In Malawi, the US African Development Foundation (USADF) has launched a five-year project worth US $7.5 million. It's an agency of the US government dedicated to expanding economic opportunity in Africa. It says the project goal is to reduce poverty in rural communities at the grassroots level in Africa.
The launch of the program follows a bi-lateral agreement and a memorandum of understanding the foundation signed with the Malawi government last year. The USADF and the government announced their intentions to fund economic development projects.
The US Embassy's deputy chief of mission in Malawi, Kevin Sullivan explains why.
"We think that African Development Foundation has a lot of experience throughout the continent in working with organizations that have special needs -- special content -- to help overcome the challenges, and we are hoping that they bring the expertise and partner with promising Malawian organizations like this one," he says.
The USADF says the program will focus on certain marginalized populations and underserved communities. It will help fund economic development activities that will help create jobs, generate income, reduce poverty and increase social benefits.
Cassava leads the way
The first beneficiary of the grant is a farmers group in the southern district of Zomba called "Chinangwa, Mbatata, Roots, and Tubers Enterprises". It has received a grant of $95,000. The statement says the grant will be spread over 18 months in an effort to increase membership, diversify cassava products and improve the quality of cassava-based products.
The funding will also help establish a central office, hire staff, develop financial and business systems and buy planting materials and processing equipment.
The group has 2,000 members; 80% of them are women. It grows and processes cassava to create income, which hopefully will reduce poverty and increase the standard of living for members.
"We feel that there is a lot more that can be done to small and medium size enterprises, including community activities like the Chinangwa group, to become (an) engine for growth to the economy" Sullivan says. "They have already shown that they have the capacity to develop product, expand production, and we hope that with this grant we will be able to take them to next level."
Women in demand
The USADF says it will work closely with a group of Malawi's businesswomen -- the National Association of Business Women, the NABW.
The executive director of the NABW, Mary Malunga says,"The role of NABW in this particular program will be to identify possible beneficiaries for the programs since we have adequate experience in business development so we have been selected so that we assist them identifying, training and monitoring the groups that will benefit from the program."
The US African Development Foundation currently operates in 20 African nations. Over the past 25 years, USADF has funded nearly 1,500 projects and has spent $150 million in support of African enterprises and local African communities.