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Archives for Economic Growth

Embracing Innovation in Haiti: USAID’s Haiti Mobile Money Initiative

One of the hallmarks of the U.S. Government’s fresh approach to development in Haiti is making better use of innovative private sector ideas to solve tough development challenges.

So when one third of Haiti’s bank branches were destroyed in the earthquake a year ago, we looked for ways to overcome one of the primary obstacles to economic growth in the country: poor access to affordable financial services.  But instead of building more banks or installing ATMs, the U.S. Agency for International Development partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to set up a $10 million incentive fund to jump start the provision of banking services to Haitians through their mobile phones.

Maarten Boute, CEO of Digicel Haiti (left), is joined at the podium by Scotia Bank’s Maxime Charles. Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID

In the short term, the Haitian Mobile Money Initiative will enable Haitians, 40% of whom own a mobile phone, to communicate, send, receive and store money on their devices.

The Government of Haiti and the private sector have enthusiastically embraced the mobile money initiative. The Central Bank of Haiti has already issued new directives on mobile banking.  And yesterday, USAID and the Gates Foundation awarded Digicel $2.5 million for being the first telecommunications company to develop a competitive mobile money service in Haiti.

The project has already significantly increased the number of Haitians with access to banking services, and it has the potential to provide universal access thanks to the increasing penetration of cell phones in the country. By helping Haiti leapfrog the limits of the physical infrastructure of banking, mobile banking is putting financial power literally into Haitian hands.

Click here to view photos of the press event.

Micro Entrepreneurs, Big Dreams

In most ways, Khanum Bibi is an ordinary Punjabi wife in Lahore, Pakistan—the country’s second largest metropolitan area. Married 25 years, she and her husband Nisar have raised a son and five daughters in a small village on the outskirts of the city relying on his income as a day laborer and her work making and embellishing ladies garments with beads at home.

One of Bibi’s daughters at work embellishing a shalwar. Photo Credit: USAID/Pakistan

The family squeaked by until hard times struck last year. In the heart of an economic downturn, Nisar was injured in a street accident and could no longer work. Trapped economically, the couple agreed that Bibi should take the unusual step of venturing out of the house and proposed to her neighbors to sell the garments together to get better deals from market vendors.

At just the right moment a USAID program offered to train her on product design and development, use of raw materials, market demand, and pricing arrangements. The next month, Bibi left her daughters to work at home and became a sales agent – an entrepreneur.

“I have had a difficult life,” Bibi said, wiping a tear with her headscarf. “But I feel a tremendous responsibility for my family since my husband’s injury. My becoming a sales agent has improved our condition, and also my confidence. Now that I have this opportunity, I want to maximize it.”

This USAID program will increase the incomes of at least 120,000 micro entrepreneurs like Bibi by developing the capabilities of indigenous organizations and local private and public sector partners working with micro entrepreneurs and small enterprises to significantly build their businesses.

As for Bibi, she consults with her husband Nihar on all important business decisions, and maintains her established role in the family setting as she breaks down some of Pakistan’s social barriers and rigid social traditions.

“My husband didn’t give me the right to work,” Bibi said. “I earned it. Today we make joint decisions, and the people in our village understand. USAID has given me new ideas and approaches I never would have considered.”

The 16 Days Campaign to End Violence Against Women: From 25 November to 10 December, USAID will post a blog each day that aims to prove a single point: The human race cannot progress when half of the world population lives without the same rights and respect afforded to its male counterpart. If you are moved by what you read and want to share, we’ve made it easy for you. Click here to find out how.

USAID Surpasses Private Sector Credit Milestone

USAID’s Development Credit Authority recently surpassed a $2 billion milestone of private sector credit mobilized in developing countries. USAID uses partial loan guarantees to encourage local banks to invest locally in sectors ranging from health to clean energy to infrastructure.

Workers sort rubble in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on August 6, 2010. Photo source: Kendra Helmer/USAID

The two billionth dollar was made available from a new partnership with two banks in Haiti for small and medium businesses. Since Haiti’s devastating earthquake, established businesses lost most, if not all, of their property and equipment. Without these assets, small and medium enterprises no longer have the collateral needed to obtain loans to rebuild their businesses. The DCA guarantee will substitute as collateral for borrowers, enabling two local banks to lend up to $20 million of their funds to help businesses rebuild.

Follow USAID’s Development Credit Authority on Twitter and on Facebook.

USAID in the News

The Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article on Dean Atwood, who was a top USAID administrator during President Clinton’s administration, and his new position as chairman of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee.

The Washington Post’s Career Coach wrote about how many different backgrounds and skills can be utilized through employment at USAID.

 

From the Field

In Mali, we will hold a launch ceremony for a new Maternal and Newborn Health collaboration framework.  Mali has been selected as one of the countries for the implementation of the joint Organisation of The Islamic Conference (OIC)-US Government ”Reaching Every Mother and Baby in the OIC with Emergency Care” strategy. USAID has been designated to lead this effort for the US Government.

In Egypt, we will celebrate forty-five new scholarships for young Egyptian students to obtain degrees from Egyptian private universities in fields of studies that are important to Egypt’s current and future development. The Leadership Opportunities Transforming University Students (LOTUS) program aims at identifying and empowering young women and men who have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership and involvement in their communities.  The program will help develop and nurture the recipients’ leadership potentials, skills and commitment to community and country so that they are prepared to become future leaders and advocates for development in local communities.

In Tanzania, it is Swahili Fashion Week.  On the last day of fashion week, USAID/COMPETE (East Africa Competitiveness and Trade Expansion Program) will organize a merchandising workshop to provide an element of training/guidance for what it takes to go commercial, and what the global market is looking for.

USAID Seizes Development Opportunities in Ukraine

I arrived in Ukraine on Columbus Day to discuss challenges in Ukraine and how our programs are addressing those issues, as well as to visit our projects to see the real impact American aid has on the ground.

On Tuesday we met with the U.S. Embassy, USAID Mission, and implementing organizations in Kyiv to discuss our programs in Ukraine, the upcoming municipal elections, and financial reform programs. Since regional issues have long torn Ukraine’s regions apart, it was interesting to see those areas where Ukrainians had common perspectives – particularly on the devastating impact of the global economic crisis (which caused Ukraine’s GDP growth to fall from +8 percent in 2007 to -15 per cent in 2009).

Roberta Mahoney and others discuss the results of the USAID Municipal Heating Reform project with city and hospital officials. Photo Credit: USAID/Ukraine

I then traveled to Crimea accompanied by the USAID Mission Director, Janina Jaruzelski, State’s Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe & Eurasia (ACE), Dan Rosenblum, and several other State, USAID, and Embassy staff.

On our first morning in Crimea, we visited a number of hospitals that have received some 2,800 pieces (filling 96 trucks!) of medical equipment from a project of ACE’s Humanitarian Affairs section.

In the afternoon, we met a cross-section of young leaders in Crimea’s NGO community working to address issues from minority and prisoner rights to the media and the rights of persons with disabilities.  The group, which received leadership training through the USAID Ukrainian Strengthening Civil Society Organizations (UNITER) project, was remarkably perceptive about their capacity to influence policy and politics, the need to represent and motivate their members, and the real need to focus in sustained and creative ways on financial sustainability.

Thursday took us to a different Crimean city, Yevpatoria, where we met with the dynamic mayor about his comprehensive plan for the revitalization of the city’s economy. We then visited another hospital, this time from the outside, and watched as Ukrainian workers retrofitted the exterior of the hospital’s walls and attics with insulation with assistance from the USAID Municipal Heating Reform (MHR) project, which is also working in four other towns in Crimea.

The hospital will be able to increase heat generating efficiency in this cold region from roughly 64 to 99 percent, which will save the hospital money and improve conservation of critical resources.  Such a dramatic reduction in energy waste is one example of the positive impact MHR can have on Global Climate Change.

The highlight of the day, however, still lay ahead: meeting with NGOs and businesses devoted to promoting Crimea to the rest of the world!  We discussed the opportunities and challenges of promoting Crimean tourism with a significant representation of Crimean tourism businesses.

During a tour of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, we learned that Yevpatoria’s last multi-domed mosque was designed by Sinan, the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire, who took inspiration from the domes of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul in creating Yevpatoria’s impressive Turkish-style mosque.  Sinan had also designed many other Istanbul mosques.

Yevpatoria is home to the Qaraim, an ancient community closely linked to Judaism that is arguably the smallest ethnic group on earth, numbering some 2,000 individuals.  During the Russian Civil War, Mr. Duvan, the town’s mayor and one of the most illustrious members of the Qaraim community who had fled the Russian Revolution for exile in France, sent a shipload of wheat to the city to help his former citizens survive.

One last stop remained — the one stop business center. Hailed as a success by the business community, citizens, and the government, the office brings all the actors together under one roof to significantly reduce the time it takes to register a new business and limit opportunities for bribery and corruption during the process. It was a fitting end to a successful visit, as we came away assured of the capacity of Crimeans to establish businesses to share the beauty, history, and bounty of the peninsula with the world, while providing hope and jobs for its citizens.

In all we’ve had a very successful visit, gaining exposure and insight to the breadth of the USAID’s program and accomplishments and the challenges that remain in Ukraine, from democracy and governance to health, energy, and the economy.

Picture of the Week: Women Increasing Incomes in Guatemala

Women preparing vegetables at San Judas, Guatemala.Women preparing vegetables at San Judas packing plant to sell to grocery stores in Guatemala. The San Judas company is participating in a USAID Global Development Alliance program with partners Wal-Mart, Mercy Corps, and Fundación AGIL. Photo is from Eduardo Smith/ PrensaLibre 2008.

Cultural Festival in Haiti Kicks Off USAID’s New Development Projects and Promotes Civic Pride

Funky beats and roaring laughter echoed through Cap Haitien’s town square as local dancers, poets, comedians, and musicians performed at the city’s cultural festival over the weekend. Thousands of Haitians attending the festival danced, sang and laughed as performances stretched into the wee hours of the morning.

USAID cohosted the two-day festival with local authorities to boost civic pride and mark a renewed focus on economic growth in Cap Haitien.  The festival fell on a holiday dedicated to King Henri Christophe, Cap Haitien’s most well-known historical figure, and featured some of Haiti’s most popular performers.  Kompa band Tropicana, comedian Jesifra and dance troop Dahomey were among the audience favorites.

Despite a heavy storm that flooded the streets, Haitians rushed into the town square as the rain let up and the water receded.  Locals called the festival Cap Haitien’s biggest event in recent memory and estimated that three to four thousand residents attended.

Some Haitians set up shop on the square’s perimeter to sell steaming food, frosty drinks and hand-made crafts.  Others climbed trees or sat atop cars to get a better view of the stage.

The hopeful tenor of the audience showed Haitians’ resilience in spite of their hardships. Extreme poverty was commonplace for Cap Haitien residents even before the earthquake nine months ago.  The northern port city lies far outside the range of the earthquake, but many Haitians sought refuge in Cap Haitien after their homes were destroyed in and around Port-au-Prince.  As a result, Cap Haitien’s population swelled in the disaster’s aftermath, straining the city’s already sparse resources.

The Government of Haiti and international community see an opportunity to reinvest in Cap Haitien. A number of USAID projects are already in the works.  USAID partner, Development Alternatives Inc., is implementing many of those projects including cash-for-work programs that provide short-term employment for women, agriculture projects that boost incomes from farming, and infrastructure projects that increase the number of students attending school.

I arrived in Haiti just two days before the cultural festival, and the weekend-long celebration shaped my first impression of the country.  I witnessed many struggles in Haiti, but I also witnessed proud, hopeful Haitians working hard to overcome these challenges.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Expanding Our Toolkit in the Fight Against Global Hunger

This orginally appeared on DipNote.

I am halfway around the world from Washington, and on October 6, I participated in the Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum. I traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia this week to discuss trade, investment, entrepreneurship, energy, and of course, agriculture. I am proud to be part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s renewed commitment to political, economic, and educational engagement with dynamic emerging economies like Indonesia. I am especially pleased to be back in Indonesia after my successful visit this past spring, during which we discussed the issues of post-harvest loss and agricultural biotechnology.

The Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum builds on that work by including many distinguished participants to chart a course for the future. Dr. Bayu Krishnamurti, Indonesian Vice Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador Eric Bost of the Borlaug Institute, and many other luminaries in the field have come together to discuss new agricultural technologies, investment in post-harvest infrastructure, and expanded cooperation at research universities.

Ultimately, we are all here to reaffirm our commitment to fight global hunger. While there are no magic bullets in this battle, we must look to new technologies, including biotechnology, for the role that they can play in the “new green revolution.’ I believe that biotechnology, and the improved crops it can develop, will prove to be an important new element in our traditional package of tools to increase productivity and address head-on the challenges of hunger and climate change.

To that end, we are renewing several key partnerships in the area of biotechnology. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with the Indonesian government and the Program for Biosafety Systems to develop a new and fully functional biosafety framework in Indonesia.

We are also building on long-standing partnerships with international agriculture research centers. USAID will be supporting collaboration between the International Rice Research Institute and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, and other partners to roll-out Golden Rice, an important food-based approach to alleviating Vitamin A deficiency and associated serious health issues in Indonesia.

In the face of one child dying of malnutrition every six seconds, our greatest tool is increased cooperation and collaboration to develop and share the best solutions possible.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Linking Agriculture, Economic Growth, and Nutrition

Throughout October USAID will be highlighting our broad-based work in food security – which spans from emergency food aid assistance through the Food for Peace Program to the game-changing global hunger initiative called Feed the Future. Our development programs overseas are linking vulnerable populations to opportunities for economic growth and linking agricultural benefits to nutrition elements in new, innovative ways. This month we will feature how we are working across the U.S. Government to reduce global hunger and improve lives.

The Obama Administration’s $3.5 billion commitment to tackle food security through Feed the Future and its announcement of the first-ever global policy directive on development demonstrates a renewed focus and investment to address hunger. As USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has stated, “We know food security facilitates stable communities and resilient nations. We know agricultural development growth is more effective at reducing poverty than general economic growth. And we know children need nutrition to learn and grow, especially in those critical early years of their lives.”

Next week, the Borlaug Dialogue will bring together hundreds of global leaders on agriculture, food and development to discuss food security themes in Des Moines, Iowa. The annual conference includes announcing the World Food Prize winner and will focus on “Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World’s Smallholders”. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will be a keynote speaker at the event and will announce new USAID programs that will increase capacity and incomes of smallholder farmers across the globe.

October also includes World Food Day, a worldwide event to unite and inspire year-round action to alleviate hunger. We will join many of our partner organizations on this day of awareness and understanding by highlighting the urgent need to reduce hunger with the strong global will and partnership it requires.

Personally, I am honored to be a part of the Feed the Future team. It is a whole-of-government approach that invests in plans that are country-led and country-owned. Our cross-cutting themes of gender, nutrition, private sector, and research recognize that we must take a holistic approach to get this right. Much like the Green Revolution nearly 50 years ago, the renewed global focus on agriculture has the ability to transform agriculture and, ultimately, reduce the number of hungry in the world.

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