Speech

October 1, 2009

As Delivered by Darius Mans, Acting CEO

Washington, DC

Remarks at the 7th Biennial U.S.-Africa Business Summit: Building Africa’s Infrastructure for the Future

The Corporate Council on Africa’s summit focus this year on “Realizing the Investment Power of Africa” could not be more timely and relevant.

In June, we witnessed President Obama’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa where he placed the future of Africa on the shoulders of Africans themselves.  We saw Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s subsequent visit to the continent where she stressed the importance of good governance, transparency, the rule of law, civil liberties, partnerships, and agricultural development to that future.  Let there be no mistake whatsoever that America is committed to helping Africa help itself.

I am proud to represent the U.S. Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation on this panel.  It’s an exciting time at MCC, as you well know.  We just learned that President Obama nominated Mr. Daniel Yohannes as MCC’s new CEO.  This nomination indicates the Administration’s strong support for MCC and our mission.

As an innovative approach to the delivery of development assistance, MCC is an effective and smart tool many African partner countries are leveraging to achieve sustainable poverty reduction and economic growth. 

And, one major way MCC grants are being used is to build Africa’s infrastructure for the future.

MCC is committed to Africa’s infrastructure because MCC partner countries are

To date, MCC has committed over $5 billion to Africa, including our most recent compact for $540 million signed just two weeks ago with Senegal to rehabilitate two major highways and install an irrigation system to boost agricultural productivity and food security.

More than half of MCC’s total portfolio in Africa is dedicated to infrastructure—a sizeable commitment and evidence of our constructive engagement.

These infrastructure improvements include not just transportation links but also water systems, irrigation projects to support agricultural development, information technology networks, and energy facilities. Bringing basic electricity to rural communities, for example, allows businesses to operate and school children to study at night.

We all know that reliable roads, bridges, and ports lower the costs of transport and doing business and help Africa compete in the global economy and attract investment.

With sound infrastructure in place, African countries can move goods to domestic, regional, and international markets more efficiently. They can take advantage of AGOA.  Families can earn incomes to better their standard of living today and for the future.

Sound infrastructure improves the efficiency of agricultural value chains.

Dependable infrastructure also allows communities to reach schools and health clinics, and the growth of any society depends on whether citizens have the skills and physical well-being to contribute productively to the economy.

It is no exaggeration to see infrastructure as the lifeline of sustainable development.

Examples

African partners clearly see this.  Because MCC’s assistance is country-led and country-implemented, African partners themselves are overwhelmingly opting to invest their grants in improving their infrastructure as a vital prerequisite for long-term economic development. 

In addition to Senegal’s compact that invests in roads and irrigation as I mentioned, we are seeing Benin use its $307 million MCC compact to improve the Port of Cotonou.

We are seeing Cape Verde use its $110 million MCC compact to upgrade roads. In fact, the first MCC-funded road projects to be completed in Africa are in Cape Verde.

We are seeing Ghana apply its $547 million compact to upgrade the National Highway and improve the Lake Volta ferry system.

We are seeing Lesotho use its $363 million compact to improve the reliability of water supply and sanitation for industrial and residential uses.

We are seeing Mali use it $461 million compact to renovate the Bamako Airport and expand irrigation infrastructure in the Alatona region.

We are seeing Mozambique’s $507 million compact focus on expanding the water supply and sanitation systems in small towns.

We are seeing Tanzania’s nearly $700 million compact invest in transportation, energy, and water.

We are seeing Morocco’s $698 million compact improve irrigation infrastructure.

Our experience, to date, confirms that the infrastructure investment opportunities in Africa are certainly real.

Call to action

These investments are proof of MCC’s partnerships throughout Africa and reflect a shared commitment to infrastructure development. 

To come full circle as to why we are here today, infrastructure development is paramount to realizing the investment power of Africa.

What MCC is building though our partnerships in Africa is more than roads.  We are creating a foundation for the private sector to invest, compete, trade, create jobs, and profit. 

With an MCC-funded road built, for example, the private sector might now be more willing to build that factory, or gas station, or convenience store. 

In short, MCC is a natural partner for the private sector in Africa.

This is why MCC welcomes partnerships to build upon the infrastructure we are helping to put in place.

  • We hold private sector dialogues to engage the private sector as early as possible in actually developing MCC programs.
  • We issue Requests for Information to solicit written feedback from the private sector on partner country proposals.
  • We encourage MCC countries to leverage MCC grants with other investors in both the profit and nonprofit worlds.  We also do all we can to help MCC countries use MCC funding to attract additional investment. 
  • We communicate private sector trade and investment opportunities that result from MCC grants as well as procurement opportunities that arise during program implementation. 

Our partner countries are serious about investing in infrastructure.  This is a fact. And, that is why MCC is serious about doing so as well. 

We encourage private sector firms to take a careful and close look at just how serious we are—for the benefit of their own bottom lines and for the benefit of long-term poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth in Africa.

I look forward to listening and sharing more during this afternoon’s discussion, and invite the private sector to visit www.mcc.gov to learn more about how to get involved with MCC partnerships in Africa. Thank you!