A delegation of the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, is in Ivory Coast to discuss implementation of a major grant designed to fight poverty and boost economic growth in the West African country.
Five years after post-election violence swept Ivory Coast, the country is eligible for a compact grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. foreign aid agency.
The grant is seen as another sign that foreign partners have regained confidence in Ivory Coast, whose economy has rebounded by 9 percent annually since 2012.
Kamran Khan is the vice president of the Department of Compact Operations at the MCC. He said Wednesday that Ivory Coast passed 13 out of 20 indicators to be eligible.
"The board’s decision was based on the progress Côte d’Ivoire has made over the last few years. The establishment of the democratic principles and institutions, and stabilization of political situation in the country, economic growth and improvement on a host of indicators," said Khan.
Last year, Ivory Coast was declared eligible for a smaller grant from the MCC — called a "threshold" — and is now graduating to a Compact grant, becoming the tenth country in West Africa to do so.
The average size of a Compact grant is between $300 million and $350 million over a five-year period, and aims to eliminate constraints to economic growth through investments, infrastructure building and policy reforms.
In Ivory Coast, four main constraints have been identified, related to transportation, tax burdens, the need for more industrial land, and technical skills among the population.
Khan said one focus was to avoid corruption and make sure the money gets where it is meant to go. He said the MCC tightly monitored the progress made.
"We have extremely high standards for accountability, with respect to financial management and other matters. So we will be holding our counterparts here and the government accountable, just as we hold ourselves accountable. A country, after it becomes eligible, it still need to pass those indicators. And if they don’t, our legislative structure allows us to suspend compact," he said.
Malawi was one of the countries that had its grant briefly suspended in 2012 after a breach to the MCC’s criteria for democratic governance. It was reinstated a few months later.