Helping the poor earn a living is one of the goals of the effort to increase investment in Africa’s infrastructure. Experts say the continent is ready. Carol Hessler is the managing director for infrastructure and the environment for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US government organization that so far has invested in Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique and Tanzania for a total of $3.8 billion. In this third of a five-part series, she told Voice of America’s Cole Mallard the MCC, established almost four years ago, is an innovative, “radically transformative” approach to US foreign aid. Countries receiving it must meet three qualifications. Their governments must: 1) rule justly, 2) invest in people, and 3) support economic freedom.
Hessler says the African countries know that poor infrastructure “drives up the cost of doing business.” She says infrastructure is seen as critical in fighting poverty because it creates access to employment, markets, schools, health facilities, and local, regional and international trade.
STAYING THE COURSE
Hessler says African governments accepting MCC assistance must put together their own program and provide their own dedicated funding to maintain the new infrastructures for their “expected life, so they won’t be shortened by the next rainy season that washes out a road.”
She says it’s hard to measure success so far because the MCC is fairly new and many of the agreements have just been completed. She says it takes “time to have a measurable impact…because you have to do the detailed designs, the feasibility studies and…the environmental impact assessments.” She says construction has not yet begun on major infrastructure projects in Africa, but the MCC is committed to providing millions of dollars for infrastructure development in Africa.
Hessler says a major challenge to infrastructure investment is understanding the need for time to design the projects well and have mechanisms in place to maintain them. She says people “need to understand that just because a shovel isn’t in the ground doesn’t mean that we aren’t working feverishly…. “The biggest challenge is explaining to people that building it correctly and [sustainably] is in the interest of poverty alleviation and economic growth.”