Last week, I had the pleasure of witnessing the five-year $304.5 million Namibia compact enter into force. Reaching entry into force (EIF) is a fancy way of saying that the five-year clock to implement the compact has now started ticking. There was a great sense of excitement on both sides, along with a sense of shared responsibility to deliver on the promise of the compact. The Namibian Prime Minister gave the keynote address, which he opened in quite a non-conventional way. After asking the staff of MCA Namibia to stand, he challenged, How many days are there in five years? You must achieve something every day. He then, in turn, asked each minister or senior official from the ministries involved in the compact program to stand; he read them their budget and defined their principal responsibilities under the compact. He did the same to me—quite an effective way to instill a sense of urgency and responsibility in us all!
Namibia’s $304 million compact will reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth by:
- improving the skills and productivity of the Namibian workforce,
- growing Namibia’s tourism industry, and
- increasing the total value-added from livestock in the Northern Communal Areas.
The Namibia compact breaks new ground for MCC, as it is the first time MCC funds a project in the tourism sector. The tourism-related component of Namibia’s compact will
- improve management and infrastructure of Etosha National Park,
- enhance the marketing of Namibia tourism and
- develop the capacity of communal conservancies to attract investments in ecotourism and capture a greater share of the revenue generated by tourism in Namibia.
Together, these activities are aimed at generating income and creating employment opportunities for communities in the Northern Communal Areas, while conserving the natural resources that serve as the foundation of the tourism industry.
Five years is a relatively short period of time to accomplish these compact goals, so it is very important that a country use the time following compact signing and before EIF to fully prepare for program implementation. MCA Namibia—the local independent entity in charge of implementing the compact—completed a number of important steps leading up to EIF so that the full implementation of the compact could proceed effectively and expeditiously. They have already:
- hired a team of 29 professionals to staff MCA Namibia through an open and competitive process;
- drafted a detailed Monitoring and Evaluation Plan that will allow MCC, MCA Namibia, and stakeholders to monitor the implementation of the three projects, assess results, and evaluate their impact;
- contracted a consortium of Namibian firms to design and supervise the rehabilitation and expansion of 47 schools; and
- contracted a firm to work with the Ministry of Education to accurately count textbooks in schools as a first step to purchasing sufficient English, science, and math books.
Namibia is the second country in which I have the privilege of serving as an MCC Resident Country Director. An obvious improvement in the MCC implementation process that resulted from lessons learned in earlier programs has been to lengthen the period between compact signing and entry into force. In Namibia, this strategic time proved to be essential to properly staff the MCA Namibia program management unit, prepare bidding documents, train staff, and establish the supplementary legal framework all vital things that need to be done before implementation begins. Clearly, Namibia used this time wisely.
During the EIF ceremony, there was no doubt that this is a Namibian-led program. The Prime Minister ended his speech with the declaration, Get ready Namibia, because MCA is coming to you. This pronouncement seemed to capture both the optimism in the room about the compacts potential and the shared eagerness to now move forward with implementation.