000 hectares under production receive MCC support through technical assistance, new or rehabilitated irrigation systems or access to agricultural inputs and credit. Land tenure projects have supported legal and regulatory reform in six countries and the formalization of land rights of more than 1 million hectares of rural land, including farmland, grazing areas and forests.
Just last month, our commitment to food security received high praise from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization. MCC received an “outstanding” evaluation in The 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, a thorough study of how the U.S. Government is performing in its commitment to improve food security and support agricultural development in regions with the greatest levels of rural poverty and hunger.
“The Millennium Challenge Corporation has demonstrated outstanding leadership in agricultural development in its role as the largest U.S. Government provider of funding for agriculture and food security infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the report said. “It has increased its capacity to disburse funds and complete agreements in a timely fashion.”
The report chose Ghana, one of our partner countries, for a case study of U.S. Government development efforts. It labeled the U.S. Government's actions there as “outstanding” and said the MCC compact's “vital work in agriculture has laid a solid foundation for expanded Feed the Future activities.” The MCC compact also supported innovation in applying land tenure law in Ghana by demonstrating an approach to formally recording rural land rights in the context of strong customary practices.
As project results continue to come in, MCC remains committed to learning and being held accountable for how well these program outputs translate into increased incomes and well-being for program beneficiaries. MCC currently has 16 independent impact evaluations underway to address questions such as the impact of our programs on increased productivity, investment in high-value agriculture and business and marketing opportunities. Ultimately, these evaluations are designed to measure and better understand our impact on incomes and poverty reduction. Just as MCC contributed its leadership and technical skill to the State Department and USAID as the Feed the Future Initiative was developed and moved into implementation, we see our rigorous approach to monitoring progress and evaluating impacts as a source of learning for the whole U.S. Government. Learning from our programs can also contribute lessons for donors worldwide.
At MCC, we are proud of our investments and inspired by the changes we are seeing in people’s lives as a result of our compacts. At the same time, we are humbled by the gravity of poverty and the level of food insecurity in our partner countries, fully realizing that true poverty reduction and economic growth are not easy tasks. They will continue to require full attention and support, including using better evidence as we gain it, to improve and promote effective programs.
This recent report is both an endorsement of MCC’s seven years of work in this field and also a reminder of the urgent need for continued investments in agriculture and food security programs around the world.
Posted on April 6, 2012 by Patrick Fine, Vice President for Compact Operations
Nampula Province in central Mozambique is 2,200 kilometers north of the capital Maputo, about the distance from the East Coast to the Mississippi River. The countryside is marked by granite domes that tower hundreds of feet off the lush plains and by isolated mountains that rise up in surreal silhouettes worthy of artist Shane Devries. The land is not heavily populated, and villages are simple collections of traditional thatched-roof rondavels plastered with mud from ubiquitous conical ant hills. Rural electrification has not yet reached most of these villages, roads are simple dirt tracks, most people still fetch water from rivers, and boys stand by the roadside holding out bags of freshly shelled cashews for sale.
You can see signs of growing prosperity, including the results of MCC’s $506 million partnership with Mozambique: Our investment has helped build hundreds of village water points; pave major routes to facilitate agriculture, mining and commerce; and upgrade and expand straining municipal water and sanitation systems.
A year ago, these projects were seriously behind schedule and over budget, causing MCC and the Government of Mozambique to create an action plan to overhaul the approach for completing the work within the five-year deadline. I was impressed by the way Mozambique’s management authority, MCA-Mozambique, had consistently met its implementation milestones since the revised plan was adopted in March 2011.
Last week, with only 18 months remaining in the compact, I visited Nampula to get a firsthand view of what is being accomplished.
I was encouraged by the road and water system construction underway and came away with increased confidence that Mozambique will complete its work on time. In one rural community down a narrow 13 kilometer dirt track, I inaugurated a new borehole and water pump that serves 700 community members and will eliminate the need for women and children to spend up to two hours a day fetching water.
In the town of Nampula, I witnessed the distribution of property titles that give people secure property rights for the first time. The ceremony took place in an open neighborhood square where local officials called out names; the property owners came forward from the large crowd, signed a ledger and took their titles. At the end of the ceremony a number of people started to angrily call out, demanding their titles. The officials explained that the titles would be distributed each day that week. I found this spontaneous demonstration of the demand to have a title a reassuring indication of the value of MCC’s investment.
While my focus was on the MCC-financed projects, what really caught my attention was the extraordinary economic opportunity in Mozambique. Already, Mozambique exports electricity from the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, and it still has unexploited capacity. A Portuguese contractor working on the MCC road project drove up in a Ford Ranger and had American-manufactured scientific equipment in its materials lab. Recently an American company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, announced it had discovered one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas off the northern coast; the center of the country holds huge deposits of coal, and as more exploration takes place it is very likely that other minerals will be found in commercial quantities. Anadarko has plans to invest approximately $20 billion over the next five years! A Brazilian mining company is already shipping coal and has announced a $6 billion expansion.
I see all sorts of opportunities, from village hardware stores, hair salons and groceries to the suppliers and services that new investments in mining will require. Seen in this light, American investments in basic infrastructure are prescient. And a U.S. company is the supervising engineer on the drainage activity in Nampula city—where one of the main customers and beneficiaries of the new water system is Coca-Cola.
But far more important than market opportunities created by individual MCC-financed projects are the market opportunities that will open up for U.S. goods and services if Mozambique’s economy takes off. Road-building and mining equipment, chemicals and a spectrum of products and services will be needed to build this economy. Now is the time for U.S. companies to invest in establishing a presence in the country so that they can be competitive.
The government is implementing business-friendly reforms—such as the MCC financed land reform program—and there is a still-untapped entrepreneurial spirit among the youth. Mozambique’s economy has already been growing at nearly 8 percent per year over the past several years and is on the verge of an economic era that could transform its villages and create prosperity and opportunities not only for one of the world’s poorest populations but for the companies and individuals intrepid enough to join an economy just taking off.
I left Mozambique with the impression that almost everything is in place for it to become the next big growth economy in Africa.
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.
In Zambia, MCC’s newest compact brings clean water and improved sanitation and drainage services to more than one million residents
Posted on March 26, 2012 by Raja Kaul, MCC Resident Country Director, Zambia
Last Thursday, the MCC Board of Directors approved a $355 million compact with Zambia that focuses on the water sector in Lusaka. MCC investments are expected to have a significant impact on the lives of more than one million Lusaka residents by improving their health and economic productivity and helping the country reduce poverty on a sustainable basis. Fittingly, the Board’s decision fell on the annual UN-designated World Water Day.
This single-sector compact aims to address one of the Zambia’s most binding constraints to economic growth through infrastructure investment in the rapidly urbanizing capital city of Lusaka. It is designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of water-related disease, decrease the number of productive days lost due to disease and time to collect water, lower costs of water and new sanitation, and reduce flood losses for businesses and residential homes.
In addition to investments in water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure, MCC’s integrated investment will also support the government’s ongoing water sector reform efforts by strengthening responsible institutions. The investment is expected to significantly benefit Lusaka’s poor, as 73 percent of the more than one million Zambian beneficiaries currently have incomes below $2 per day.
The Zambia compact will promote key MCC corporate priorities, including gender and social integration, environmental and social impact assessments, and private sector development. In the Zambia compact, social and gender integration is prioritized, and activities are designed to extend project benefits to women and vulnerable groups.
Since its inception in 1993, World Water Day has served to spotlight the global challenge to provide safe water and sanitation services to those living in poverty. So far, MCC has invested $793 million in WASH-related projects in nine partner countries, and MCC’s compacts with Cape Verde, Jordan, and Mozambique, like Zambia, focus primarily on water sector development. Our growing WASH portfolio reflects our partner countries’ recognition of the important role of access to clean, affordable, and reliable water in promoting economic growth.
For more information on MCC’s water and sanitation projects, visit www.mcc.gov/water.
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 December 2, 2011 by Franck Wiebe, Chief Economist, MCC
This blog entry was first posted on Devex.com.
Six years after the signing of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the question of how to enhance aid impact remains highly relevant as most of the largest donors reconvene in Busan.
The Millennium Challenge Corp. is a relative newcomer to the foreign assistance community. Described in principle at Monterrey in 2002 and established by U.S. legislation in 2004, MCC was designed to embody many of the Paris Declaration principles. MCC’s experience of putting these principles into practice suggests three ideas that deserve continued attention: better focus of aid dollars within countries, better assessment of the rationale for aid programs, and stronger commitment to evaluating the impact of aid programs.
Better focus of aid programs within countries
Donors have improved coordination amongst themselves in many countries, reducing overlap and competition, but the pattern of assistance remains scattered and diffused. In most countries, the array of donor activities may be consistent with broad national development plans, but the aggregation of efforts by development agencies only rarely reflects anything close to a strategy.
This approach misses the opportunity to focus on the most important development challenges that need to be tackled first while unintentionally imposing a greater burden on partner country governance structures. The right strategy for any country cannot be to invest in public sector capacity building in every office; rather, a better strategy is for country governments to work with development agencies on a more limited set of well-defined priorities.
Identifying the appropriate priorities remains a challenge, given that country development plans are broad and far-reaching. MCC has found the data-driven “growth diagnostics” framework to be extremely helpful for sifting through the national development plans to laser in on the most critical challenges facing a country. MCC collaborates with country counterparts to ensure that the results are understood and accepted by both parties, and has found that some countries embrace these analyses, using them to prioritize their own strategies well beyond the scope of the MCC compact and to frame their engagement with other donors.
By now, all agree that country partners need to own and drive this prioritization process. Indeed, aid dollars can be successful only when supporting the reform of domestic institutions and policies undertaken by choice by country partners. Consequently, aid programs need to be connected to explicit, public commitments made and owned by our partner governments.
These pieces come together to build a strategy for more effective and more focused aid: Partner countries identify a small set of development priorities (addressing the binding constraint to economic growth usually needs to be one – in most contexts, serious poverty reduction requires growth); partner countries identify a series of commitments to policy and institutional changes to address the existing problem; and only then can aid programs be aligned in a meaningful way in support of these reforms.
Assess cost-effectiveness before funding
“Stretching aid dollars” requires a new level of discipline from development agencies and country partners. The practice of benefit-cost analysis fell out of favor – it takes time, data, and technical competence, and unfortunately is vulnerable to political interference (both local counterparts and aid agencies often have agendas of their own) – but needs to be reinstated as an essential tool for assessing trade-offs and opportunity costs. We need to start with the recognition that any good idea has a price at which it is no longer a good idea. Partners should not enter into programs before conducting an objective comparison of the value of benefits to the total cost of delivering them.
MCC has found that such analyses are possible for the vast majority of programs proposed to us by our partner countries. Not surprisingly, we find that some proposed investments cannot be justified given the estimated costs and projected benefits. Such information usually leads to further work on the program design, but sometimes leads to the search for alternative approaches to the same problem or to other priorities that can be tackled in a cost-effective manner. In this way, we have found at MCC that the technical discipline imposed by benefit-cost analysis improves the quality of the portfolio, where quality is explicitly described as delivering measurable results. The principal idea is inescapable: If we wish to enhance aid impact, we need to be willing to scrutinize every significant effort, asking the same fundamental question, is this proposed activity worth the money and effort being invested?
Some may object that such an approach stifles innovation – it need not. Where ideas have never been tried before, development partners can enter into small-scale pilots and rigorous experiments designed to generate information that can be used to assess the potential for scale-up. MCC has built such experimentation into several of its country programs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s new Development Innovation Ventures is another promising mechanism. But the current clamor for increased innovation should not serve as an excuse for not conducting proper due diligence, using logic and evidence, to assess whether the new idea has any prior basis for expecting cost-effective results.
Invest in more, and more rigorous, impact evaluations
Just as more analysis is needed before development activities are funded, more analysis is required after they are completed to determine what was accomplished and what was not. MCC has found that establishing high expectations and budgeting appropriately – often in the range of 2-4 percent of the total program budget – creates an environment within which independent evaluations of impact can be conducted as part of the core implementation plan. Collecting baseline data that covers expected beneficiaries and the appropriate control population is possible when it is required.
The cost and effort is substantial, but so is the value. Credible and rigorous impact evaluations – including but not limited to randomized control trials – serve three important functions:
First, they impose a discipline on the program development side. The benefit-cost analysis may describe the anticipated program impacts, but when evaluation is seen as part of the design process, program planners are given the opportunity to assess whether the planned intervention can plausibly be expected to deliver as promised, and if not, what modifications are needed to improve the chances for success.
Second, they are an essential element of a learning agenda that seeks to inform not only future donor programs, but also – and more importantly – future public expenditures and practices by our developing country partners. Moreover, the increasing availability of results from impact evaluations pushes donor agencies and country partners to establish mechanisms that reinforce the learning process.
Third, such evaluations are a necessary part of the transparent accountability process through which all relevant parties assess whether they used scarce resources appropriately. MCC has embraced this responsibility to its funders – the U.S. Congress and American taxpayers – and expects its country partners to commit to the same level of transparency locally. In this way, the evaluation of aid projects can help strengthen the processes through which government actors can inform their citizens about accomplishments and citizens can hold their government officials accountable for prudential use of public resources.
Already a backlash is occurring in some circles, with the term “randomista” sometimes used as a term of criticism. Some critics have written that this “fad” has gone too far. This negative characterization is both untrue and unfortunate. Although MCC funds rigorous independent impact evaluations for close to half of the projects in our portfolio, many other agencies still have few or none. Clearly, there is still room in the development community for greater investments in rigorous evaluations. MCC has found, too, that such “impact evaluation thinking” can inform our less rigorous performance evaluations; we hire credible independent evaluators and ask them to consider the counterfactual and recognize that not all change can be attributed to our programs.
The Paris Declaration created a useful starting framework that describes the processes related to program effectiveness that donors should adopt. But even as we adopt these processes, we need to ensure that we are delivering effective programs – the two are not necessarily synonymous. Busan provides us an opportunity to develop an improved results-focused agenda explicitly aimed at shifting resources from ineffective programs toward the problems that matter most using the most cost-effective delivery mechanisms. Such an agenda goes well beyond “managing for results” rhetoric and establishes a new standard of actually delivering results.
The tools described above are known and available to donors and their country counterparts, and their use could dramatically improve our performance. Developing countries should demand that donors increasingly apply these tools; we should demand no less of ourselves.
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 January 25, 2011 by Courtney Engelke , Director, and Burak Inanc, Deputy Resident Country Director Mongolia
Wintertime air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is among the worst in the world. In Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world, coal-fired heating and cooking stoves in traditional “ger” (or circular felt) dwellings emit a toxic brew of pollution. While Mongolia is becoming an increasingly attractive investment and tourist destination, businesspeople and tourists generally steer clear of the capital city during winter months, in part because of the pervasive air pollution. Unfortunately, the over 600,000 residents living in Ulaanbaatar’s “ger districts” don’t have that option.
MCA-Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project (EEP) aims to reduce air pollution by providing financial incentives to encourage residents to become more energy efficient and use lower-emission heating devices and stoves. In December, the EEP launched an Affordable Energy Efficiency Home Design Contest to spur innovation in modern housing.
The EEP also hosted an International Energy Efficiency Exhibition to introduce energy-efficient products to consumers. This exhibition, the second held since the project’s inception, included nearly 50 domestic and international suppliers from the United States, Korea, and Turkey, among other nations. The event also served to increase the pipeline of innovative and appropriate products that are being considered for financial support by the EEP.
The EEP Project Director, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the City Government’s Air Quality Office opened the exhibition with impassioned remarks about the importance of clean energy to the health and well-being of city residents. A group of popular Mongolian rock singers then performed an original “clean air” song, penned for the occasion, to fervent applause. Suppliers enthusiastically exhibited energy-efficient home products, energy-efficient building materials, ger home insulation, electric heaters, liquefied petroleum gas heaters, pellet heaters, and air filtration systems to consumers who were eager to listen and learn. Compelling photos documenting the impact of air pollution from a student competition were on display, and awards were announced for the photos and a related essay contest.
Perhaps most inspiring, however, was the strength of the public and private-sector collaboration to find affordable solutions to this serious public health problem. The wide variety of products and ideas on display was encouraging—the prospects for sustainable market-based solutions appear to be growing by the day.
The Energy and Environment Project has added some of the products showcased in the exhibition to its analytical pipeline, and some of the producers have now organized to advocate for energy efficiency. At the same time, MCC is working hard to support MCA-Mongolia in its efforts—and we can’t seem to stop humming that Mongolian “clean air” song.
Posted on February 12, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 International Affairs budget includes a $1.28 billion request for MCC. With so many important domestic and international priorities competing for limited resources during these challenging economic times, we all have to be prepared to make tough choices. Given limited resources, we will not be able to fund all the projects we would like to, but this is a solid request that allows MCC to continue to contribute to global poverty reduction in a meaningful way. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently reminded us in her speech on development that helping the world’s poor bolsters America’s own security and prosperity.
I invite you to read our budget justification to Congress, which explains how we intend to add to our portfolio of results moving forward. With Congress’s support for the President’s MCC budget request, we will be able to pursue partnerships with Malawi, Indonesia, and Zambia, with the hope of signing compacts with each of these countries. Moreover, the fiscal year 2011 budget request will allow MCC to pursue a second compact with Cape Verde, a first in MCC’s history.
I am looking forward to appearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee to explain MCC’s progress to date and how support for the fiscal year 2011 budget will allow us to deepen our impact in the fight against global poverty.
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