News / Africa

Ethiopian Banker Leads Development Agency for Obama Administration

As chief of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Daniel Yohannes, is the highest ranking Ethiopian American in Obama's government.

Daniel Yohannes -CEO-Millennium Development Corporation
Daniel Yohannes -CEO-Millennium Development Corporation



An Ethiopian immigrant is making history as the highest Ethiopian-American official in the Obama administration.
Daniel Yohannes was born in the Ethiopian capital.  He completed his elementary school at Addis Ababa’s Nativity Boy’s School and later transferred to St. Joseph’s, a prestigious Catholic high school in Addis Ababa.
“In those days people of my generation were idealistic, full of energy, with a lot of love for each other, as well as love and respect for our parents, elders, and teachers,” Yohannes says.

“Growing up in Ethiopia, we had a wonderful awareness of our country as well as the world.  We were more advanced in some ways than most teenagers today,” he says.
Go west, young man

In 1970, the 17-year-old Yohannes came to the United States and settled in Los Angeles, California.  After completing high school, he pursued his undergraduate studies at Claremont McKenna College and went to graduate School at Pepperdine University, where he obtained his MBA.
Of his time in California, Yohannes says the first few years were difficult.  With no car he had to walk two to three hours a day trying to be on time for both classes and work.
With an undergraduate degree in economics and a graduate degree in finance, Yohannes was finally ready to plunge into the world of banking.  He worked his way up to vice chairman of the sixth largest bank in the United States, U.S. Bank, which has assets close to $260 billion.
For many this would have been success enough.  Not so for Daniel Yohannes.  Taking an early retirement from the bank in 2003, he co-founded one of the first “green” banks in the United States, one that specialized in funding companies creating non-polluting technologies in northern California.  Observers point out that Yohannes “went green” before the movement became fashionable.

Making a difference globally
The MCC was created in 2004 with a mission to reduce poverty through long-term economic growth.  According to Yohannes, the MCC was created based on best practices learned in the last four decades from other U.S. development agencies.

Mr. Yohannes and President of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni
Mr. Yohannes and President of Benin Thomas Yayi Boni

The MCC is very innovative in terms of its approach.  “We work with countries that have implemented good social-economic policies and are accountable for their own growth,” says Yohannes.
As chief executive officer of the MCC, Yohannes says he now has an opportunity to make a positive difference globally.
MCC equals good governance
Yohannes says the MCC, which has more than $7 billion available for grants, forms partnerships with some of the world’s poorest countries. But only those that invest in their citizens and are committed to good governance and to economic freedom make the cut.

MCC Ceo Daniel Yohannes (center left) greeting ambassadors from around the world
MCC Ceo Daniel Yohannes (center left) greeting ambassadors from around the world

Nineteen countries have entered poverty-reduction “compacts” with the organization, 12 of which are from Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal and Tanzania. Together, they account for over $5 billion available for projects aimed at promoting growth.
Yohannes tells about some of the successes.  Ghana, he points out, is making commercial agriculture more profitable and reduce the cost of transporting food from rural areas to markets.  In Lesotho, the MCC is helping the children of HIV-positive mothers live long and healthy lives by renovating health care centers and establishing clinics to distribute anti-retroviral medicines.  And in Burkina Faso, 400 classrooms have been built exclusively for girls.
“I’m confident that MCC’s antipoverty partnership worldwide will generate sustainable economic growth and opportunity, and this is fundamental to enhancing our collective security and common humanity for a more prosperous, peaceful world,” Yohannes told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearings.
Supporters say with the vast experience in the private sector that he brings to the MCC, Yohannes is well positioned to help boost African businesses and national economies.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs