Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Interagency
Posted on August 24, 2012 by Oliver Pierson, Resident Country Director
MCC and our counterparts at MCA-Namibia are proud to see that Namibia has been chosen to host the 10th Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) taking place in October 2013. The ATWS will draw around 600 delegates and many of the biggest players in the adventure travel tourism industry to Namibia to discuss industry best practices and collaborate on issues facing adventure travel.
MCA-Namibia provided support to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism in developing Namibia’s bid to host the summit. The MCC-funded tourism project in Namibia, part of the country’s overall $304.5 million compact, is focused around encouraging private investment in the tourism industry, supporting communal conservancies to establish and manage tourism enterprises, and broadening the marketing of Namibia as a tourist destination.
MCC has also worked toward increasing the capacity of Namibia’s tourism industry and improving its management by funding training courses toward the certification of Namibian tour guides. The training courses create new jobs in the sector and work to promote a skilled and educated labor force to cater to the needs of a growing tourist industry. Tourism, already Namibia’s second-most lucrative industry, has the potential to be a strong source of economic growth, helping create more jobs and reduce poverty.
The selection of Namibia, the first African country to host the ATWS, will highlight Namibia’s tourism industry and ideally foster opportunities to build on MCC-funded work in this key sector and drive new private sector investments in tourism.
For more information about the Namibia Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/namibia.
Posted on August 20, 2012 by B. Tsolmon and L. Gerelmaa, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia
Severe winter air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has become a major concern for the city’s 1.3 million residents, which is nearly half the country’s total population. A majority of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes from districts populated with gers, traditional Mongolian houses where lower-income households live.
Women head many of these ger households. They rely on burning raw coal in inefficient stoves to heat the poorly insulated gers—a primary source of the city's air pollution, which fuels environmental and health risks and causes economic impacts. To address this concern, a facility was established within the scope of the compact's Energy and Environment Project to fund financial incentives and technical assistance for adopting cleaner, more efficient technologies for use in heating the gers.
The project’s particular and positive impact on gender issues recently gained international attention with the July 2012 visit of Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, as part of a women’s empowerment conference held in Mongolia.
Ambassador Verveer paid a visit to Norovkhand and her family in the Bayanzurkh district outside Ulaanbaatar. Norovkhand obtained a subsidized energy efficient stove through MCA-Mongolia, the local entity managing compact implementation. Norovkhand, a single mother of three and a grandmother of one, shared her experiences on how much coal she has saved in using her new stove, compared with the traditional stove she used previously.
Most importantly, the energy-efficient stove, she said, simplifies routine housework since it requires less fueling, generates less ash and is easy to clean.
“It is very affordable and accessible especially for female-headed households like us, given the subsidies provided by the project,” she said.
Norovkhand’s family is also among potential beneficiaries of the hashaa (yard) plot privatization and registration activity under the compact’s Property Rights Project. With their land formally registered, Norovkhand’s family and many others will have an opportunity to access bank credit, enabling them to make more productive use of their plots.
MCA-Mongolia is tracking the longer-term impacts of increased asset ownership through its monitoring and evaluation work, which also includes a complementary qualitative survey on how increasing asset ownership among women impacts household dynamics.
To track the difference the compact is making for Mongolians at both household and national levels, a number of gender-responsive actions are underway across the program to ensure that women and men benefit equitably from the compact, which is key for sustainable development and economic growth of benefit for all.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director
This June, I traveled to Pissila, in the Sanmatega province of Burkina Faso. I was there to attend the closing ceremony for the Burkinabé Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed (BRIGHT) II Project, funded through the MCC compact with Burkina Faso. Speaking with students, teachers and parents participating in the BRIGHT II Project, I truly experienced firsthand the benefits of MCC’s investment.
The BRIGHT program is a collaborative effort of the United States and Burkina Faso to improve rates of children’s primary school attendance, completion, and promotion to secondary schools. To date, the program, including work performed under the MCC compact, has educated over 27,000 students, including 16,000 girls, and has built 132 primary schools across 10 provinces. The numbers are impressive—but they don’t tell the whole story.
In Pissila, the success and visibility of the BRIGHT program was evident from the high-level participation at the well-attended closing ceremony. The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Luc Adolphe Tiao; the Minister of Education and Literacy, Koumba Boly; and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty were all on hand to share in the celebration. Officials from MCC, USAID, and Plan International were also present. The stars of the show, however, were the 500 students from the BRIGHT school of Pissila, who were as proud as could be to show off their school and accomplishments.
We arrived early on Thursday morning to enthusiastic cheers and waves from students of all ages. Three large tents were set up at the center of the school, flanked by new classrooms, offices and teacher housing. Boys and girls, waving American and Burkinabé flags and proudly wearing their school shirts displaying the BRIGHT II emblem, greeted the prime minister and U.S. ambassador as they arrived. The atmosphere radiated with excitement and joy; students and teachers alike were proud that their school had been selected to host such an event.
The moving speeches and lively performances diverted our attention from the hot Burkina Faso sun and 100+ degree temperatures. Enthralling music and traditional dances had the whole crowd applauding, especially for the youngest dancer in a local troupe who was able to shake the prime minister’s hand. Later, Celia Ella Kafando, a fifth-grader, courageously took to the podium to make a speech on behalf of the students of Pissila.
Though her head barely reached the top of the podium, Celia spoke with a clear and strong voice, thanking MCC and the American people for building her school. To the visible enjoyment of the prime minister, the education minister (one of Burkina Faso’s two female ministers) and the region’s governor (also a woman), Celia shared that many of her fellow students aspired to become governors and ministers thanks to their education. Everyone smiled when the prime minister and education minister were given the “key” to the school, a beautiful, symbolic oversized key made by Burkinabe bronze workers.
The prime minister’s speech was unexpectedly touching and honest. Speaking directly to the students, he admitted that school was not always easy, recognizing that most of them had to move away from home, learn a new language (though French is the official language, over 60 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso) and—perhaps the most universal problem of all—wake up early to get to class. He encouraged the students not to give up and to follow their dreams. Ambassador Dougherty echoed these sentiments in his speech, stating, “We hope each and every BRIGHT school graduate will have success in realizing their potential in the years to come.”
Though two more years remain until the compact’s end, it was encouraging to see such a successful closeout of this project. The Government of Burkina Faso has pledged to maintain the schools and remain committed to supporting girls’ education. In the words of Prime Minister Tiao, “The American people can trust us. We will take care to meet the challenges of underdevelopment.”
For more information about the Burkina Faso Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/burkinafaso.
Posted on May 31, 2012 by Alain Diouf, MCA-Senegal Property Rights and Land Policy Director , and Kent Elbow, MCC Property Rights and Land Policy Specialist
We knew we were on to something in Senegal—that what we learned about the role customary land rights can play in alleviating poverty was worth sharing with the wider land practice community.
In recent years, many African governments have developed legislation to recognize the legitimacy of informal (mostly unwritten) customary rights to land. Governments have introduced a variety of legislative tools to formalize, protect and secure those rights. Each country brings a different approach to this, but in many instances the process helps lay the foundation for increased economic development.
Customary land rights are the starting point of any formalization initiative, which isn’t easy. We need to help contribute to economic objectives while preserving or enhancing the rights and interests of the powerless. We do this in two main ways.
The first task is to identify the holders of customary rights, which requires recognizing categories like individual and collective rights. Analyses of community resources, such as pastures and forests, need to include detailed socio-economic information. Where community land-use plans do not yet exist, we identify various interests and base our approach on the active participation of all parties in working toward a consensus on how existing rights are to be presented and preserved during the formalization process.
The Land Tenure Security Activity, funded by Senegal’s $540 million MCC compact, is working in the Senegal River Valley to determine the boundaries between agriculture and livestock while also accounting for the areas where the two overlap. MCA-Senegal will act upon some of the decisions negotiated during the first phase of the activity—such as the boundaries of cattle trails through agricultural land leading to water points—by planting trees.
The second major element of a successful formalization program is ensuring that fairness remains a dominant principle in ongoing and future land allocation. Formalization is not just identifying rights and issuing corresponding pieces of paper. Mechanisms must be developed and activated to provide for the exchange and reallocation of land rights so resources can be put to their most productive use while ensuring that rights are protected. Governance of land allocation works best when it is transparent, democratic and participatory.
The Land Tenure Security Activity in Senegal is demonstrating that existing customary land rights can be comprehensively identified and documented—if one incorporates careful design and planning, inclusive methodologies, copious work, and adequate time. It is also demonstrating that local land allocation principles and processes can be developed and recognized as legitimate if all stakeholders are given a voice in their development.
Yes, customary land rights are messy—but protecting customary land rights while moving toward a more formal land management system is both fair and economically productive. An even more fundamental goal must be to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the more permanent institutions of land governance. In the Senegal River Valley, land is governed at the community level, and there are positive signs that previously unheard voices are now finding a stage.
“These workshops have changed us as well as our community decision-makers,” the president of a women’s producer group said after a community workshop. “We no longer hesitate to speak our minds and address the Rural Council. This is a new situation for us.”
MCC, the Government of Senegal and MCA-Senegal are excited about the good work that has been accomplished and are committed to continuing to learn and share our learning with land practitioners facing similar challenges around the world.
Posted on May 29, 2012 by Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director, Technical Services Division
MCC and a majority of our partner countries believe that improvements to their agricultural and rural sectors are a crucial part of lifting people out of poverty and to improving food security. MCC’s portfolio includes $4.4 billion of investments in improvements to the agricultural and rural sectors that are relevant to reducing food insecurity. This includes a substantial focus on infrastructure investments in large-scale irrigation schemes to ensure reliable access to water and improved yields, as well as roads and post-harvest storage and packaging facilities to move goods to market more efficiently.
MCC projects also invest in direct assistance to farmers with a focus on smallholders. Training activities help farmers learn about cultivating high-value yields, deal with pests and diseases and manage scarce land resources. Rural credit programs are designed to raise incomes by expanding access to credit to help purchase inputs. Land tenure projects work to create secure land rights and efficient institutions for managing land rights.
In seven years, MCC-funded projects have trained nearly 200,000 farmers and assisted more than 3,500 enterprises worldwide. Roughly 170,000 hectares under production receive MCC support through technical assistance, new or rehabilitated irrigation systems or access to agricultural inputs and credit. Land tenure projects have supported legal and regulatory reform in six countries and the formalization of land rights of more than 1 million hectares of rural land, including farmland, grazing areas and forests.
Just last month, our commitment to food security received high praise from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization. MCC received an “outstanding” evaluation in The 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, a thorough study of how the U.S. Government is performing in its commitment to improve food security and support agricultural development in regions with the greatest levels of rural poverty and hunger.
“The Millennium Challenge Corporation has demonstrated outstanding leadership in agricultural development in its role as the largest U.S. Government provider of funding for agriculture and food security infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the report said. “It has increased its capacity to disburse funds and complete agreements in a timely fashion.”
The report chose Ghana, one of our partner countries, for a case study of U.S. Government development efforts. It labeled the U.S. Government's actions there as “outstanding” and said the MCC compact's “vital work in agriculture has laid a solid foundation for expanded Feed the Future activities.” The MCC compact also supported innovation in applying land tenure law in Ghana by demonstrating an approach to formally recording rural land rights in the context of strong customary practices.
As project results continue to come in, MCC remains committed to learning and being held accountable for how well these program outputs translate into increased incomes and well-being for program beneficiaries. MCC currently has 16 independent impact evaluations underway to address questions such as the impact of our programs on increased productivity, investment in high-value agriculture and business and marketing opportunities. Ultimately, these evaluations are designed to measure and better understand our impact on incomes and poverty reduction. Just as MCC contributed its leadership and technical skill to the State Department and USAID as the Feed the Future Initiative was developed and moved into implementation, we see our rigorous approach to monitoring progress and evaluating impacts as a source of learning for the whole U.S. Government. Learning from our programs can also contribute lessons for donors worldwide.
At MCC, we are proud of our investments and inspired by the changes we are seeing in people’s lives as a result of our compacts. At the same time, we are humbled by the gravity of poverty and the level of food insecurity in our partner countries, fully realizing that true poverty reduction and economic growth are not easy tasks. They will continue to require full attention and support, including using better evidence as we gain it, to improve and promote effective programs.
This recent report is both an endorsement of MCC’s seven years of work in this field and also a reminder of the urgent need for continued investments in agriculture and food security programs around the world.
Posted on May 9, 2012 by Jonathan Brooks, Managing Director for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America
A community irrigation system created with the help of MCC’s compact with Honduras recently received international recognition—the latest example of how MCC’s investments provide a model for sustainable poverty growth in our partner countries.
The Cosechas de Agua rainwater harvesting project, developed through the compact’s Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility and managed by CHF International, received the Latin American prize for innovative water management projects in the face of climate change at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, on March 15.
Cosechas de Agua harvests rainwater for use in irrigation in the arid southern municipalities of Nacaome, Langue, Goascorán, and Aramecina. It captures rainwater and then uses a system of hydraulic works, dams and pipelines to store and distribute the water to fields. The project aims to introduce complementary irrigation systems for 188 agricultural producers over 98 hectares of land, intended to increase their income.
Access to irrigation and other support through the compact was intended to allow farmers to diversify their crops, increase their yields and expand their access to new customers nationally, regionally and internationally.
The $50,000 prize—sponsored by the Mexican national water authority Conagua, the FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean—will be used to develop the project over the next three years. Cosechas de Agua officials will also be invited to present progress on the system's economic, social and environmental impacts at the next World Water Forum in March 2015.
The Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility was part of the $68 million Rural Development Project, which sought to increase the productivity and business skills of farmers who operate small- and medium-size farms, as well as their employees. The project is expected to help more than 357,000 people over the next 20 years and raise their household incomes by $53 million.
Posted on May 2, 2012 by Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Director, Development Policy
[Disclaimer: In a burst of what passes for social media genius in her own mind, your author is taking blatant advantage of both International Press Freedom Day and today’s rather intense Twitter debate on open data to shamelessly promote MCC’s freedom of information index. #MCCFOI #pressfreedom #opendata #shamelessplug ]
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is unapologetically keen on open data, which should be no surprise. Our annual partner country selection process not only relies on third-party data but also creates and publishes country scorecards displaying countries’ relative policy performance across three broad areas: good governance, social investments and economic policy. To date, MCC’s Board of Directors has approved more than $9 billion in compact investments in 25 countries that were identified using a public, data driven selection system. We like data—and we like openness.
Last year, MCC took this one step further. In an effort to incorporate emerging policy areas and new data developed since MCC was established in 2004, we updated the scorecard system. We found creative methodologies and new datasets from the Open Net Initiative and FRINGE Special, which focused on tracking Internet filtering and freedom of information laws, respectively. Combining this data with Freedom House’s assessments of freedom of the press, MCC created a freedom of information indicator.
To our knowledge, the freedom of information indicator represents one of the first efforts to publish a transparent ranking of low- and low-middle-income countries’ commitment to enable or allow information to move freely in society. This was an exciting advance for us; understanding the role governments play in restricting or facilitating information flows can shape how we understand the political and economic environment in these countries. Political scientists know that citizens’ access to information is a key part of accountable government, while economists point to the role of information in efficient market function.
We fully recognize that a first step is just that—a first. We welcome critique and analysis of what practical steps would improve the index. For more information on the methodologies used to assess freedom of the press, Internet freedom and freedom of information laws, please see the Freedom of Information section of our Guide to the Indicators and let us know what you think. 140 or fewer characters with the #MCCFOI hashtag would be nice. Lengthier, complex thoughts would be even better.
Posted on April 25, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
This post first appeared on Visa Viewpoints, the official blog of Visa Inc., on April 25, 2012.
Since 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has been leading the fight against global poverty. As an innovative and independent U.S. development assistance agency, we are changing the conversation on how best to deliver smart assistance by focusing on good policies, country-owned development solutions and results. Our success rests in large part on our ability to forge successful partnerships for sustainable development. This means partnering with countries around the world, civil society, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and other government agencies.
One lesson we know for sure: Assistance alone is not enough. What will be enough to tip the scale toward sustainable growth is the innovation and investment driven by the private sector. The private sector creates jobs and new products. The private sector is where entrepreneurs are born and thrive. And, the growth, investment, trade, and business generated by the private sector will help lift people out of poverty.
Today, the Millennium Challenge Corporation convenes our first Forum on Global Development. This will be a unique occasion for visionaries and practitioners in international development to meet, exchange ideas and honor three outstanding awardees for their work on gender integration, investment and innovation.
On behalf of MCC, I am proud that we will recognize Visa as the recipient of our first Corporate Award for demonstrating exemplary commitment to eradicating poverty in the developing world. We are impressed with Visa’s commitment to advancing financial inclusion by leveraging its core business along with innovation, strategic partnerships and financial literacy. We applaud Visa’s public-private partnership with the Government of Rwanda, including the extensive Charter of Collaboration as well as partnerships with organizations such as Women’s World Banking and GSMA mWomen, to advance financial access for women and their efforts to bring financial literacy education to millions of people worldwide.
In the global fight against financial exclusion and poverty, no single organization has all the answers. But through innovative solutions from—and partnerships among—governments, the private sector and civil society, we are making a difference.
Posted on April 6, 2012 by Patrick Fine, Vice President for Compact Operations
Nampula Province in central Mozambique is 2,200 kilometers north of the capital Maputo, about the distance from the East Coast to the Mississippi River. The countryside is marked by granite domes that tower hundreds of feet off the lush plains and by isolated mountains that rise up in surreal silhouettes worthy of artist Shane Devries. The land is not heavily populated, and villages are simple collections of traditional thatched-roof rondavels plastered with mud from ubiquitous conical ant hills. Rural electrification has not yet reached most of these villages, roads are simple dirt tracks, most people still fetch water from rivers, and boys stand by the roadside holding out bags of freshly shelled cashews for sale.
You can see signs of growing prosperity, including the results of MCC’s $506 million partnership with Mozambique: Our investment has helped build hundreds of village water points; pave major routes to facilitate agriculture, mining and commerce; and upgrade and expand straining municipal water and sanitation systems.
A year ago, these projects were seriously behind schedule and over budget, causing MCC and the Government of Mozambique to create an action plan to overhaul the approach for completing the work within the five-year deadline. I was impressed by the way Mozambique’s management authority, MCA-Mozambique, had consistently met its implementation milestones since the revised plan was adopted in March 2011.
Last week, with only 18 months remaining in the compact, I visited Nampula to get a firsthand view of what is being accomplished.
I was encouraged by the road and water system construction underway and came away with increased confidence that Mozambique will complete its work on time. In one rural community down a narrow 13 kilometer dirt track, I inaugurated a new borehole and water pump that serves 700 community members and will eliminate the need for women and children to spend up to two hours a day fetching water.
In the town of Nampula, I witnessed the distribution of property titles that give people secure property rights for the first time. The ceremony took place in an open neighborhood square where local officials called out names; the property owners came forward from the large crowd, signed a ledger and took their titles. At the end of the ceremony a number of people started to angrily call out, demanding their titles. The officials explained that the titles would be distributed each day that week. I found this spontaneous demonstration of the demand to have a title a reassuring indication of the value of MCC’s investment.
While my focus was on the MCC-financed projects, what really caught my attention was the extraordinary economic opportunity in Mozambique. Already, Mozambique exports electricity from the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, and it still has unexploited capacity. A Portuguese contractor working on the MCC road project drove up in a Ford Ranger and had American-manufactured scientific equipment in its materials lab. Recently an American company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, announced it had discovered one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas off the northern coast; the center of the country holds huge deposits of coal, and as more exploration takes place it is very likely that other minerals will be found in commercial quantities. Anadarko has plans to invest approximately $20 billion over the next five years! A Brazilian mining company is already shipping coal and has announced a $6 billion expansion.
I see all sorts of opportunities, from village hardware stores, hair salons and groceries to the suppliers and services that new investments in mining will require. Seen in this light, American investments in basic infrastructure are prescient. And a U.S. company is the supervising engineer on the drainage activity in Nampula city—where one of the main customers and beneficiaries of the new water system is Coca-Cola.
But far more important than market opportunities created by individual MCC-financed projects are the market opportunities that will open up for U.S. goods and services if Mozambique’s economy takes off. Road-building and mining equipment, chemicals and a spectrum of products and services will be needed to build this economy. Now is the time for U.S. companies to invest in establishing a presence in the country so that they can be competitive.
The government is implementing business-friendly reforms—such as the MCC financed land reform program—and there is a still-untapped entrepreneurial spirit among the youth. Mozambique’s economy has already been growing at nearly 8 percent per year over the past several years and is on the verge of an economic era that could transform its villages and create prosperity and opportunities not only for one of the world’s poorest populations but for the companies and individuals intrepid enough to join an economy just taking off.
I left Mozambique with the impression that almost everything is in place for it to become the next big growth economy in Africa.
In Zambia, MCCâ€™s newest compact brings clean water and improved sanitation and drainage services to more than one million residents
Posted on March 26, 2012 by Raja Kaul, MCC Resident Country Director, Zambia
Last Thursday, the MCC Board of Directors approved a $355 million compact with Zambia that focuses on the water sector in Lusaka. MCC investments are expected to have a significant impact on the lives of more than one million Lusaka residents by improving their health and economic productivity and helping the country reduce poverty on a sustainable basis. Fittingly, the Board’s decision fell on the annual UN-designated World Water Day.
This single-sector compact aims to address one of the Zambia’s most binding constraints to economic growth through infrastructure investment in the rapidly urbanizing capital city of Lusaka. It is designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of water-related disease, decrease the number of productive days lost due to disease and time to collect water, lower costs of water and new sanitation, and reduce flood losses for businesses and residential homes.
In addition to investments in water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure, MCC’s integrated investment will also support the government’s ongoing water sector reform efforts by strengthening responsible institutions. The investment is expected to significantly benefit Lusaka’s poor, as 73 percent of the more than one million Zambian beneficiaries currently have incomes below $2 per day.
The Zambia compact will promote key MCC corporate priorities, including gender and social integration, environmental and social impact assessments, and private sector development. In the Zambia compact, social and gender integration is prioritized, and activities are designed to extend project benefits to women and vulnerable groups.
Since its inception in 1993, World Water Day has served to spotlight the global challenge to provide safe water and sanitation services to those living in poverty. So far, MCC has invested $793 million in WASH-related projects in nine partner countries, and MCC’s compacts with Cape Verde, Jordan, and Mozambique, like Zambia, focus primarily on water sector development. Our growing WASH portfolio reflects our partner countries’ recognition of the important role of access to clean, affordable, and reliable water in promoting economic growth.
For more information on MCC’s water and sanitation projects, visit www.mcc.gov/water.
Posted on March 8, 2012 by Andria Hayes-Birchler, Development Policy Officer
In the fall of 2011, MCC updated its selection system in part to incorporate new (and exciting!) data developed since MCC was established. Several new indicators were added to take advantage of data innovation in fields such as Internet freedom, credit markets and gender equity. One of these is called “gender in the economy,” which uses data from IFC’s “Women, Business and the Law” report to assess whether women and men have equal legal rights to participate in 10 economic activities, such as signing a contract, registering a business and choosing where to live.
By encouraging countries to adopt laws that allow both men and women to participate fully in the economy, this indicator helps ensure that everyone can benefit from MCC projects and economic growth. The gender in the economy indicator serves as an excellent proxy for issues covered by MCC’s own Gender Policy and has been received with great support from many MCC stakeholders.
At the time it was adopted, IFC expressed its intention to expand the dataset over the coming years to cover all low-income and lower-middle income countries; at the time, it covered only about two-thirds of low and lower-middle income countries. Sierra Leone became the first country to benefit from this expansion. After seeing an “n/a” on this indicator, the Government of Sierra Leone worked with MCC and the IFC to request inclusion in the dataset. The IFC was responsive, and within months had analyzed Sierra Leone’s legal framework.
Sierra Leone’s efforts resulted in a dataset that shows no inequalities in the law on the 10 activities measured by this indicator—and as a result, Sierra Leone passes the gender in the economy indicator.
The Government of Sierra Leone’s efforts didn’t stop there.
Sierra Leone passed seven indicators on its most recent scorecard, and the government has vowed to perform better in the future. They established a desk in Freetown dedicated to coordinating communication between government officials and MCC, as well as maintaining contact with the third-party institutions from which we draw our indicator data. The desk is also tracking progress on indicators like control of corruption, which Sierra Leone passed for the first time this year after a dramatic two-year improvement. Sierra Leone’s efforts in fighting corruption have been recognized in many venues—including the MCC scorecard.
Posted on February 29, 2012 by Jason Bauer, Director, Private Sector Development
Two weeks ago, Ghana successfully completed its five-year MCC compact, a $547 million program designed to improve the agriculture and transportation sectors. Over one million Ghanaians will benefit from the compact. In early 2011, the MCC Board of Directors selected Ghana as eligible to develop a new compact. As part of this compact development process, the Government of Ghana has initiated broad-based consultations with representatives from civil society and the private sector.
On January 24, 2012, MCC partnered with the Initiative for Global Development and the Corporate Council on Africa to host a forum for business firms – some already active in West Africa, some newcomers to opportunities in the region. The forum’s program was designed to help MCC and the Government of Ghana identify opportunities, obstacles, and solutions to private sector participation in Ghana’s power sector. More than 60 participants representing more than 20 companies across the power value chain participated in the day-long session.
Government of Ghana officials, including from the Ministry of Energy, spoke in an open forum about the types of private sector participation Ghana is most interested in attracting. A number of potential investors shared their views, both in group settings and individual meetings, about Ghana’s constraints to foreign investment. Participants also recommended concrete actions the Government of Ghana could take within the proposed new compact to alleviate those constraints.
This event is just one example of MCC’s efforts to enhance engagement with the private sector during program development. Feedback from attendees was encouraging; one noted that it was the first time his company, a U.S.-based energy firm, had engaged with a donor and partner government during the process of defining a proposed grant program.
Once the Government of Ghana completes the concept paper for its proposed second-generation compact, the MCC Board of Directors will review project proposals and vote on compact approval. We look forward to further engaging the private sector to incorporate its innovation, capacity building, capital and expertise to the MCC compact development process.
Posted on February 15, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I just witnessed an incredible celebration here in Ghana: thousands of people rejoicing at the opening of the long-awaited N1 highway—renamed the George Walker Bush Motorway—which links the capital, Accra, with major ports, the international airport and the country’s major agricultural regions. This has been a Ghanaian dream since 1965, and it’s finally coming true.
As I drove down the road, thousands of people that live along the road greeted us. School children celebrated. People stood on banisters to catch a better glimpse of the celebration, and crowds waved from their nearby apartments.
There was dancing and chanting. The American and Ghanaian flags swayed together. A nearby large banner read, “Thank you, America.” The celebration resonated deeply with me.
MCC helped improve a 14-kilometer stretch of the highway as part of its five-year, $547 million compact. It runs through the heart of the capital city and for decades has been clogged with people and traffic. The need to widen the highway has been in the planning 40 years, but it only became a reality thanks to the Ghana and MCC partnership. It’s not hard to see why people were so excited.
The highway project was Ghana’s largest public works project in decades, and workers labored until the final minutes of compact closeout to ensure project completion. As President John Atta Mills told the crowd, “This is not President Kufuor's compact. This is not my compact. It’s Ghana's compact.”
During closeout speeches, the chief executive officer of Ghana’s MiDA, the entity in charge of implementing Ghana’s MCC compact, said it best: “MCC is the spearhead for development.” In Ghana, we certainly are spearheading a true partnership based on goodwill, trust and collaboration.
The opening of the N1 highway is a major event in Ghana’s development and a highly visible reminder of MCC’s partnership. It’s a milestone that transcends political parties, both in the U.S. and Ghana. And most importantly, it’s a reason all Ghanaians have to celebrate.
Posted on December 2, 2011 by Franck Wiebe, Chief Economist, MCC
This blog entry was first posted on Devex.com.
Six years after the signing of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, the question of how to enhance aid impact remains highly relevant as most of the largest donors reconvene in Busan.
The Millennium Challenge Corp. is a relative newcomer to the foreign assistance community. Described in principle at Monterrey in 2002 and established by U.S. legislation in 2004, MCC was designed to embody many of the Paris Declaration principles. MCC’s experience of putting these principles into practice suggests three ideas that deserve continued attention: better focus of aid dollars within countries, better assessment of the rationale for aid programs, and stronger commitment to evaluating the impact of aid programs.
Better focus of aid programs within countries
Donors have improved coordination amongst themselves in many countries, reducing overlap and competition, but the pattern of assistance remains scattered and diffused. In most countries, the array of donor activities may be consistent with broad national development plans, but the aggregation of efforts by development agencies only rarely reflects anything close to a strategy.
This approach misses the opportunity to focus on the most important development challenges that need to be tackled first while unintentionally imposing a greater burden on partner country governance structures. The right strategy for any country cannot be to invest in public sector capacity building in every office; rather, a better strategy is for country governments to work with development agencies on a more limited set of well-defined priorities.
Identifying the appropriate priorities remains a challenge, given that country development plans are broad and far-reaching. MCC has found the data-driven “growth diagnostics” framework to be extremely helpful for sifting through the national development plans to laser in on the most critical challenges facing a country. MCC collaborates with country counterparts to ensure that the results are understood and accepted by both parties, and has found that some countries embrace these analyses, using them to prioritize their own strategies well beyond the scope of the MCC compact and to frame their engagement with other donors.
By now, all agree that country partners need to own and drive this prioritization process. Indeed, aid dollars can be successful only when supporting the reform of domestic institutions and policies undertaken by choice by country partners. Consequently, aid programs need to be connected to explicit, public commitments made and owned by our partner governments.
These pieces come together to build a strategy for more effective and more focused aid: Partner countries identify a small set of development priorities (addressing the binding constraint to economic growth usually needs to be one – in most contexts, serious poverty reduction requires growth); partner countries identify a series of commitments to policy and institutional changes to address the existing problem; and only then can aid programs be aligned in a meaningful way in support of these reforms.
Assess cost-effectiveness before funding
“Stretching aid dollars” requires a new level of discipline from development agencies and country partners. The practice of benefit-cost analysis fell out of favor – it takes time, data, and technical competence, and unfortunately is vulnerable to political interference (both local counterparts and aid agencies often have agendas of their own) – but needs to be reinstated as an essential tool for assessing trade-offs and opportunity costs. We need to start with the recognition that any good idea has a price at which it is no longer a good idea. Partners should not enter into programs before conducting an objective comparison of the value of benefits to the total cost of delivering them.
MCC has found that such analyses are possible for the vast majority of programs proposed to us by our partner countries. Not surprisingly, we find that some proposed investments cannot be justified given the estimated costs and projected benefits. Such information usually leads to further work on the program design, but sometimes leads to the search for alternative approaches to the same problem or to other priorities that can be tackled in a cost-effective manner. In this way, we have found at MCC that the technical discipline imposed by benefit-cost analysis improves the quality of the portfolio, where quality is explicitly described as delivering measurable results. The principal idea is inescapable: If we wish to enhance aid impact, we need to be willing to scrutinize every significant effort, asking the same fundamental question, is this proposed activity worth the money and effort being invested?
Some may object that such an approach stifles innovation – it need not. Where ideas have never been tried before, development partners can enter into small-scale pilots and rigorous experiments designed to generate information that can be used to assess the potential for scale-up. MCC has built such experimentation into several of its country programs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s new Development Innovation Ventures is another promising mechanism. But the current clamor for increased innovation should not serve as an excuse for not conducting proper due diligence, using logic and evidence, to assess whether the new idea has any prior basis for expecting cost-effective results.
Invest in more, and more rigorous, impact evaluations
Just as more analysis is needed before development activities are funded, more analysis is required after they are completed to determine what was accomplished and what was not. MCC has found that establishing high expectations and budgeting appropriately – often in the range of 2-4 percent of the total program budget – creates an environment within which independent evaluations of impact can be conducted as part of the core implementation plan. Collecting baseline data that covers expected beneficiaries and the appropriate control population is possible when it is required.
The cost and effort is substantial, but so is the value. Credible and rigorous impact evaluations – including but not limited to randomized control trials – serve three important functions:
First, they impose a discipline on the program development side. The benefit-cost analysis may describe the anticipated program impacts, but when evaluation is seen as part of the design process, program planners are given the opportunity to assess whether the planned intervention can plausibly be expected to deliver as promised, and if not, what modifications are needed to improve the chances for success.
Second, they are an essential element of a learning agenda that seeks to inform not only future donor programs, but also – and more importantly – future public expenditures and practices by our developing country partners. Moreover, the increasing availability of results from impact evaluations pushes donor agencies and country partners to establish mechanisms that reinforce the learning process.
Third, such evaluations are a necessary part of the transparent accountability process through which all relevant parties assess whether they used scarce resources appropriately. MCC has embraced this responsibility to its funders – the U.S. Congress and American taxpayers – and expects its country partners to commit to the same level of transparency locally. In this way, the evaluation of aid projects can help strengthen the processes through which government actors can inform their citizens about accomplishments and citizens can hold their government officials accountable for prudential use of public resources.
Already a backlash is occurring in some circles, with the term “randomista” sometimes used as a term of criticism. Some critics have written that this “fad” has gone too far. This negative characterization is both untrue and unfortunate. Although MCC funds rigorous independent impact evaluations for close to half of the projects in our portfolio, many other agencies still have few or none. Clearly, there is still room in the development community for greater investments in rigorous evaluations. MCC has found, too, that such “impact evaluation thinking” can inform our less rigorous performance evaluations; we hire credible independent evaluators and ask them to consider the counterfactual and recognize that not all change can be attributed to our programs.
The Paris Declaration created a useful starting framework that describes the processes related to program effectiveness that donors should adopt. But even as we adopt these processes, we need to ensure that we are delivering effective programs – the two are not necessarily synonymous. Busan provides us an opportunity to develop an improved results-focused agenda explicitly aimed at shifting resources from ineffective programs toward the problems that matter most using the most cost-effective delivery mechanisms. Such an agenda goes well beyond “managing for results” rhetoric and establishes a new standard of actually delivering results.
The tools described above are known and available to donors and their country counterparts, and their use could dramatically improve our performance. Developing countries should demand that donors increasingly apply these tools; we should demand no less of ourselves.
Posted on December 1, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC
The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness took place this week as government leaders from over 150 countries gathered to discuss progress made on donor promises to tackle global poverty. These discussions started with the Paris Declaration in 2004, then the Accra Agenda for Action in 2008 and continued in Busan. Delegates talked about “ownership,” “mutual accountability” and “outcomes.” Ownership is about countries determining and driving their own development priorities. Mutual accountability means we work in partnership—as donor and recipient countries—to achieve development solutions and share responsibility for successes and failures. And as partners, we are committed to delivering tangible outcomes and meaningful impacts–the ultimate result of any assistance.
MCC's Sheila Herrling, Daniel W. Yohannes, and David Weld participate in discussions at this week's 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.
Achieving results was a major theme that weaved through discussions at Busan. Results-focused aid is a shared objective. Yet, an interesting set of questions around “how” and “for whom” remains. Who defines results? How are they obtained? Do process results no longer matter? Are we measuring results for donors, for recipients or for both? MCC brings much to the table in terms of putting a results-focused assistance program into practice. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in her speech at the forum’s opening ceremony, MCC is a pioneer in measuring results. Some thoughts based on our experience at MCC:
First, how we pursue a results-focused approach matters. Country ownership is bigger and deeper than consultations around a national development strategy. As MCC Vice President Sheila Herrling mentioned during Tuesday’s Results Thematic Session, a big part of that ownership is how countries include civil society in results setting and results monitoring, and how countries and donors find ways to share that information transparently and accessibly with the public. During my remarks at the Results Plenary, I stressed that inclusive, country-driven development must embrace the voices of women because we know gender equality is key to development effectiveness. Efforts to more purposefully examine how a results agenda can strengthen country systems and institutions will ultimately lead to better and more sustainable outcomes.
Second, focusing on outcomes and impact is absolutely the right approach. That said, we should not lose sight of monitoring and evaluating policy reforms and intermediate targets, which help us establish the path to outcomes and impact. At MCC, we embrace an innovative “continuum of results” — tracking, measuring and publicly communicating results along the entire lifecycle of each country-determined program we fund, from inputs, to outputs, to policy reforms, and ultimately to measurable outcomes for beneficiaries. We count interim milestones met along the way because each one brings us a step closer to reaching the program goal. MCC’s continuum of results also includes post-program impact evaluations to help us improve accountability, determine if observed outcomes are attributable to MCC’s investments and to learn whether programs were designed correctly. Because MCC’s continuum of results is built on transparency and critical learning, it becomes a tool for assessing what works and does not work in development and what can be improved for the future.
Third, the question of “results for whom” got a lot of play in Busan. To be accountable to their own citizens, partner countries must answer this often difficult question and demonstrate how development resources are used and what results they achieve. As we discuss our drive for positive results, we must never lose sight of what an actual result means for ordinary men and women around the world. Ayesha Otibo, the chairwoman of a farmer-based organization comprised of 50 female rice processors in Ghana, received training on ways to develop her business and increase crop production. Ghanaian pineapple farmers, like Tony Botchway, used MCC support to seek new markets. Andre Soui-Guidi, a business owner in Benin, is now able to access credit in order to expand his operations and create more jobs for his fellow citizens. At the same time, we cannot and should not ignore the fact that results matter also for the taxpayers of donor countries who, even during these challenging economic times, want to continue funding for development. Our ability to demonstrate that their investments are paying off—that developing countries are improving governance and democratic rights, assistance is reaching the poor, and investments are yielding positive returns--is critical to sustaining strong development cooperation.
Lastly, international events like Busan tend to focus on what hasn’t been achieved. That’s fine in terms of accountability and the need to keep progressing toward commitments. But, let’s remember the real advancements made, including by the United States. Major U.S. development efforts—from the multilateral development banks, to Feed the Future, to Partnership for Growth, to MCC—all emphasize inclusive, country-led, outcomes-focused approaches. For MCC’s part, we look forward to continuing our work to break new ground in advancing and innovating on development effectiveness, and putting principles in this area into practice.
Posted on December 1, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC, and Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
This post first appeared on DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State, on November 30, 2011.
Under an initiative called Partnership for Growth, the United States, El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines and Tanzania are pioneering a new approach to long-term, sustainable development.
PFG is designed to transform the character and conduct of our bilateral relationships with a select group of high-performing lower-income countries poised to be this generation's emerging markets. The initiative aims to improve coordination, leverage private investment, and focus political commitment to accelerate and sustain broad-based economic growth. With mechanisms in place to hold us accountable for more effective, efficient development results, PFG puts President Obama's Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development into action.
Today marked the first time we have convened a meeting with the United States and all four PFG partners. The setting is especially significant: we are all gathered in Busan, South Korea for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Throughout our meetings, we have focused extensively on ways to deliver meaningful results, ensure mutual accountability and empower country ownership.
State Department Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills led the meeting with El Salvador Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Fiifi Kwetey, Philippine Minister of Finance Cesar Purisima, and Tanzanian Minister of Finance Mustafa Haidi Mkulo. After addressing the High Level Forum, Secretary Clinton was also able to join us.
We partnered with these countries based on their demonstrated commitment to democratic principles and good governance, their sound policy performance, their potential for continued economic growth, and their track record of cooperation with the United States.
The PFG is an attempt to approach development differently than we have done in the past. PFG is not about more aid; rather it is about fostering a mature economic partnership to unlock a country's growth potential. Together, we analyze the binding constraints to growth, prioritize a set of clear, measurable actions, and work to overcome those barriers through five-year action plans. Along the way, we review our progress through a formal evaluation process or in more informal meetings, as we did today.
Our PFG partners are all at different stages of this process and have unique insights to share. We had frank discussions about the challenges each country faces, and how the U.S. government can improve coordination to assist these countries in strengthening long-term economic growth. We applaud El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines, and Tanzania for their commitment to taking the difficult steps required through the PFG, and look forward to continuing our close collaboration in the months ahead.
The session represented exactly why we have come to Busan this week: to take a hard look at our efforts, identify areas for strengthened coordination, and -- ultimately -- improve our ability to deliver effective development assistance.
Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Daniel W. Yohannes is the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Posted on November 22, 2011 by Robert Reid, Mongolia Resident Country Director
Earlier this month, seven technical and vocational schools in Mongolia received donations of more than $1.7 million in heavy equipment from the Department of Defense. In return, the students will be trained on usage, maintenance and repair to better prepare them to find jobs. This was the first time Mongolia has received equipment through the program.
MCC’s five-year compact with Mongolia includes $47 million to improve the country’s vocational education system. To leverage these investments, MCA-Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the U.S. Department of Defense Excess Property Program, which allows for the donation of non-lethal, excess property to countries that contribute to the U.S. Government’s efforts to promote democratic development and regional stability.
The schools, which often cannot afford to purchase expensive machinery, received 18 pieces of donated machinery frequently used in the mining, road, construction, and agriculture industries.
Donated items include cranes, graders, tractors and scoop loaders. Hands-on training will better prepare students to find jobs after school.
MCC is helping improve Mongolia’s technical and vocational education system through policy reforms, professional development for instructors, the establishment of a labor market information system, and the provision of essential equipment. An estimated 170,000 people are expected to benefit from the project over the next 20 years.
Posted on November 21, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
With great hope that we can transform the lives of Indonesia’s poor for the better, I joined Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Indonesia’s Finance Minister Martowardojo, along with other distinguished government ministers, ambassadors and guests, for the signing of Indonesia’s $600 million MCC compact in Bali this past Saturday. As Secretary Clinton said, each of the elements of the compact represents a step forward in the relationship between the United States and Indonesia. I am proud that MCC is partnering with the Indonesians to achieve their goals for long-term poverty reduction and economic growth.
MCC’s investments in low-carbon economic development, better natural resources management, nutrition to prevent childhood stunting, and procurement modernization create new opportunities to improve the quality of life for Indonesians. Our partnership will work to raise productivity, increase household incomes, reduce household energy costs, and improve the delivery of growth-enhancing goods and services by the public sector. I am struck by how open the Indonesians have been to MCC’s distinct model for development—one that is country-driven, reform-centered and results-focused to maximize effectiveness and sustainability. This innovative compact embodies Indonesia's priorities and its strong commitment to our partnership.
As I shared with the Indonesians, much hard work awaits us. Our partnership must now turn the inspiration of a momentous signing into the implementation of an action plan that will deliver lasting impact. Through an unfaltering commitment to tangible results, accountability and transparency, we can achieve the full promise of the compact. Let’s get to work.
Posted on November 9, 2011 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
The Millennium Challenge Corporation just posted its hallmark policy scorecards for the world’s low- and low-middle-income countries – and for the first time, MCC is publishing two scorecards for each country.
After more than a year of research and consultation, the MCC Board recently approved the transition to a new, updated scorecard. MCC is publishing both scorecards this year to make the change as transparent as possible.
The heart of the new scorecard remains the same: independent data, a control of corruption hurdle and policy measures to evaluate a country’s commitment to ruling justly, investing in people and economic freedom. The changes we made are consistent with MCC’s work and approach: We have added a democratic rights hurdle and indicators that measure gender in the economy and access to credit.
What may not be obvious—but what I am most proud of—is how the new scorecard shines a spotlight on MCC’s ability to innovate and stay current. For years, the foreign assistance community has recognized our scorecards as a leading mechanism to help drive evidence-based decision-making. The incorporation of emerging policy areas and new data—like the data on Internet filtering in the freedom of information indicator—show that MCC is nimble enough to adapt to a rapidly changing global world.
We often say challenge is our middle name at MCC. This is one of many challenges the agency takes on that I have been thrilled to be a part of.
Posted on October 28, 2011 by Thomas Schehl, MCC Senior Sustainability Officer
MCC promotes environmental sustainability as a core principle of economic growth in its partner countries. At our headquarters in Washington, DC, we've embraced environmental sustainability in our policies and operations as a key component of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
MCC is a relatively small government agency. We have fewer than 300 federal employees in Washington, DC, and our commitment to country ownership translates to a minimal presence in partner countries abroad. Nonetheless, we're committed to creating a sustainability-conscious operating environment for all of our employees and continuously improving policies and practices to enhance our environmental performance.
In October 2009, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to develop, implement and annually update a formal Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Every agency's plan prioritizes actions based on a positive return on investment for the American taxpayer and meets energy, water, and waste reduction targets.
MCC developed its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan in 2010 in response to President Obama's executive order. This year, in our Fiscal Year 2011 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan [PDF], we assess what we've achieved as an agency and determine how we can build on those achievements for increased sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
This week, the Office of Management and Budget formally approved the FY 2011 Performance Plan.
This year’s plan highlights MCC’s new flexible work policy, expected to contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions; environmentally conscious procurement activities; electricity conservation efforts; a space consolidation analysis; new policies favoring bicycle commuters; money-saving paper reduction procedures; and an internal communications plan that builds on previous years’ substantial “greening” initiatives.
We're proud of our sustainability record, and will continue to assess and improve our policies in the coming year.
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