Conversation with MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes and Former President of Ghana John Kufuor

Introduction of former Ghana President John Kufuor by MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes

Thank you, Alan.

Thank you, all, for joining us for this conversation.

I am particularly pleased that Bread for the World President David Beckmann could join us.

And, I am honored to be here alongside President John Kufuor:an outstanding leader, a visionary statesman,the deserving winner of the 2011 World Food Prize,and a friend of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Thank you, Mr. President, for being here.

MCC has had the great opportunity to observe President Kufuor’s work in Ghana firsthand.

When he was elected in 2000, President Kufuor committed himself to fighting hunger and raising the incomes of the people of his country.

He recognized the massive potential that lies in his country’s agriculture industry. Those of us fortunate enough to have visited Ghana know what a beautiful and fertile country it is.

But, Ghana’s agriculture industry faced a number of challenges. In many rural areas, the poverty rate was as high as 90 percent. The use of modern farming techniques was rare. Much of Ghana lacked the infrastructure to expand agricultural exports. Somewhere between harvest and the marketplace, farmers would lose as much as 30 percent of their yields. Clearly, the odds were stacked against the Ghanaian farmer, who often is a woman.

Implementing Ghana’s $547 million MCC compact was one of President Kufuor’s strategies to overcome these problems. As you know, MCC partners only with countries that meet strict standards of good governance, that make necessary olitical, economic and social reforms,that are willing to lead their development,that are committed to delivering results that matter to their people,and that demand accountability and transparency. In Ghana, MCC finds such a good partner.

President Kufuor’s leadership ensured that his country met MCC’s high standards for compact eligibility. And, his leadership was key in laying the foundation for what is proving to be a successful MCC compact.

Today, Ghana’s compact continues. It transcends politics, continuing even as administrations change to reflect the will of the people as an effective way to reduce poverty through sustainable economic growth.

Through the Ghana-MCC partnership:We are training farmers and expanding their access to credit. We are making Ghana more food secure. We are improving roads so farmers can get their products to market quicker, providing them with an opportunity to make money.

On my first trip abroad as MCC’s CEO, I visited with a group of pineapple farmers in Ghana who benefitted from the training and infrastructure improvements. Theirs was a region long defined by poverty, but now these farmers are expanding their sales and exploring trade and investment opportunities.

We expect Ghana’s MCC compact to benefit more than 1.2 million people, and raise incomes by more than 690 million dollars. Expanding the agricultural sector has strengthened the economy already. Under President Kufuor’s leadership, Ghana’s agricultural and food sector—the backbone of the economy—grew at an annual rate of 5.5 percent between 2003 and 2008

Growth in agriculture helped Ghana’s overall GDP to quadruple.The poverty rate has been cut in half, from 51.7 percent in 1991 to 26.5 percent in 2008. And, Ghana is the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to cut the number of people suffering from hunger by half.

This is the legacy of President Kufuor. The MCC compact he signed in 2006 belongs to Ghanaians; the people of Ghana worked hard to develop their compact and are now reaping its benefits. And, Ghana’s performance—both on its programs and on its commitment to policy reforms—qualifies it for a second MCC compact. This is a great  accomplishment.

No wonder Ghana is recognized as a model in the region. It’s no surprise that President Kufuor was honored with this year’s World Food Prize. Other countries look to Ghana as an example of what can be accomplished when committed leaders dedicate themselves to making a real difference in the lives of their people.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said that “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” President Kufuor is a man who has never been without an answer to that question. We are extremely proud of his leadership, his work on the MCC compact and his dedication to the cause of reducing poverty. And, like all of you, I welcome hearing from him today.

President Kufuor, the floor is yours…