The U.S. government's Millennium Challenge Corporation and the government of Senegal Wednesday signed a five-year $540 million grant to reduce poverty in the West African nation.
The grant will focus on road rehabilitation and food security initiatives in two of the poorest regions of Senegal.
"The funding itself will be invested in the rehabilitation of two roads, one in the Casamance region and one in the Senegal River Valley. Additional funds will be invested in rehabilitating and expanding existing infrastructure for irrigation and water resources management," said Madolyn Phillips, Director of the Corporation's Senegal country program.
Launched in 2004, the Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent agency of the U.S. government. It has a specific mission to invest in poverty reduction through economic-development projects in some of the poorest countries in the world.
To be eligible for an MCC grant, governments must meet three main criteria - ruling justly, investing in people, and promoting economic freedom.
Phillips says the Millennium Challenge Corporation takes a new approach to international aid.
"One of the things that is unique about MCC is that we work in very close partnership with our eligible countries and one of the guiding principles for the MCC is that there be a high degree of country ownership of our programs. Through a consultative process, through economic analyses and through various other mechanisms for project identification it was the government of Senegal that targeted these regions and these projects for investment by MCC for a number of reasons," said Phillips.
Senegal's government identified the troubled Casamance region in the south and the northern rice-growing region of St. Louis for MCC investment.
The grant will improve infrastructure in both regions and will develop 10,500 hectares of land in the fertile Senegal River Valley. Senegal imports 70 percent of its rice. With better irrigation and drainage, the government aims to bring the country one step closer to food security.