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Summary

  • Press conference on climate change issues and development projects with Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Acting CEO Mahmoud Bah and Deputy CEO Alexia Latortue. Bah and Latortue discussed new and recently completed projects in Africa and how they fit into the Biden-Harris Administration’s climate goals that were announced at last week’s Climate Leaders Summit.

Download or listen to the audio file here

Moderator:  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants from across the continent and thank all of you for taking part in this discussion.  Today, we are very pleased to be joined by Mahmoud Bah, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Alexia Latortue, Deputy Chief Executive Officer at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.  Our speakers will be discussing climate change issues and development projects.  This will include how climate change, poverty, and economic growth are linked and how MCC stimulates economic growth by using public funds to attract private capital and grow economies to create jobs.  They are speaking to us from Washington, D.C.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Acting CEO Bah and Deputy CEO Latortue; then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the time that we have allotted.

At any time during the briefing if you would like to ask a question live, please indicate that by clicking on the “raise hand” button and then typing your name, media outlet, and location into the “questions and answers” tab.  Alternatively, you can type your full question directly into the Q&A for me to read to our speakers.  Again, please include your name, media outlet, and location when you do so.  If you would like to join the conversation on Twitter, please use hashtag #AFHubPress and follow us on twitter @AfricaMediaHub and @MCCgov.

As a reminder, today’s call is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to Acting CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Mr. Mahmoud Bah.  Mr. Mahmoud Bah, over to you for your opening remarks.

Mr. Bah:  Thank you so much, Marissa.  Thank you to the entire Africa Media Hub, the State Department, for organizing this call.  And thank you to everyone for your interest in MCC and joining this call as well.

Like Marissa said, my name is Mahmoud Bah, Acting CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and I’m joined by Alexia Latortue, who will also provide brief remarks.

MCC is a development assistance agency working with a select number of countries in low- and low-middle-income countries to reduce poverty through economic growth.  To optimize our impact, we target the most serious constraints that prevent countries from growing their economies and providing opportunities to their people.  

MCC’s core investments, known as compacts, are country-led investments designed in close collaboration with our country partners.  These grants are large, multi-year, and predictable.  These are not loans and they do not add to the country’s debt burden.  Our compacts tend to pair large investments in infrastructure in sectors like water, energy, agriculture, with institutional and policy reforms that ensure those investments have a significant and sustainable impact.

MCC has successfully delivered 38 compacts in 29 countries, with two-thirds of those in Africa.  Our programs delivered hundreds of projects that are improving the lives of an estimated 188 million people.  Today we have nine compacts in implementation, eight compacts under development – these are the compacts that have not yet been approved by our board – as well as two regional compacts.  The regional compacts each involve two countries.

As you know, COVID-19 continues to adversely impact economies around the world, eroding decades of development gains in poverty reduction, health systems, and food security.  For the first time in 20 years, global poverty significantly increased due to the health crisis and pushed some 100 million people into extreme poverty.  MCC and our partner countries, many in Africa, are not spared by this pandemic.  

MCC takes a long-term view.  We are committed to working together with our partners in Africa and around the world to drive a sustainable and inclusive recovery that creates jobs and promotes economic revitalization.  Our hope is that the global development community will seize this opportunity to increase partnership and collaboration with African countries in order to drive aid effectiveness, improve accountability and governance and, importantly, catalyze private sector-led inclusive growth.  Today, the international development efforts of the United States have never been more aligned and vital to our partner countries and their citizens.  

With that, I want to thank you and let me turn it over to Alexia for her remarks.

Ms. Latortue:  Thank you so much, Mahmoud.  Thank you also, Marissa, for having us, and I’d like to join Mahmoud in welcoming everybody who has joined us today.

So following Mahmoud’s overview of MCC and our portfolio of compacts, I now would like to share with you the three strategic priorities of our agency.  And I suspect that you will recognize that they are fully aligned with the priorities of the Biden-Harris administration.

MCC’s three strategic priorities are inclusion and gender, catalyzing the private sector, and thirdly, climate.  I will cover the first two briefly and then expand a bit on climate.

And if there’s one takeaway I have for you, it’s that the three priorities are all about helping to achieve high-quality growth, and by that I mean growth that is inclusive, that is job-rich, and that is sustainable.  

So first, on inclusion and gender, MCC seeks to spark growth that benefits all segments of society.  To do this, we will review our economic models and diagnostic tools.  The goal is to improve the distributional impacts of projects and to ensure that pro-poor approaches are integrated in all MCC programs.  We will continue to boost the economic empowerment of women, building on our track strong record.  And given demographics of the countries that we work in, including in Africa, we will also explore looking at youth more purposely.

Second, it’s clear that all countries are looking to the private sector to help with the recovery from the economic impacts of COVID.  MCC, using our grants, can play a catalytic role in helping to mobilize private financing.  We do this in two ways.  First, we work with countries on policy and institutional reforms to help create the right business climate to attract private investors.  Secondly, we’re also linking up with other development partners, including the U.S. Development Finance Corporation, to facilitate investments that otherwise would not be possible.

Third, on climate change – and here I will say a bit more – we all know that climate change is the defining issue of our times and that the countries most impacted by it are also the least able to afford its consequences and to mitigate its devastating impact, not to mention that they are the least responsible for it.  So MCC recognizes that climate change is absolutely linked to poverty and economic growth.  Indeed, MCC was an early leader in fighting climate change in developing countries, investing in the past five years alone over $1.5 billion, which is about 38 percent of our program of funds in climate-related activities.  Our climate work covers adaptation, climate resilience, and mitigation.  

On Earth Day, April 22nd, the Biden-Harris administration held the Leaders Summit on Climate.  The gathering convened 40 world leaders, including five African leaders, in a virtual summit to rally the world in tackling climate change – because climate is an issue that requires collective action.  Alongside the event, MCC made new, ambitious commitments.  We’re committing that more than 50 percent of our program funds will be in climate-related investments over the next five years.  MCC is helping countries transition away from fossil fuels with investments in renewable energy, including solar and hydro, and maintaining a no-coal policy across our portfolio of investments.  

MCC is also building climate resilience across critical sectors like agriculture, water, and roads, and we’re working hand in hand with governments in our partner countries to deliver policy and institutional reforms and to help countries define, strengthen, and implement their nationally determined contributions.  We’re finalizing an agency-wide climate strategy that sets out a roadmap for implementing and achieving all of these goals I mentioned.

The challenges we face in the development community are daunting, and no one actor can do it alone.  There’s a renewed opportunity in the coming years to enhance the partnerships to work with African leaders, the African private sector, African civil society, and MCC will seek to further enhance the use of our scarce grant dollars to connect with other parts of the development system both within the United States, like with DFC and USAID, as well as with other development partners.

Thank you and with that, I turn it back to Marissa.

Moderator:  Thank you, Mr. Bah.  Thank you, Ms. Latortue.  We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s call.  For those asking questions, please indicate if you would like to ask a question and then type your name, location, and affiliation in the “questions and answers” tab.  We ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing: the Millennium Challenge Corporation, climate change issues, and development projects in Africa. 

 Our first question will go to Simon.  Operator, please open the line.  Simon, please state your name and the media outlet that you’re from.

Question:  Yes, thank you for taking my question.  This is Simon Ateba with Today News Africa in Washington, D.C.  As you noted, President Biden recently convened a summit here in Washington, D.C. on climate and emphasized the opportunities and jobs associated with the green economy.  Most of the five African leaders who were invited to attend the summit kept emphasizing the same thing: that the biggest polluters – U.S. China, Russia, the EU – should help developing countries navigate the challenges of climate change and seize the opportunities.  I was wondering if you can talk a bit about the type of assistance being provided now by the biggest polluters here in the U.S. and China that you have seen from your end, and what else is needed?  Thank you.

Moderator:  Either one of you, feel free to respond.  Mr. Bah?

Mr. Bah:  Oh, I will let Alexia answer this climate-related question.

Ms. Latortue:  Thank you, Simon, for your question.  It’s a really important question.  I think it was great to see at the climate summit how universal the focus was on the fact that, collectively, we all need to tackle this existential question of climate change.  And indeed, the United States, as you can see by President Biden’s leadership, is really committed to doing its part.  And MCC, as one of the development institutions in the United States, is very focused on this issue.

As I mentioned, over 50 percent of our programming over the next five years will be in this area, working hand in hand with countries across the world, including in Africa.  Let me give you just a few examples of how we intend to do our part.

Firstly, for many countries, particularly in Africa, the real challenge is around adaptation and, particularly, if you look at the water sector, if you look at land use, and if you look at agriculture.  So the MCC provides grants to our eligible countries to help in these three sectors.  For example, in Tunisia, which is one of, as you know, the most water-scarce countries in one of the most water-scarce regions in the world, we are working – we have a water demand management and productivity project to help the country respond to water scarcity in the face of climate change and to improve the resilience particularly of farmers in this area.  And this includes taking a holistic approach, so we look at the supply of water, we look at demand of water – for water, and we look at the policy environment.  

And so just to give you some examples of this, we work, for example, in helping to increase water savings in Tunisia by improving the institutional policy reforms to improve groundwater management and the rehabilitation of public irrigation systems.  But we also work directly on the demand side with agriculture cooperatives to introduce more productive and water-efficient farming practices and technologies.  Also in the area of agriculture, there is work that we do in Niger, for example, to support irrigated agriculture through the rehabilitation of an existing large irrigated perimeter utilizing surface water catchment dams and groundwater resources.  We’re also working with the government to create a new water resource plan using remote sensing technology.  So I think the power of technology also, green technologies, is really critical in this space.

Obviously, there is work that we do on mitigation as well, although, as you said, African countries are not the largest polluters.  We know.  But still, the potential of renewables is incredibly powerful in Africa and the MCC has invested in solar energy as well as in hydro energy.  So, for example, in Burkina Faso, we helped to bring in the first independent power producers around solar energy.  

So these are just a few examples of the kinds of things that we do at MCC to work with countries to face the climate change challenge.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Next we’re going to go to a question that was sent in to us from Mr. Ange de la Victoire of Top Africa News in Rwanda.  His question is – oh, Mr. Bah, did you want to add something to that?

Mr. Bah:  Oh, no.  

Moderator:  Oh, okay.  “How much effort is the U.S. investing in East African regions in terms of climate change mitigation, and what are the key activities and in which countries?  What are the future plans for East Africa?”

Either one of you, feel free.

Ms. Latortue:  Okay, so thank you very much, Ange, for your question.  It’s very specific around East Africa, and so I do have to say, as those of you who are familiar with MCC know, that we have a very selective process in terms of the countries that we work in.  Our process is codified in a scorecard that looks at countries and their commitments to just and democratic governance, their commitment to economic freedoms, and their commitment to investing in people.  We also, as Mahmoud said, work in low- and low-middle-income countries only.  

And so in terms of East Africa, the first thing that would have to happen is that countries would need to be able to meet our selective criteria, which really is all about really making sure that we can be successful in the programming that we do.  So currently we do not have acting – active projects in East Africa, and unfortunately, although we do have some programs in development, including, for example, in Kenya.  And in a country that becomes eligible, what we would do is understand in that particular country what some of the constraints are, including around climate, to economic growth.  And then again, our toolkit, as I mentioned, covers the range of areas around climate change from adaptation to resilience to mitigation across the key sectors that we work in, including energy, agriculture, land use, water.

Moderator:  Thank you.  So off that question regarding the scorecard, we have a question related to corruption.  “How does the fight against corruption factor into the criteria that is set by MCC for grants?”  That question is from Mr. Mohamed Jaward of Epic Radio out of Sierra Leone.

Mr. Bah:  Thank you, Mohamed, and thank you, Marissa.  So I think, as Alexia mentioned, the MCC process is very selective and competitive.  So the scorecard has 20 indicators that we track, and one of them is control of corruption.  And we take that very seriously because it is a hard hurdle, meaning that you need to pass that specific indicator in order to be eligible for our programs.  

So when we select countries, that means in addition to the other indicators that they have passed the control of corruption, meaning that they are doing better than half of the countries in the pool they are in.  So that’s one.

Second, we continue, even after selection, to engage our partner countries in tracking their performance on their scorecard, whether they are in development or in implementation.  We want to ensure there is a pattern of action that is in-line with the principles that guide our investments.  

And then on the third element that I do want to add when it comes specifically to control of corruption, that in our implementation we do have very strict control around how we disburse, how we manage, and how we work with the accountable entity, which is the entity that is in charge of implementation in the country.  So we hold our partners to very high standards and we hold ourselves to the same level of standards.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Just a reminder to our participants to please push the – tap the “raise hand” button if you would like to ask a question or put your question in the Q&A box.

The next question goes to Mr. Charles Okine, also a question sent to us, out of Ghana.  His question is, “Is the MCC still interested in pursuing the privatization of the electric company of Ghana, and when?  Or has the MCC abandoned this plan?”

Mr. Bah:  Thank you, Marissa.  So first on Ghana, we are very proud of the work that we’re doing in Ghana in our compact there.  The compact aims to create a self-sustaining power sector that will meet the current and future needs of households and businesses.  

When it comes to the issue of privatization, I just want to make some clarifications.  We had a component in the compact that was about self-sustaining efficiency of the Electricity Company of Ghana, ECG.  That transaction didn’t pan out, but our approach was not to impose a privatization; it was to propose whatever method the Government of Ghana deemed to be the most appropriate to make ECG the most efficient and effective electricity or utility company.  We now have other components in the compact that we are pushing toward the end of this compact and finishing the implementation there, and that is based on strengthening the infrastructure and the management of the southern distribution network, the area in and around Accra.  We have also expanded access by implementing activities, whether it’s the electrification of markets, the electrification of streetlights.  

These access components are extremely important, especially when we come to women’s participation in the economy.  As you all know, in many markets in Africa, without electricity we limit the productivity especially for women who tend to also be the ones taking care of the family.  So we take that very seriously and we continue to work with the Government of Ghana to ensure that our investment will ultimately lead to an efficient electricity company, to a reliable electricity that will expand opportunities for the private sector.  That is a good signal for investors – the stability of the utility and the reforms that we are pushing in the efficiency of the regulator and so on.

So with that, I think that’s the – in a nutshell the summary of our program in Ghana.

Moderator:  Thank you.  You mentioned quite a few buzzwords.  These are very clear buzzwords for MCC.  “Investment” is one of them.  And so if you could just explain a little bit how MCC has a very different structure than USAID, an agency that many, many folks in Africa and many power players in Africa are much more familiar with.  How is the structure different, and can we explain – can you explain why the business model works better than the development model?

Mr. Bah:  Well, first of all, thank you.  Thank you, Marissa, and I will – your question is a very complex one.  

So the – let me just say we and all the other U.S. development partners are complementary.  We all have our areas of strength and areas that we all recognize is not our area of strength.  So USAID does certain things that we cannot do as an agency, and we do certain things that USAID cannot do as an agency just based on how we are created and our legislation. But in the MCC’s specific case, we do have a business-like model.  We use terms like “investment.”  We use terms like “compact.”  We use “economic rate of returns.”  Because we are created with the mindset that our intervention, the combination of large infrastructure and policy reform, will create an environment where investors will see the signal that this is a country they can invest in and expect to have the returns they had in mind when they launched that investment.  

We have a board of directors, which is chaired by the Secretary of State.  Our body – our decisions are made by that board.  We have a CEO and we operate as a business – in a business model that seeks to, one, pursue the constraints that we have identified in a given country that prevents the economy from growing, right, but then we hold ourselves accountable by having a very robust monitoring and evaluation process, going ex-post to look at our investments to make sure that the targets that we have set were met, and if they’re not met, why?  What are the lessons that we learned from them?

So it’s a different model.  It is complementary to DFC.  It is complementary to USAID.  We, for instance, do not do relief work, we do not do humanitarian work, and USAID is a strong partner in that field and many, many other fields.  

So that’s in a nutshell my response to that, and Alexia, I don’t know if you – there’s anything you want to add to that.

Ms. Latortue:  I think, Mahmoud and Marissa, the one thing I would add that I think is quite distinct about MCC is the fact that we are really able to back countries’ goals and aspirations with quite large grants.  So if countries meet the criteria that we’ve been discussing already on this call, based on the constraints-to-growth analysis – so what is holding back the country from growing? – we can support and we work very closely with countries; we have a country ownership model where countries then make proposals and that we work together to develop these proposals and we back, as Secretary Blinken says, their big dreams.  We allow countries to dream big and we back that.  

Our compacts can go up to $600, $700 million over just five years, right?  So that allows us to focus in on a sector and really try to have a transformative impact, whether, again, it’s in the electricity sector, whether it’s in the water sector, whether it’s in the agricultural sector.  And the fact that we combine these large grants with working with countries to make the often very difficult policy changes, policy reforms that are needed to make the investments sustainable over time, I think that’s another really critical piece about our business model. 

Moderator:  Thank you.  You mention the complementary relationship that MCC has with other government relations, or other government agencies.  And so the immediate sort of initiative that comes to mind is Prosper Africa, sort of this conglomerate of 70 U.S. agencies that are working together to fulfill a lot of the economic empowerment and opportunities on the continent.  What is MCC’s role in Prosper Africa?

Mr. Bah:  So thank you, Marissa.  Specifically on Prosper Africa, if we just take a step back, Prosper Africa is a platform, right, which recognized the coordination need from the various agencies that have different toolkits.  When we talk about crowding a space with private transactions, in the past we have seen where it was the coordination of that – of those transactions was not as effective.  So Prosper Africa brings a platform where we are talking to each other and looking at our areas of strength and weaknesses and trying to facilitate private sector transactions through that platform.  

MCC brings a unique aspect to that.  It’s our grant money.  Our money doesn’t add to a country’s debt burden; it supports countries’ goals.  But if you link that to what a country needs and a private transaction, MCC can, for instance, facilitating – facilitate the risk aspect of a transaction or the impact aspect of a transaction.  We are internally working on facilities that will accelerate infrastructure investments in Africa.

So in that platform, for instance, MCC can bring grant money or sometimes we bring due diligence money to make sure that we understand what is the impact – not only the risk/reward of the transaction but the impact of that transaction.  Is that in alignment with the objectives of our compact?  So that’s one element that we bring to that, to the Prosper Africa platform.

Moderator:  Thank you.  So we have another question from Mr. Ange de la Victoire of Top Africa News.  And you’ve talked a little bit about this, Alexia, in your earlier remarks.  “At a time when the world is threatened by climate change, can you tell us to what extent the U.S. is concerned about this problem and why is America back again in this fight?”

Ms. Latortue:  So I used the word “existential” before, Ange, when I talked about climate change, and I think the United States – and again, I think joined by many, many leaders around the world – really do see climate change as an existential crisis.  And the Biden-Harris administration looks at the science, and I also say look at the science and talk to the farmers because they understand firsthand the impacts of climate change.  And we just have to look at the data around the droughts, the floods, and the impacts are real – the locusts that we saw also in Kenya.  And so as you I think know, Ange, one of the very first actions that President Biden did was to have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement to really demonstrate our commitment to working with the global community and the nations around the world to tackle this challenge.  

I think it’s also important, however, to say that in this challenge lies opportunities if we rise to the occasion.  And we’ve already seen across many African countries, for example, the opportunities for clean energy, and if you look at the developments and the possibilities and the – and sort of the progress that’s been made, including how prices have started to really drop around solar energy, it’s really exciting.  And obviously, the African continent is really a dynamic place for solar energy just given the sheer number of days that the sun shines in countries.  So that’s a huge opportunity.  There’s a huge opportunity for innovation and for new technologies that also create jobs and new kinds of jobs, right, for the future.  

So this is really a top priority for the administration both at home in the United States and in what we do through our development agencies like MCC in partnership with our countries.

Mr. Bah:  Alexia, I wonder if we lost Marissa.  

Ms. Latortue:  I think we did, and perhaps Tiffany will help us then.

Moderator:  Yeah, and I’m just here.  I’m just coming in.  Sorry.  [Laughter.]  

Yes, we have a question that came in from Graphic Communications Group in Ghana.  It is regarding hydro power.  The question is that:  “Illegal mining is heavily polluting the water bodies in Ghana.  What danger does that pose to hydro-power generation, particularly at a time when the MCC has a good track record of sponsoring other countries to build hydro-power plants?”  

Mr. Bah, would you like to take that?

Mr. Bah:  Yeah, we can take that.  So, good question.  I think one of the things that we had mentioned earlier is that we are very disciplined in how we approach our intervention in a given country.  It is country-led, and one element of our work when we do our due diligence on a specific project is we look at the environmental and social performance on that specific project.

So when it comes to illegal mining and the pollution, it is definitely a key aspect of our evaluation, and we hold ourselves and our partner countries to the highest standards of the IFC Performance Standards when it comes to social, especially environmental standards.  So there is quite a lot of work that is done on the projects that we work on, and also the capacity-building side.  When we have an intervention, we want to make sure that issues related to emission, pollution, address not only during the time we are implementing the project, but through the policy reforms that we propose, and we sometimes put these as a condition precedent to disbursement.  

So to go back to your specific question, I think that the targeting of a specific project, if it is within the scope of our intervention, would definitely include issues that you mentioned when it comes to pollutions that are driven by mining activities.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  We have a question that’s come in from Eswatini.  A Mr. Ncamiso has asked, “Does the MCC offer any kind of support to countries that are – would like to qualify for MCC funds?”  And specifically, he asks in terms of coordination and policy reforms.

Mr. Bah:  Yes.  Marissa, we missed you for a minute there.  Welcome – welcome back.  [Laughter.]

Moderator:  Thank you.

Mr. Bah:  So the question regarding support for countries that would like to qualify, that’s a good question.  So we do have smaller programs called the threshold program.  So the aim of those programs is to when we work through our selection and eligibility process, every year we select countries for compact and we select some for threshold.  And threshold programs tend to help countries in one aspect to qualify for the larger program by addressing policy issues that prevent them from qualifying.  So that’s one way to look at the threshold program.

But we also have evolved the threshold program to become what we call the second generation threshold program, where we are not just looking at policy but we are also addressing targeted intervention in areas like water or electricity.  If you look at our program in Sierra Leone, what we did there – and Sierra Leone is a classic example of starting with a threshold program, successfully completed a threshold program, and now is eligible for a compact program by addressing water-related issues in and around Freetown.

So to answer your question, yes, we do that and it has come in the form of a threshold program, but it evolves.  Even in compacts, we do get those type of interventions to continue the performance of the country on the scorecard.  So it is a continuous process through the end of our intervention.

Ms. Latortue:  I might just add on that one, even for countries that don’t have a threshold, I think there’s an opportunity in the sense that our scorecard is publicly available.  What we have – and the scorecard represents what we have learned it takes to be able to do development well.  And we’ve had examples of countries who look at our scorecard, understand a different criteria, and in some cases heads of those countries have said, “Okay, I want to tackle these issues and I want us to make progress against the 20 criteria,” and they’ve mobilized their leadership team to really, one by one, try and make improvements against these criteria.  We sometimes call this the MCC effect, the idea that even before there’s a formal relationship with our agency, hopefully we can help guide countries towards the kinds of critical reforms and changes that are really important to making – to making their investments in development work well and deliver results for their people and their economies.  

Moderator:  Thank you.  We have a question in the chat from Mr. Dieudone Mubenga Bill.  His question is, “Are communication projects on climate change, have they ever been supported by an MCC fund to sensitize stakeholders in the Congo Basin?  If not yet, is it planned in the Biden-Harris administration’s goals?”  And this is from – out of Kinshasa.  

Mr. Bah:  Thank you for the question.  I think this goes back to the question on selection and eligibility.  Bill, we have not specifically had projects addressing climate – communications around climate in the Congo Basin, what we have done in countries where we intervene, there is a significant stakeholder engagement.  That comes with many of our projects.  We want to make sure that we partner and educate around issues, whether it’s climate or even other issues, right, like we do a lot of stakeholder engagement when it comes to gender-related issues.  

But to answer the question directly, we have not in the Congo Basin because Congo is not a country that was selected or eligible for the MCC program.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Earlier you were talking about the threshold programs, and I know for a fact that there are several countries who have successfully completed compacts, and looked for a second one and successfully completed a second one, and are now looking for a third one.  Can you talk a little bit about that process and will MCC ever allow countries to go for a third compact, or must they sort of engage in these more regional compacts?

Mr. Bah:  So, I mean, that’s a good question.  We have not – to be direct, we have not engaged in a country for a third compact yet.  We have not.  But the one that you mentioned, the regional compacts, it’s a great opportunity for us.  We are continuously as an agency looking for ways to improve our collaboration and our engagement with other countries.  The regional compact, it’s very exciting for us in the sense that we have the authority now in a country that has a compact to do a concurrent one.  So that allows us to have – for instance, if you look at two country pairs that are contiguous, we have the opportunity to in addition to the compact they’re currently implementing, to allow the development of another compact that would be concurrent to the one they have, but with the – with the goal of facilitating trade between those two countries.  

We came to the realization, right, that when we do our domestic compacts the opportunities do not stop at the border.  The trade and economic growth does not stop at the border.  And we need to facilitate that growth to expand beyond the border and go connecting markets that are interdependent, naturally interdependent.  So we have – we are looking at transport corridors between countries.  We’re looking at transmission of electricity between countries.  But in that scenario, we are limited by the selection and eligibility of the countries because we are well aware that that connection, that trade goes beyond the country pairs that we are working on, that there are benefits that expand to countries that are not even in our portfolio.  

So stay tuned.  There’s more coming and more exciting news coming from that front.

Moderator:  I will.  I will absolutely stay tuned.  Thank you.  The next question comes – I think we’re going to ask live from Milton Maluleque from Deutsche Welle-Africa, based in Maputo, Mozambique.  Mr. Maluleque, you can ask your question.  Mr. Maluleque, unmute.  You may ask your question.

Question:  Thank you very much for this opportunity.  My question is Mozambique suffers lately from the consequences of the climate change, and we can have droughts and the cyclone as examples.  I would like to know how is MCC —

Mr. Bah:  I think we lost the —

Moderator:  Yeah, Mr. Maluleque, I think we lost you on the tail end of your question.  If you can try asking that again; if not, you can type it into the Q&A so we can get the full —

Question:  Do you —

Moderator:  Yeah, go ahead, go ahead.

Question:  Yes, I was saying: How is MCC assisting Mozambique relating to this knowing that the MCC is expecting to finalize the second package very soon?

Ms. Latortue:  So thank you for that question.  So indeed, Mozambique, climate is a big part of the compact of development in two ways.  So we’re looking at the agricultural sector and, as I mentioned before, there is a lot of issues linked to agriculture and sort of really trying to have climate-smart agriculture.  So that is indeed one aspect of the compact of development, and the other is actually around infrastructure, including secondary and tertiary roads that are critical in terms of improving market competitiveness.  And I think we’ve seen a lot of examples about the importance of building climate-resilient roads, right, so roads that after the first flood don’t wash away, and that will be an absolutely critical part of the work that we will do in Mozambique, and right now we’re sort of in the development phase, as you rightly noted.

Moderator:  Thank you.  It looks like – hold on – I see maybe one hand up.  I just want to make sure.  Oh, that was from Mr. Maluleque.  

Okay, that’s all the time that we have for questions.  I’d like to go to our guests to see if they have any final remarks, final words.

Mr. Bah:  Well, thank you, Marissa, and I just want to thank everyone for their questions.  And I think as an agency we are excited.  We have a great strategy, as Alexia mentioned, on climate.  We think that we are a key player when it comes to the U.S. development toolkit in assisting our partner countries in fighting this challenge, and we are very much conscious of our interventions in Africa specifically of the need for support to help countries transition justly, right, to these climate change challenges that they face.  That transition must be thoughtful, must be careful, and must include support from all our development partners to have a common vision, including the local vision, the African vision for climate change.  That is extremely important.  What does African countries want in order to come out a winner out of this existential threat?  

With that, let me let Alexia have a parting word, and I want to thank everybody for their participation.  

Ms. Latortue:  I think, Mahmoud, we’re fully aligned.  I have very little to say other than really working hand in hand with Africa in terms of a green, inclusive, sustainable recovery, and beyond recovery from COVID, also really thinking about unleashing all the potential of Africa for the benefit of its people is really what MCC is all about.  So thank you so much to all of you and thank you so much, Marissa, for having us.

Moderator:  That concludes today’s briefing.  I would like to thank Mahmoud Bah, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Alexia Latortue, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, for speaking to us today, and to thank all of our journalists for participating.  If you have any questions regarding today’s briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at AFMediaHub@state.gov.  Thank you.

Mr. Bah:  Thank you.

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U.S. Department of State

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