With news of terrorism, anti-Americanism, and violence often grabbing the headlines, what unfolded along a stretch of roadway in the western African nation of Ghana in February was a remarkable celebration of goodwill and friendship. Nothing better demonstrated the impact of our U.S. development aid than that scene of towering U.S. and Ghanaian flags swaying together in the breeze, under which thousands of proud Ghanaians gathered to witness the opening of a major highway. Ghana’s president, John Atta Mills, highlighted how the road project was met with an outpouring of “sincere and genuine enthusiasm,” the likes of which he had never experienced in his country.
The road was part of an overall project funded by the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which worked with the Ghanaian government to build a highway, feeder roads, local pack houses, and storage facilities to facilitate the export of Ghanaian produce on a timely and profitable basis. The impact of the MCC-funded program represents the best American export—our ability to forge effective partnerships worldwide that deliver immeasurable goodwill and real returns and value for our development dollars. This approach transcends politics. Consider just one dramatic example: at the highway opening in Ghana, President Mills cut the ribbon alongside former President John Kufuor, who left office through a democratic process and who signed the original agreement with MCC in 2006. MCC’s CEO, Daniel Yohannes (appointed by President Obama, who has strongly embraced the MCC model as integral to U.S. global development policy) joined them at the highway, officially named the George Walker Bush Motorway in honor of the former U.S. president who developed the MCC concept. There is no better demonstration of bilateral goodwill.
Built with bipartisan support, what opened in the Ghanaian capital of Accra is no ordinary highway. As a businessman, I know that entrepreneurs can only succeed if they have reliable infrastructure in place. It makes no sense to train farmers to produce more and better quality fruits and vegetables to support themselves and their families if they lack a dependable road to get those products to markets quickly and efficiently. The highway stands as the country’s largest public works project in decades. It facilitates greater trade and commerce, which Ghanaians have long asked for to generate the kind of sustainable economic growth that will eliminate the need for foreign aid in the future. It helps Ghanaian families travel into town for jobs or basic services, such as educational training and health care. In a country where poverty still grips 28.5 percent of the population, dependable roadways provide a gateway to opportunity.
That is how foreign aid should work. America’s investments of development assistance worldwide should create empowering conditions to replace aid with the self-generating growth led by private enterprise. In a world of volatility and clashing cultures, seeing foreign aid work like this in Ghana, through MCC’s country-driven and results-centered approach, is a refreshing testament to the power of collaboration. MCC is a different model for development effectiveness, investing in homegrown solutions for growth, encouraging policy reforms and promoting stability and demanding mutual accountability and responsibility. These are all necessary ingredients for sustainable development that not only help the world’s poor but also create new markets for American companies to trade with and invest in to support job creation here at home.
As an American and a taxpayer, I am proud to see how the power of our strong, effective partnership with Ghana—grounded in smart development assistance delivered through MCC’s innovative model—is producing tangible, meaningful results in the fight against global poverty. If one needs further proof of the enduring impact of MCC’s formula, a visit to Ghana or any of the other nine partner countries who have successfully completed their compacts or will complete them by the end of 2012, will illustrate the effectiveness of the program. And, with a second round of compacts to follow in countries that have earned them, we are poised to see more stable democracies with growing economies take hold on the African continent.