Shining a spotlight on developing countries

(l to r) President Boni Yayi of Benin, MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes, Cheryl Mills—Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton—and President Jayaka Kikwete of Tanzania meet for further discussions.

When countries lead their own development, they put themselves on the path to sustainable economic growth that ultimately breaks the cycle of aid dependence. We repeatedly heard this empowering theme throughout last week’s events surrounding the G-8 summit, particularly from Benin, Ghana and Tanzania, three MCC partner countries who are leveraging assistance to attract private sector-led investment. These African partner countries—each of whom have close bilateral partnerships with the United States—are practicing MCC’s country ownership principle and exemplifying a move toward greater growth and opportunity in Africa today.

President Jayaka Kikwete’s presentation at the Statesmen’s Forum at CSIS on Thursday, and the dialogue we had afterward, drove home these points. His vision for a more food-secure Tanzania, where families and businesses can thrive, reflects Tanzanian priorities for economic development and shares MCC’s vision that the private sector work to replace aid with greater trade and investment.

President Kikwete joined President John Atta-Mills of Ghana at Friday’s high-level symposium on global agriculture and food security to discuss new ways of accelerating growth in Africa’s agricultural sector. As chairperson of the African Union, President Boni Yayi of Benin took part in the conversation too. President Barack Obama’s speech set the tone for the symposium when he confirmed that “…true development involves not only delivering aid, but also promoting… inclusive growth that actually helps nations develop and lifts people out of poverty. The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient… And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it's got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector.”

With over half of our investments—$4.6 billion—related to food security, MCC has been and remains at the forefront of addressing this critical development priority. And, MCC’s partnerships with African countries to promote food security give the private sector another reason to get involved and invest.

To deepen such partnerships, MCC hosted a conversation over dinner with several African leaders and U.S. Administration officials. The discussion focused on how to advance our shared goals, including enhancing long-term food, water and energy security; investing in Africa’s human development through health and education initiatives; and building the infrastructure and partnerships businesses need to succeed. Our African partner countries are leveraging development assistance to attract the private sector and exploring ways for entrepreneurs and enterprises to build on our development successes so as to maximize impact and sustainability. 

Our focus on country-led development is key to MCC’s model and essential for replacing the dependence of poverty with the independence of investment. If the positive rhetoric we heard last week is followed up with continued results on the ground in partner countries in Africa and elsewhere, I am confident that we are well on our way to sustainable, life-changing development that will make a difference in the lives of the world’s poor.