A couple of times in the past I’ve gotten flack for giving credit to former US President George W. Bush here my blog, though it’s not because of any particular political persuasion I hold. On the continent of Africa, no other leader’s legacy endures more so than that of President Bush–trust me, I live here. From the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Program (PEPFAR) to his efforts to combat cervical cancer on the continent, Mr. Bush’s initiatives have saved millions, yes, millions of lives here. So, just as I always ask for a photo by-line from my clients, I won’t refuse to give credit where credit is due when talking about another Bush-founded agency dedicated to aid in the developing world, the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
My most recent work with the Millennium Challenge Corporation has so far taken me to the African countries of Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Mozambique. Many will agree that the fastest way to development is to support and foster the free market. MCC‘s core strategy is to reduce poverty through economic growth, building foundations on which developing economies can thrive on their own. Above, a new power substation is constructed by MCC in Zanzibar.
The agency’s programs work in a number of ways to promote economic development, including agriculture and irrigation projects, road and port construction and rehabilitation, water supply, land rights, finance and enterprise, and anti-corruption initiatives. I can’t possibly cover all the topics I’ve photographed in the past two months in one blog entry. Today’s entry showcases only MCC‘s education and electricity programs. Above, workers bring electricity to a rural area in central Tanzania for the first time.
It’s certainly difficult for MCC to tout the number of lives it has saved through its electricity and education programs. The benefits from these areas of investment tend to materialize indirectly. Above, students in Kigoma, Tanzania learn in a solar-powered classroom. Below, a health care worker attends to a child ill with malaria in a solar-powered health center.
Not only does MCC support schools by providing access to electricity, the agency also builds schools outright. In many rural areas, children must walk miles on end to reach their closest educational institution. Through the BRIGHT schools program, MCC is building them brighter and with improved components like separate toilets for girls and boys, hand-washing stations, blackboards and play equipment. In doing so, MCC is helping to boost the number of children enrolled in and completing primary school. Below, students learn in a school constructed under the BRIGHT program in Kouka, Burkina Faso.
Below, a busy village market outside Kigoma, Tanzania is open late into the night thanks to the solar panels resting on its roof. Supporting businesses large and small is a key part of the Millennium Challenge Corporation‘s economic growth formula.
MCC has a unique and efficient way of awarding its grants, known as compacts, to developing countries. I’ll discuss this in later entries. Not every underdeveloped country qualifies, though that’s not necessarily because of funding shortages.
Though the initiator of these programs, Pres. Bush can’t take all the credit for their success. MCC‘s programs have been continued under the Obama administration, though each year Congress has allocated less funding than requested. Most importantly, a pat on the proverbial back of the American tax-payer is in order as well. After all, we funded these programs, and it takes great sacrifice to do so in a time of economic uncertainty. From someone who has seen these programs first hand, I can say that it’s money well spent.