Washington — The U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has asked U.S. business leaders to help it evaluate Ghana's ideas for developing the country's energy sector.
"Your feedback will allow us to go back to the Ghanaian government with credible guidance for what will make a sustainable difference" in its final request for a new round of development funding, MCC Chief Executive Officer Daniel Yohannes told the business leaders January 24 at the agency's headquarters in Washington.
Ghana's relationship with MCC goes back to 2006, when it signed a five-year, $547 million agreement, or compact, with MCC aimed at making the country's agribusiness sector more competitive and increasing rural incomes by teaching farmers to raise more high-value crops like the profitable spicy pepper known around the world as Bird's Eye and in Ghana as "green gold."
Under the compact, more than 66,000 Ghanaian farmers received MCC-funded training in commercial agriculture, enhanced rural banking and credit services, and new roads and post-harvest facilities, MCC reports. With MCC's assistance, on just a few hectares the Kpando-Torkor farm on the banks of Lake Volta began to grow and export Bird's Eye chilis to European markets. The short distance to Europe and daily flights have given Ghana a competitive advantage, making it among the top five exporters of chilis to Europe, MCC says.
Women rice farmers also received MCC-supported training to grow a better crop, accurately track their profits and negotiate better prices with suppliers.
The independent research group Chicago Council on Global Affairs has taken note of MCC's efforts to help Ghana improve its farm sector. In its 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, the group rated MCC's involvement "outstanding."
Ghana's health sector also received MCC support under the country's first compact. Working with local and international partners, MCC helped lead an effort to install dozens of new clean water access points throughout Ghana's northern zone, trained water officials to operate the system and raised awareness among the public about what it can do to prevent the transmission of waterborne Guinea worm disease.
The compact ended in early February 2012 with another success: the completion of a 14-kilometer, six-lane lighted highway with sidewalks and safety barriers linking Tetteh-Quarshie and Mallam Junction. The stretch can facilitate the movement of more than 36,000 vehicles a day and reduce peak travel time from one hour to 20 minutes. Ghanaians can now more easily get to their jobs and families can better access social services, MCC reports.
"By shortening the time to get to the Port of Tema, Ghanaian farmers can now reach markets quicker," Yohannes said at the opening of the highway, adding that it will allow for more trade, bringing economic growth and prosperity.
Around the time the highway opened, MCC and Ghana began to explore opportunities for further collaboration, Yohannes explained. MCC works with all of its partner countries to develop their grant proposals. Partners commit to supporting democratic governance, economic freedom and investing in their people. Proposals are developed with input from all parts of their societies.
MCC also wants discussion of potential new compacts to include input from the private sector. "By working together, we can showcase the power of private enterprise in each and every MCC partner country, including Ghana," Yohannes said.