Speech

June 11, 2008

As Prepared by John J. Danilovich, Chief Executive Officer

Washington, DC

‘MCC-AGRA MOU signing’

Welcome to the headquarters of the Millennium Challenge Corporation!  I’m delighted to see such a fantastic turnout for this very important and significant occasion as we gather here this morning to sign this memorandum of understanding between the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

I’m delighted to see so many friends of MCC here, including:

  • Under Secretary Reuben Jeffery, the Under Secretary for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs at the State Department;
  • distinguished Ambassadors from Mali, Benin, Ghana, Madagascar, Senegal, Namibia, Lesotho, Armenia, and Mauritania;
  • USTDA Director Larry Walther;
  • Maurice Tempelsman of the Corporate Council on Africa;
  • and MCC Board Member and President of the International Republican Institute Lorne Craner.

With the world’s attention increasingly focused on the pressing problems related to agriculture and food security, our conversation about Africa—and the solutions unfolding there—could not come at a better time.  Thank you all for being here.

Chairman Annan, we are honored to have you with us today.  As the former Secretary- General of the United Nations, you know all too well the challenges to peace and prosperity that trouble the international community.  And now, your sensitive and sympathetic leadership in shepherding AGRA in developing practical and sustainable solutions to help millions of farmers and their families across Africa lift themselves out of poverty and hunger is a welcome continuation of your service…and your vision for a better world. 

We, at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, share that vision.  We partner with some of the world’s poorest countries to end poverty through sustainable economic growth.  With grants totaling $5.5 billion to 16 countries in Africa, Central America, Eurasia, and the Pacific, MCC is changing the lives of the poor through our innovative, different, and demanding approach to development assistance.  Built on accountability, MCC allocates aid based on how well countries perform on a set of independent and transparent political, economic, and social indicators, and on their willingness to deliver meaningful results to the poor through their own development efforts. 

The Rockefeller and Gates foundations established AGRA to improve the productivity and incomes of resource-poor farmers by working with African governments, other donors, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.

Like AGRA, MCC believes that one of the most significant ways we can promote poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth throughout Africa is to improve the capacity and efficiency of the agricultural sector.

Nearly 70 percent of MCC’s funding—some $3.8 billion—benefits nine countries in Africa, making the continent the largest recipient of MCC grants by far.  And our African partners are applying their MCC grants, in large part, to make agriculture more productive, to improve linkages upstream, downstream, and throughout the entire rural economy, to build reliable infrastructure—such as  roads and irrigation systems—to support agriculture development, and to expand farmer training and access to credit. While these projects are helping the rural poor in the near term, they are also creating a solid foundation to tackle one of the most pressing challenges we now face: that of food security.  

By supporting food-system development, African countries are investing their MCC funds in the right place at the right time to balance and stabilize food supply and prices over the long term.  Several MCC irrigation investments, like those in Mali and Morocco, are also directly and indirectly mitigating the effects of climate change on food security. 

MCC is making major investments to revolutionize the agricultural sector in partner countries worldwide, including those in Africa.  MCC’s African partner countries have invested more than $1.7 billion of their total MCC grants to make agriculture more productive.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s significant role in promoting agricultural development in Africa makes our partnership with AGRA a natural and compelling one.

Through the memorandum of understanding we sign today, MCC and AGRA create a deeper framework for cooperation that allows us to share our respective strengths and resources to promote broad-based agricultural growth and poverty reduction in specific African countries.

Together, we can help advance this goal in two main ways.

First, we can accelerate agricultural and rural economic growth by urging changes in policies and regulations as they relate to the agriculture and food-system.  This policy dialogue helps to create the very conditions that will amplify and sustain economic growth.

Second, we can catalyze large-scale impacts on agricultural productivity and rural economic growth by coordinating the planning and implementation of our programs in specific regions and functional areas.  This will complement and build upon country-determined and driven agricultural development plans.

AGRA and MCC partner countries are already making headway in identifying a number of areas where they can cooperate to support agriculture development.

We see this in Ghana, where AGRA and MiDA, the body implementing the country’s MCC grant, have agreed to a policy dialogue with the government to change the current seed policy to make it possible for private seed companies to access publicly-bred lines. They are also exploring the creation of integrated soil fertility management systems and practices.

We see this in Madagascar, where AGRA and MCA-Madagascar are using MCC-funded Agriculture Business Centers to develop crop improvement and seed systems as well as fertilizers.

We see this in Mali, where AGRA is directing its investments in crop research, seed development, and agro-dealer network development to benefit the Alatona region, the focus of MCC’s grant.  AGRA and MCA-Mali are looking at ways to improve crop varieties and develop disease resistant vegetables.  They are exploring ways to strengthen post-harvest systems and value-added processing.

We see this in Burkina Faso, where AGRA and MCA-Burkina Faso will collaborate to stimulate the development of agro-dealer networks and investigate ways to improve crops and soil fertility.

We also see this in Malawi, where AGRA will participate in the consultative process to help Malawi—newly eligible for full MCC grant funding—to prioritize its constraints to growth and areas for investment.

In these ways, the MOU we celebrate today solidifies what is already underway on the ground in Africa.  The growing cooperation between AGRA and MCC advances the goals of African countries themselves to make their agricultural sectors competitive, strong, productive, and successful in lifting the poor out of poverty.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is proud to discover synergies and cooperate with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. 

We look forward to the significant work ahead—and on building on what we have already started—because we know that in making our mutual investment in accelerating the growth of agriculture, we make a far more important investment in the lasting prosperity of the people of Africa.

It is now my great privilege and honor to yield the podium to AGRA’s Chairman of the Board Kofi Annan.

Known to millions throughout the world, please allow me to say just a few short words of introduction.

Born in Ghana—an MCC partner country—Mr. Annan served as United Nations Secretary-General from 1997 to 2006, the first Secretary-General to come directly from the UN staff, and the first from a sub-Saharan African nation to hold the position.  

Mr. Annan’s career with the United Nations began in 1962, and he has held a number of leadership posts throughout the organization during his more than four decades of service.

He played an instrumental role in so many humanitarian initiatives and, in particular, in
promoting corporate social responsibility; creating the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria; and outlining the Millennium Development Goals to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. 

In 2001, Mr. Annan and the United Nations received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Please join me in welcoming Kofi Annan. Sir…