Millennium Challenge Corporation; United States of America

A bridge like no others in Senegal

Legendary Senegalese artist Baba Maal performs for the crowd at the opening of the Ndioum Bridge.

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.