Supporting Africa: Actions speak louder than words

The U.S. Government’s support for Africa is much more than words alone. The tangible actions on the ground in places where the Millennium Challenge Corporation operates are evidence that long-term solutions to poverty are hard at work in Africa. What African leaders continue to tell us is that they don’t want mere donations; they want partnerships. We have such a partnership with Burkina Faso. This week’s signing of a $481 million MCC compact with Burkina Faso is an exciting milestone for me personally and for this organization. President Compaore and I attended the signing ceremony for the grant agreement at the State Department, with MCC Board Chair Condoleezza Rice presiding at the event. These funds provide more than emergency or temporary relief to Burkina Faso’s economy. They are designed to go deep into solving the impediments to growth that the country itself identified. The compact follows a successful two-year, $13 million threshold program to improve girls’ access to education in Burkina Faso that MCC proudly funded. Having visited the ““girl-friendly”” schools that MCC funds made possible, I can attest to the effectiveness of this investment. You can feel the sense of hope and accomplishment in these schools where families and communities can now offer their daughters options for their future.

MCC’s private-sector Board members are already some of our best spokespersons about what our country-driven approach is accomplishing in Africa. MCCs Board composition is unique, with private-sector members—along with key government officials—playing a crucial role in guiding the organization in our mission to reduce poverty through growth. Catholic Relief Services President Ken Hackett, who serves on MCCs Board as one of those private-sector members, joined me earlier this week to talk about the Burkina Faso compact during an outreach meeting with President Compaore. Ken shared his first-hand perspective on how investments in Africa are making a difference. I am also happy to report that MCC Board member Senator Bill Frist is currently in Africa and is visiting MCC projects and beneficiaries as part of his itinerary. Be sure to read about some of his impressions.

As the debate in Washington continues about how best to deliver foreign assistance, MCC is pleased to see such robust dialogue emerge around the very principles that are at the core of our operating model. During congressional hearings and meetings in recent weeks, we have heard time and again how aid with accountability, a focus on results, partner country-led solutions, an intolerance for corruption, and investments for long-term economic development are more than nice ideas; they are best practices that should be examined and embraced to deliver U.S. development assistance effectively. We at MCC welcome this debate and invite you to look further into what is unfolding in the 18 countries where we are working to fight poverty by employing these core principles. It’s not a fight that any one approach alone can win, but MCC is changing the conversation about foreign assistance and providing an effective action plan. Poverty, after all, is a foe that demands our actions, and not just our words.