MCC and Cape Verde: Managing Scarce Resources to Reduce Poverty and Promote Investment

A few days ago, I arrived in Cape Verde to sign MCC’s newest compact. Cape Verde is surrounded by ocean, but access to clean, reliable fresh water and sanitation services is a serious problem; only nine percent of poor households are connected to a networked public water supply.

During my trip I stayed in the capital city of Praia, where many residents get their water from communal fountains and lug it back to their homes in large plastic jugs. They use that water for drinking, cooking, and other household functions. Communal fountains are usually only open for one hour each day, and long lines form down the block as people patiently wait their turn at the tap. If the local water utility is experiencing problems the fountain may be shut off for days, forcing local residents to travel farther to reach a functioning water source.

The water utility delivers water to fountains in tanker trucks—an expensive and sometimes unreliable process. While utilities do not profit from water delivery, residents still must pay fees to cover costs. Cape Verde’s water tariffs are some of the highest in Africa.

At the fountain pictured here, users pay 500 escudos, about $6.00, per cubic meter of water, more than five times what I pay in Washington, DC. For a country with nearly 40 percent of the population living on under $2.00 per day, many families cannot afford the water they need. All sectors suffer: health and well-being deteriorate; agricultural crops fail; tourism slows; and economic productivity falters.

The $66.2 million compact that I just signed channels $41 million toward reforming national water policy and regulatory institutions; transforming inefficient utilities into independent corporate entities operating on a sustainable, commercial basis; and improving the quality and reach of water and sanitation infrastructure, benefitting over 250,000 Cape Verdeans.

The compact also includes a $17 million Land Management for Investment Project, which will support the Government of Cape Verde in creating a single reliable, accessible source of land rights and land boundaries information. This project is designed to strengthen Cape Verde’s investment climate and reduce time and costs associated with land registration.

I’m extremely proud of this compact, and of the successful partnership it represents between MCC and Cape Verde. We are looking forward to working with the government and people of Cape Verde to implement this program on time, on budget, and with a constant focus on achieving results.