Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Infrastructure
Posted on December 9, 2014 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director, Senegal
I am often asked by colleagues, contacts, friends, family, former university classmates, and many more, “What exactly do you do in your job?” There is not always a simple, straightforward response. Foreign assistance encompasses many things and even more so at MCC, given our unique and innovative country-ownership model used to implement large-scale international development programs.
My response to the question ranges, from “MCC’s mission is poverty reduction through economic development,” to “we build roads, bridges and irrigations systems,” to “I work for the U.S. Government on a large-scale, $540 million program that will change the lives of many Senegalese in a multi-faceted role as a diplomat, project manager, communicator, steward of taxpayer money, cultural interpreter, face of the American people, and much more.”
It is the aspect of changing people’s lives that is so rewarding in the work we do at MCC. On October 28, I attended the Ndioum Bridge inauguration in northern Senegal. I joined President Macky Sall; Sandra Clark, the Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Dakar; MCC and MCA-Senegal teams; many local authorities; and, most importantly, hundreds of citizens of Ndioum.
It is at such joyous ceremonies that you see all the facets of what MCC does in countries like Senegal: cross-cultural diplomacy, results, impressive infrastructure and economic potential for many and their future generations. At the ceremony, Senegalese of all ages were present. The crowd was lively and pleased to showcase the bridge. Many American and Senegal flags were waiving. Legendary Senegalese singer Baaba Maal performed songs specific to the region, including one previously written about the division of the people of Ndioum created by the Doué River—a divide that the MCC-funded bridge is helping to connect.
The people of Ndioum and the Island of Morphile have long been separated—physically and economically—by the Doué River. They have waited 70 years for this bridge. MCC’s $20 million investment in the bridge is a beautiful splendor of infrastructure, 160 meters long with two access roads totaling 1,300 meters.
But like all of MCC’s projects, the bridge is notable for how it can help improve livelihoods in local communities. The span now connects a fertile agriculture area to the primary road network and opens up greater economic potential for efficiently, safely and cost-effectively transporting goods and people. It also provides better access to post-primary education. This is life-changing for local communities, who previously could only access the mainland via unsafe large canoes or small-scale ferries.
This is why there were so many smiling faces, proudly worn MCC T-shirts, dancing through the night, a renowned Senegalese singer, and a presidential visit to inaugurate the Ndioum Bridge. This is how MCC is changing lives.
Posted on October 23, 2014 by Natalia Ionel, Communications and Program Specialist, Moldova
More than 100 cyclists—professionals and amateurs, Americans and Moldovans, diplomats and local residents—took part in a bike ride earlier this week to help showcase MCC’s work renovating the Sarateni-Soroca road in northeastern Moldova.
Starting in near-freezing temperatures, more than 100 cyclists traversed 46 miles of the smooth asphalt of the road, which was recently completely rehabilitated through MCC's five-year, $262 million compact with Moldova. U.S. Ambassador to Moldova William H. Moser and Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca joined the ride, as did 47 professionals competing in a 25-mile race.
Leanca—wearing a cycling jersey emblazoned with the national flag and riding a bike with an American flag tied to the handlebars—called the race a “fantastic event.”
The compact’s Road Rehabilitation Project included more than 58 miles of a strategic international thoroughfare, including full reconstruction of 38 miles of roadway, renovation and new construction of 14 bridges, the addition of 13.6 miles of sidewalks in 14 villages, lighting along 12½ miles of the road, installation of seven miles of iron guardrails, 2,113 road signs and more than 9,000 road reflectors. The project pioneered the country’s first environmentally beneficial use of cold-recycling of asphalt and was the first road in Moldova to introduce enhanced road safety measures, such as road reflectors at road crossings and curbs.
It was a major accomplishment, and the road race was just one way MCC and MCA-Moldova (the local organization implementing the compact) are helping draw attention to the project.
“This road is a gift from the American people to the Moldovan people, and the bike ride was the perfect way to celebrate the dedication of this road for the people, by the people, and of the people that will benefit every day from the rehabilitation of this road,” Ambassador Moser said.
Posted on May 29, 2014 by M. Thomas Duggan, Peace Corps Response Volunteer
This story is cross-posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog.
In December 2013, after three immeasurably rewarding years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, I closed my service. I thought it was time for a healthy dose of rest and reflection, but I found rest impossible. Just a few weeks earlier, the country I had come to care so deeply about had been ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan, and I found the idea of leaving my newest friends behind in such a time of need completely unfathomable. So two weeks after ending one form of Peace Corps service, I began another when I was sworn into the Peace Corps Response program to assist with the rehabilitation efforts being made by the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Since signing the Compact in 2010, MCC’s five-year, $434 million compact has been providing the Philippines with financial assistance for several projects, including one to train select communities in a variety of disciplines related to development. One of the three projects is the $120 million Kalahi-CIDDS community-driven development project. In this project, after various social preparation activities where communities assess and prioritize their greatest need and develop a proposal for a sub-project to address that need, the community puts their new knowledge into practice by designing and implementing a project, usually a small, basic infrastructure project, depending on their development priorities. This can be anything from a farm to market road or a rural health center, to a three-classroom school building. On the morning of November 8, 2013, Haiyan severely damaged the fruits of so many communities’ learning and labors.
My current role is to help guide and inform the process behind MCC’s rehabilitation of these essential community facilities. By utilizing my educational background in visual arts, my camera equipment, and the knowledge of local dialects and geography that I acquired during my three years of Peace Corps service, I can capture the experiences of Filipinos and share it with those who need to understand the damage and the incredible resilience of the affected people.
For every perceived win, there is at least one challenge to complement it and vice versa. Instead of hand-washing my laundry outside of my bamboo hut, I was wearing a headlamp inside of a cramped, electricity-free hotel room. My daily commute is no longer a few minutes on a bicycle; now it’s five-hour van rides to different islands or two-hour hikes in tropical heat to remote communities where people, who know nothing about me other than that I am trying to help rebuild their children's school, display rare, unheard of forms of kindness. After hours of teeth-grinding efforts to translate sentence after sentence of a survivor’s interview, I can play it from the beginning and hear a full story of perseverance, familial compassion and hope.
I hope that MCC will be able to use my documentation as a tool to rebuild infrastructure and support communities following calamities. In the process, I know that I am learning more about the power of photography. Images have the power to illustrate people's needs, to be a tool in the generation and distribution of aide, to provide voices for those who need most to be heard but don't have a soapbox from which to speak. As a result of my experience, I vowed here to dedicate myself to sharing stories and hope in this way.
Posted on December 30, 2013 by Piper Anne Wind Campbell, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia
At the opening ceremony near the town of Ayrag in Dornogobi province on September 5, the American and Mongolian governments celebrated a major milestone—the successful completion of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s North-South Road Project connecting the cities of Choir and Sainshand.
Building on the success of the MCC project, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) completed a separate road project between Sainshand and Zamyn-Uud on November 20. For the first time in history, these developments allow Mongolians to easily travel across their country on an all-weather paved road, connecting them to their two neighbors, Russia and China.
MCC’s North-South Road Project—funded by the U.S. Government and implemented by Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia (MCA-Mongolia)—constructed 174 kilometers of road to reach key national and regional markets. Two link roads were also built to connect thousands of Mongolians to the main corridor, and the project provided road maintenance equipment to the Ministry of Roads and Transportation for the sustainable upkeep of the newly built road.
I’m proud of this project because it finished on schedule and will ultimately benefit more than 150,000 Mongolians. It is also an example of strong partnership and coordination: MCC and MCA-Mongolia collaborated with the ADB to assess road maintenance needs and received initial designs for the Choir-Sainshand road from the ADB.
In fact, I’m proud of all the good work produced during MCC’s five-year, $285 million compact, which I’ve seen unfold firsthand during my 1½ years as the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia. I've spoken with herders and urban beneficiaries who are receiving land titles for the first time, met students who intend to use their MCC-funded vocational education to find better-paying jobs and toured the newly equipped Cardiac and Stroke Intensive Care and Diagnostic Unit at Shastin Hospital in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
The completion of the North-South Road Project is particularly impressive given the limited construction timeline. Implementation began halfway through the five-year Mongolia Compact, following a major restructuring. Adding to these challenges, the initial construction contractor experienced financial insolvency at a time when there were only two construction seasons remaining in the compact’s terms.
Mongolia’s harsh winters mean construction can only occur from April through September, and MCA-Mongolia worked diligently to keep the subcontractors from the initial contractor working to avoid losing a valuable construction season. After rebidding the contract, the two new contractors worked long hours to get work done on time, while adhering to the strict environmental and social standards set by MCC and MCA-Mongolia.
The road is also a remarkable achievement because it reflects high quality standards. Many Mongolians view the road as the best ever built in their country because of its international-standard quality and technical specifications. In its funding, design and construction, the North-South Road Project is an example of what international efforts and cooperation among various donors and contractors can achieve.
In all these ways, the road is more than pavement. It is a corridor to the new opportunities of economic development and growth. And, it will long be a symbol of a Mongolia on the rise and a testament to the power of partnerships to reduce poverty and replace it with prosperity.
Posted on July 2, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Standing in front of a large gas-fired turbine engine supplied by General Electric—in a modern power plant owned by another American company, Symbion Power—President Barack Obama today discussed Power Africa, a groundbreaking initiative to expand power connectivity in Africa. I was pleased to witness this in Dar es Salaam, as this endeavor reaffirms the power of partnerships to make the promise of energy security a reality.
Symbion first came to Tanzania after winning two contracts through that country’s MCC compact. As you would expect from the private sector, Symbion quickly realized the economic opportunities in a growing market like Tanzania. Since arriving just a few years ago, the company has established itself, with American ingenuity and expertise, as a key player in the Tanzanian energy sector. Just last week in fact, Symbion and GE announced a partnership on yet another investment opportunity in Tanzania. This kind of growth for a U.S. company, after initially working with MCC, is a win-win for the private sector, the people of Tanzania and the United States. And, this is an excellent example of MCC funds serving as a strategic catalyst for additional private sector investment.
But MCC’s portfolio is not limited to one company. Another American company, Pike Electric of Mount Airy, North Carolina, competed for and won a contract financed by MCC to erect more than 800 kilometers of transmission and distribution lines in central Tanzania. Pike completed this project on time and on budget, as part of MCC’s larger partnership with the Tanzanian government to fund a total of nearly 3,000 kilometers of transmission and distribution lines. Millions of Tanzanians are now experiencing the benefits of reliable power. I was also in Tanzania in April to celebrate the inauguration of a 100 megawatt submarine power cable linking Zanzibar to the Tanzanian mainland. Because of this new link, more reliable power is already flowing.
According to a United Nations study, 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, generate about 30 gigawatts of electricity, which equals the generation capacity just in Argentina. Nearly a quarter of this capacity is not actually available, however, for a number of reasons. This means that sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest electricity access rate at 24 percent; electricity access in rural areas plummets to 8 percent. To meet increasing demand, the study says that Africa’s power sector needs to install approximately 7,000 megawatts of new generation capacity annually. This translates into real market opportunities.
By working with partner countries to create well-functioning energy sectors that build institutional capacity, promote transparency and remove the legal and regulatory roadblocks for doing business, we are creating the right conditions and circumstances to attract more and more private power investments to meet the obvious demand. And, as President Obama noted, creating an enabling environment for greater private sector investment ultimately drives and sustains the economic growth that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Africans and create real opportunities for even more American businesses like Pike Electric, Symbion Power and GE.
Posted on December 21, 2012 by Randy Wood, Senegal deputy resident country director
The brightly dressed men on horseback caught my attention first, but then I saw the man leading a camel to the front of the stage.
I was in Ndioum, in northern Senegal, where the Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye and U.S. Ambassador Lewis Lukens were celebrating the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new bridge built with MCC investments. This is part of MCC’s rehabilitation of two national roads that will create reliable, cost-effective and time-saving means of transporting locally produced agricultural products, as well as stimulate domestic and trans-border traffic and commerce.
The sun was high overhead the Sahel, and there was dust in the air.
Few projects are as breathtaking as the construction of a bridge: Where once rural farmers and their families struggled to cross a swollen river to access schools, hospitals and other services, soon they’ll simply walk across a new bridge. Revolutionary! But the most revolutionary changes are sometimes the simplest: The Ndioum Bridge will not only link one of Senegal’s richest agricultural areas to the mainland, but it also will link the people of the area known as the Ile à Morphile to the rest of their country. It’s a riverine island, with branches of the Senegal River flowing around both sides of the island’s fertile fields.
In finally providing the people of Ndioum with a bridge, MCC is helping fulfill a promise made to the people of Ndioum more than 40 years ago.
It’s a promise the people have waited patiently to see become a reality. The horsemen and the camel herder weren’t elaborate props for the event; they were residents of Ndioum with their steeds, turned out in their finest traditional clothing to witness the groundbreaking and express their gratitude for the work and perseverance that led to overcoming Ndioum’s isolation after so many years.
It’s easy to lose perspective in the paperwork of making these projects a reality: the reports, the collaborative process, the endless email, the calendars and contracts, and the elaborate, technical terms of reference. But then you look up, and hundreds and hundreds of people have come out under the hot noonday sun in a swoon of emotion to express their gratitude for the project, and you realize that it’s not just a project and some deadlines. It’s a bit of infrastructure that is going to revolutionize the lives of Senegal’s poorest.
In two short years, the people of Ndioum won’t need to wait for the wooden canoe to take them across the river, won’t need to worry about flash floods roiling the river’s muddy surface and won’t need to worry if they need a doctor in the middle of the night.
That’s revolutionary. And that’s why we’re here.
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 November 30, 2012 by Marcel Ricou, Program Officer
About 23 percent of Lesotho’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS, one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. In response, MCC has invested $122 million in health infrastructure and to strengthen Lesotho’s health systems. A major portion of the Health Sector Project focuses on rehabilitating 138 health centers across the country, all of which play a pivotal role in providing primary health care to local communities. MCC’s investments leverage those from other donor and U.S. Government programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Program officer Marcel Ricou shows us how MCC and the Government of Lesotho are working together to combat HIV/AIDS.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Preston Winter, Deputy Resident Country Director
The event was hosted by Santa Rosa Guachipilín, a small town situated on the newly-constructed Northern Transnational Highway, one of the key projects under the MCC-funded compact with El Salvador. The highway connects remote towns to the rest of the country and provides new economic opportunities for the residents of the Northern Zone. As part of this investment, more than 220 kilometers of road, three large bridges, and 20 smaller bridges have been rehabilitated or constructed in northern El Salvador to help improve connectivity with the rest of the country. Given the mountainous terrain, the highway also happens to be a great place for a downhill skateboarding event, drawing competitors from around Latin America and even the United States.
It was a joy to see so many Salvadorans, both young and old, enjoying the event. More than 45 skateboarders flew down the course at up to 45 mph. The highway, smoothly paved and ideal for such an event, overlooks the green mountains of the Department of Santa Ana. In between heats, we also enjoyed a variety of pupusas, local versions of shaved ice and other food that local vendors offered.
The mayor was very pleased to have such a strong turnout. Before the construction, it would have been rare to have a gathering of Salvadorans from various parts of the country, including many who had never before seen the town. Now it is only a short drive from nearby towns and major highways, opening up opportunities for visitors to enjoy the natural beauty that this region has to offer and attend unique events like this one.
Posted on July 30, 2012 by Steve Kaufmann, Chief of Staff
While visiting our compact work sites in Senegal last week, I was struck by the ways in which water can both take and support life. My first site visit took me to the village of Ndioum, where MCC is working with MCA-Senegal to build a 160 meter bridge over the Doué River. Now, to get from their homes to their fields, many of the residents must take either pirogues (small canoe-like boats) or a ferry which runs infrequently and is often under repair. Tragically, fatal accidents can occur when pirogues tip due to strong currents or poor weight distribution.
After surveying the work site, my colleagues and I struck up conversation with two village elders. The elders explained that they have been waiting for over 25 years for a bridge to be built. While we were speaking, a young boy named Masseck joined our conversation. He was excited for the bridge to be completed; he told us that his older brother had drowned while crossing the river, and he didn’t want to lose another family member. We knew the river was dangerous, but Masseck’s story reminded us of the urgency of completing construction of the Ndioum Bridge. It will not only save lives, but will improve access to the fertile lands across the river and help farmers get their crops to market.
As we were touring the site, a man approached our car and asked if he could take us to visit the old irrigation pump in the Ngallenka area. We agreed, and upon arrival, our new friend, Mamadou Alanane Hame, began to speak passionately about his experience working with MCC.
Mr. Hame emphasized the participatory decision-making process that allowed him, as an expected beneficiary, to voice his opinions on the project. He remembered that during compact consultations, community members had talked about the importance of irrigation to help assure food security in the region. Now, with improved means to bring critical water to agricultural fields, the local population will plant crops and boost their yields. This unsolicited praise provided strong reinforcement for the importance of MCC’s transparent practices and our commitment to listening to beneficiaries and our partner countries.
Reflecting on my trip, the importance of water is more striking than ever. The agricultural viability of the Sahel, a zone that extends the entire width of Africa from Senegal in the west to Eritrea in the east, is rapidly decreasing as desertification claims an increasingly large amount of previously fertile land every year. As the inhabitants of the Sahel find themselves at greater risk of famine, the difference between food security and insecurity can be the difference between life and death.
MCC has reason to be proud for investing in over 30,000 hectares of irrigated land in Senegal, which is expected to directly benefit more than 250,000 individuals. In partnership with MCA-Senegal and the residents of Ndioum and the Ngallenka area, MCC is implementing water and infrastructure projects that will help to save lives, promote economic growth and reduce poverty.
For more information about the Senegal Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/senegal.
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 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.
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 November 9, 2011 by Marc Tkach, Associate Director, Infrastructure
Just out of school on a warm day, these boys take a rest under the shade of an old tree in Morogoro, Tanzania. They sit atop part of the dilapidated Mambogo water treatment plant from which their drinking water flows. Nestled against the Uluguru Mountains in the Tanzanian highlands, Morogoro is one of the largest and most picturesque towns in East Africa. Its water supply system, though, is undersized and the situation is quickly becoming worse as the population booms.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation's investment in Tanzania involves construction of a new water treatment plant to replace the Mambogo plant, rehabilitation of the larger Mafiga plant down the hill, installation of almost two kilometers of water main pipe, and the upgrade of the town’s water storage capacity. Access to reliable, affordable and clean water is a key factor in the reduction of disease and the increase in productivity that will benefit the Morogoro region.
MCC investments also will improve the water supply in the nation’s largest city, Dar es Salaam. An expansion of the Lower Ruvu water treatment plant will lead to an output of 270 million liters per day, an increase of 50 percent.
Learn more at mcc.gov
Posted on August 22, 2011 by Valeria R. McFarren , Implementation Communications Officer
The Port of Cotonou is often described as the lungs of Benin: It breathes in revenue that gives life to Benin’s economy. In fact, 50 percent of Benin’s state income and 85 percent of all customs income originates there.
The port is also a gateway to landlocked West African countries. Ninety percent of all imports arrive through the port, with approximately 54 percent of them destined for hinterland countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. However, high shipping costs, low efficiency, and poor logistical facilities have limited the Port of Cotonou from becoming an even more important trade route, affecting its competitiveness as a springboard to neighboring countries. In 2006, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Benin, in recognition that an efficient port is a driver of GDP growth, embarked on an investment program of $188 million in port improvements. This $188 million project is part of Benin’s $307 million MCC compact.
I was in Benin two weeks ago visiting the port, and was impressed by the size and magnitude of this MCC/MCA-Benin project. To design and implement major infrastructure improvements and tackle institutional reform in Benin’s only port – within MCC’s five-year timeline – is a significant undertaking.
As the project concludes, port improvements will surely be visible, but all the sweat, tears, and hard work behind it may be forgotten. This is my tribute to process: a behind-the-scenes look at the Port of Cotonou.
- According to independent reports from the International Finance Corporation, around 450 people were employed for port reconstruction over the last two years.• 360,000 tons of rocks were hauled in to extend the jetty, a structure used to prevent the build-up of sediment in the port, by 300 meters. This barrier significantly reduces the amount of sand in the port entrance channel area, reducing maintenance costs for dredging of the port. Construction was completed in December 2010, six months ahead of schedule.
- The railway from Cotonou to Parakou, which had been non-functional for six years, was put back to work bringing rocks for construction to the port. This required approximately 30 trips.
- Most of the rocks were supplied by truck. Approximately 100 to 120 trucks per day were loaded with rocks, each weighing one to three tons, and made the 150-kilometer trip from the quarry to the port.
- Three teams of trained divers were brought in to install scour protection at the base of the new quay wall. This protects the sea floor from forming destabilizing holes and ensures that more boats can continue using the port.
- One and half months of construction took place underwater.
- Rigorous safety protocols and environmental safeguards were in place—several months of staff time were dedicated to providing educational briefings about construction safety hazards and HIV/AIDS awareness.
- Approximately 150,000 tons of concrete were used to build the three-foot-thick quay walls, parking areas, and over five kilometers of roads, including a three-kilometer road around the port.
- In coordination with the MCC/MCA-Benin project, the Government of Benin successfully negotiated a concession agreement with the French company Bolloré, who will manage a new container terminal at the port’s new quay for 25 years after the compact ends. The agreement includes $200 million in concession fees during the first eight years of operation, and investment in operating equipment and civil works of $256 million over the life of the concession.
- Dredging the port is almost complete. This project will increase the depth of the port basin from 12 meters to 15 meters, allowing up to 250-meter-long container vessels access to the new quay berth. Bigger boats mean more containers per boat, increasing volume of imports and exports.
MCC always operates with the bottom line in mind: How does this port contribute to economic growth? The answer is that a more efficient, higher capacity, and safer port reduces ships’ waiting time at anchor, waiting time at berth, and customs clearance times, which reduces shipping costs. For imports, this reduces the cost of goods to Benin and its neighbors. For exports, the reduction in shipping costs and time makes Benin – and its neighbors using the port -- more competitive and spurs their growth.
According to Henning Stehli, the port advisor hired by MCA-Benin, approximately 50,000 people earn a living off the port, both directly and indirectly. A few examples include fishermen, truckers, longshoremen, those buying and selling goods, and those involved in insurance and security. For instance, the dockers tend to be responsible not only for their immediate families but also those who live with them: children, parents, siblings, and extended families. Each docker’s income maintains a household of an average of 10 people. Even being conservative with figures, Henning sees at least half a million Beninese depending on the port for survival on a daily basis.
Henning sums it up nicely: “The MCC gift came to the right place... It is having and will have a great impact. However, excellent management is needed – the Government of Benin must gift its people back by making sure they take care and make good use of this investment.”
Posted on June 2, 2011 by Melvin F. Williams, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) uses 17 independent, transparent indicators to measure countries’ commitment to democratic governance, investments in people, and economic freedom. One of those indicators measures performance on the rule of law, which among other things, measures the effectiveness, independence and predictability of the judiciary; the protection of property rights; and the enforceability of contracts. As MCC’s General Counsel, this is an area of great interest to me, so I was especially pleased to see the rule of law at work in Benin and Mali, two MCC partner countries in West Africa.
I started my visit in Benin, where one part of MCC’s $307 million Compact is designed to boost investment and private sector activity by increasing access to the justice system. During my trip, I visited the new, MCC-funded Legal Information Center (LIC). When completed, the LIC will, for the first time, serve as a center for disseminating court decisions, laws, case records, and other legal information to the people of Benin, which will improve transparency and “demystify” the law for its citizens.
MCC is also financing the construction of five new courthouses, and I was fortunate enough to visit one courthouse under construction.
I also had the opportunity to see another benefit of MCC’s investment: a computerized case management system. These new courthouses and the case management system promise to enhance the rule of law by increasing the speed and efficiency with which cases are processed and adjudicated in Benin. MCC’s compact funding is already delivering results: the average time required for a trial court to reach a decision has been reduced from nine to six months -- for courts of appeal, the time has been reduced from 23 to 10 months.
I then traveled to Mali, where MCC is working with the government on a $461 million Compact that focuses on improvements to the Bamako airport, and a large, highly-integrated agriculture project in the Alatona region on the country. As part of the agriculture project, the Government of Mali is providing land titles to small famers for the first time. (Read American Investments in agricultural productivity and airport renovation lead to growth in Mali.) During my trip, I participated in a ceremony to distribute land titles to small farmers in the Village of Feto. As a measure of MCC’s efforts to improve gender equality, a number of these farmers decided to hold legal title in both the husband’s and wife’s names. A few of the titles were given to women only, which represents a major advance. Providing these farmers with ownership of their land is critical to the continued success of the agricultural project, as farmers who own their land are more likely to maintain and improve it. Moreover, as owners, they can use the land as collateral, which they could not do previously. Also, land ownership is a part of the Government of Mali’s effort to de-centralize authority. Rather than land being controlled from the capital, these land title reforms will empower the people who are actually working the land. This effort is intended to be a model for other areas in Mali.
I’m honored to have seen first-hand the impact of MCC’s investments in Benin and Mali, and how they are strengthening the rule of law.
Posted on March 9, 2011 by Chelsea Coakley, Program Officer Tanzania
During a recent trip to Tanzania, I traveled with MCA-Tanzania’s Gender Specialist, Deborah Sungusia, to observe a day-long training session in Tanga, about five hours north of Dar es Salaam. The seaport city of Tanga marks the starting point of the Tanga-Horohoro Road, one of the Tanzania Compact’s road investments (approximately 65 km/$49 million). This investment includes the rehabilitation of a key transportation route between the port of Tanga and the border town of Horohoro, which will create an improved linkage to the port city of Mombasa, Kenya - a major port of trade for East Africa.This road rehabilitation project is expected to increase trade and development between Tanzania and Kenya, create jobs, reduce transportation costs, increase access to vital community services for the people of this region, and will also help small subsistence farmers to more easily access local and regional markets.
In order to ensure that both women and men have equitable access to the economic benefits associated with this road project and others in the Compact, MCA-Tanzania developed a national Gender Integration Program (GIP). In collaboration with MCC and local stakeholders, MCA-T recognized that gender inequality was a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, identified priority areas for intervention to address this issue, and is currently utilizing an existing network of trained Gender Focal Points (GFPs) throughout the country to implement their program.
MCA-Tanzania is funding targeted trainings to help raise awareness amongst women and men throughout the implementation of each MCC Compact project in the transport, energy, and water sectors. The training program was also designed to increase understanding of the concept of gender and differential benefits experienced by men and women in economic development projects, and to cultivate the skills and economic potential of new or already existing entrepreneurial groups at each Compact project site.
The training I attended in December was a two-day follow-up training session designed to provide knowledge, skills and resources for effective management of entrepreneurial groups from the Tanga region. The group consisted of both direct and indirect beneficiaries of the Tanga-Horohoro road project. Each participant received comprehensive training on topics such as microfinance, access to loans and credit, bookkeeping, mobilization/management of group membership, and hygiene/sanitation education. Approximately ten skill-based groups from eight different villages, and 12 different wards (sub-village level) in the Tanga and nearby Mkinga region were represented at this training.
There were approximately 15 men and 25 women present at the training. Their skill sets ranged from cooking services to masonry, and from small-scale farming to security services provision. Through group discussion and mock problem-solving, feedback from peers and Gender Focal Points, and selected presentations to all participants, it was clear that all attendees were able to brainstorm with like-minded community members, practice their presentation skills, and gain a much deeper understanding about how to access increased economic opportunities that exist while the road is under construction, and new opportunities to expand their businesses, once the road is finished.
Before leaving Tanga, I was able to speak with a number of participants and it became quite clear to me that many of these dynamic men and women would most likely return to their cities, villages, and wards to share their new entrepreneurial knowledge, and become champions of their families’, communities’ and country’s development—teaching others to access new opportunities for growth along the Tanga-Horohoro road. I am looking forward to seeing the impact of this program on the ground over the next year.
Posted on February 8, 2011 by Jonathan Brooks, Resident Country Director for Honduras
The community at Colonia Milenio Pumas has been dear to MCC’s heart. Nestled on a hill about 30 km north of Comayagua along the CA-5 highway, it is the largest and among the earliest resettlement communities set up as part of the highway construction (nearly 30 families). We followed the community’s progress throughout the years as it slowly changed from a group of people linked only by one of the poorest stretches of the CA-5 highway, into neighbors who formed a true community.
January 25th was special. Overcoming some initial difficulties, MCA-Honduras, the Honduran entity which implemented the compact, established a water system to guarantee water access though both the dry and rainy spells of the year. We were invited to join in the inauguration of the water system as well as the naming of the community school. In a touching tribute to one of our colleagues who worked with dedication on the resettlement effort, the community named their new school, “Escuela Jonathan Nash.”
There was much clapping and giggling from the school children who joined in the naming of their new school, and there was even louder applause from the entire community when they witnessed the rush of water that flowed from a faucet in the school yard as part of the dedication. The water flowed into a clay jug which had been set aside for the occasion. As I saw the water line begin to fill the jug, I was reminded of what many Hondurans have pointed to as one of the legacies of the program: the belief that their lives can improve. As I stood and smiled with the community as the water flowed, I realized that they had come to see their own jug as half full.
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