This is big-picture stuff. No, I’m not talking about the number of megapixels on my Canon 5D Mark III, I’m talking about the work of US development organization, MCC. The Millennium Challenge Corporation works to impact developing nations and their economies on a macro scale. Part of this work means renovating the infrastructure on which a nation operates. While certainly not the most emotionally gripping topic, infrastructure is key to any country’s economic development. Build a solid enough foundation, and a nation will have the tools it needs to provide for its own citizens.
Above, a main artery stretches through the city of Nampula, in Mozambique, where MCC is rehabilitating roads and renovating the city’s municipal water system. The country’s grueling civil war ended in 1992, but much of its infrastructure has yet to recover, even now. Below, workers construct the Nacala Dam in northern Mozambique, which will supply water to the citizens of Nacala, a boom town in northern Mozambique.
Rural areas are not beyond the organization’s reach, however. MCC is also installing pump-wells, known as boreholes, where municipal pipelines don’t stretch, providing a potable water source to some communities for the first time. Below, children draw clean water from a pump-well in Mecupes, Mozambique.
In an earlier post I talked about the different kinds of compacts that MCC awards to developing countries. But why award $500 million to a country where the money may likely be lost through corruption or squandered on a new presidential jet?
Eligibility for aid grants, or compacts, is based on a scorecard of 17 different indicators, not on politics. Among the indicators are a country’s control of corruption, immunization rate, public expenditures on health, primary education, trade and fiscal policies, and civil liberties and political rights of its citizens. MCC is currently working in 38 countries world-wide, 19 of which are in Africa. Sadly, my beloved Uganda is far from qualifying for such a compact.
Arguments exists today among wonks and policy-makers that bilateral aid itself is a major hamper to a nation’s development and growth, and sometimes that’s true. Economist Dambisa Moyo advocates for the immediate “turning off of the aid taps” in her sensationalistic treatise, Dead Aid. She, however, fails to mention in her rationalization the work of aid programs—such as MCC and others–that award grants to nations based, not entirely on need, but just as much on good governance and economic freedom.
Above, a child drinks clean water from a borehole in Burkina Faso. Nations must maintain their scorecard during the years of MCC’s compact implementation as well, creating patterns that will conceivably be followed into a time when aid for that country will no longer be a necessity.
For those nations already walking the walk in tackling poverty, MCC’s infrastructure programs act as a partnership, not a handout. For those who still have strides to make in governance and economic policy, MCC’s compacts offer tremendous incentive for reform.