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Archives for Economic Growth

USAID Supports Armenian Government’s Tourism Efforts to Boost Economic Growth

Submitted by Jonathan Hale, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia

I flew out of Moscow’s extreme summer heat to the more arid Yerevan, Armenia. I watched fires and smoke from burning Russian peat bogs and forests out the plane window. The changing climate will clearly have devastating impacts.

I arrived in Yerevan and have been touring the country this week to visit Armenia’s remarkable sites and to see first hand USAID’s innovative work to address development challenges, including economic growth. While in Yerevan I met with business leaders in the tourism sector and learned about the positive impact that USAID programs are having on their growth.

On Sunday, I drove out to the Turkish border to visit the Khor Virap and Noravank monasteries. The massive snow-covered Mount Ararat stood in the background. These are ancient places tied to Armenia’s culture. Mt. Ararat is where tradition says Noah’s ark landed after the flood and the church at Khor Virap is where St. Gregory, who brought Christianity to Armenia in 301 A.D., was imprisoned in a pit for many years.

USAID has supported the Armenian Monuments Awareness Project, which aims to enhance the tourists’ experience at major Armenian historical and cultural sites through road signage, multi-language information boards, printed materials and branded merchandise. I saw USAID supported signs at the monasteries in multiple languages, including in Braille. It was interesting to watch Armenian families reading the signs learning more about their country’s history. Since the launch of the AMAP Project in early 2008, the joint efforts of project implementers have resulted in over 330 information panels and directional signs being installed at 49 monuments throughout Armenia.

On a broader scale, USAID has supported the Armenian government’s efforts to develop tourism for a number of years now. The assistance is aimed at boosting economic growth, developing new markets, improving the skills of the workforce, and creating jobs. The programs also aim to alleviate poverty in rural areas.

Tourism in Armenia has grown strongly overall in the past five years despite the global financial crisis. In 2009, Armenia welcomed 575,281 international tourists. The sector has grown by more than 16% per year for the last five years.

The road to the monasteries wound through breathtaking canyons full of birds and rare trees and flowers. I had lunch in a cave where local people prepared a chicken barbeque and the Armenian flat bread “lavash” over a pit. There is much for visitors to explore and experience in Armenia.

You can check out a map and general information about Armenia and a video that has aired on CNN.

Supporting a Sustainable Economy in Northern Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, USAID is supporting activities that increase economic opportunities, enhance respect for human rights, strengthen rule of law, improve responsive governance, and foster political reconciliation.  In recent years Sri Lanka has gone through major transitions. More than two decades of fighting prevented Sri Lanka from reaching its potential. The goal of this work is to help members of all ethnic groups rebuild their local communities, find jobs, and participate in the country’s development.

Our USAID Mission in Sri Lanka has recently forged four new business alliances with Sri Lankan private companies, under USAID’s Public/Private Alliance (PPA) Program (PDF). These partnerships are expected to create 10,000 full-time jobs in northern Sri Lanka.  By helping to create jobs, USAID is assisting communities who have suffered through decades of conflict to have sustainable income and increased business opportunities.

An alliance between USAID and a Sri Lankan construction consortium will establish seven mobile training centers for construction craftsmen in the Northern Province.  Training will be provided to 5,000 people over a period of six months including three months of on-the-job training.

Another alliance has been established with a leading garment textile firm in Jaffna which manufactures and exports denim textiles.  This alliance will create 1,800 full-time jobs over three years.

To help young people affected by conflict get jobs, build greater capacity and fill workforce gaps, USAID is teaming with leading English language training companies to establish professional IT and English skills development training centers in each of the five districts in the Northern Province.  Courses in Business Process Outsourcing and English Language Skills will be offered at no charge to over 3,000 under- and unemployed students who will then participate in on-the-job training programs with private firms.  This program will be working with the marginalized population in Jaffna who have, for the last 26 years of conflict, not been exposed to even basic IT technology.

USAID is working with a major garment manufacturer to expand its operations to northern Sri Lanka.  This alliance is expected to initially employ 750 full-time staff and market its finished apparel to international clothing firms. Emphasis will be placed on supporting widows, single mothers, and families with disabled members.

“I am confident these new alliances together with the previously established alliances will be significant catalysts to spur development in the North,” says USAID Sri Lanka Mission Director Rebecca Cohn.

Addendum: The USAID-supported project in northern Sri Lanka to provide IT training to under- and unemployed Sri Lankans affected by the country’s long conflict, will not include training in Enterprise Java. USAID’s partner in the project, a Sri Lankan company, initially requested to teach Enterprise Java to students that may qualify. However, after conducting due diligence, the partner found that the training programs must focus on fundamental computer skills, as the majority of prospective trainees lacked even basic experience with computers. Thus, training provided under the USAID-funded project will focus exclusively on building basic IT competencies. The reference to “Enterprise Java” in the Embassy’s press release was inadvertently included as a holdover from initial discussions.

USAID – From the Field

In Egypt USAID is supporting the Ministry of Health (MOH) by providing full, two-year scholarships for a total of 25 ministry employees to attend U.S. – based MBA programs. This program targets a small number of employees who have leadership potential to be change agents to implement Egypt’s health sector reform program; and it responds to the country’s need to develop a cadre of business-minded professionals. In addition to their academic studies, the students are expected to participate in an internship activity during their two years to practically apply the skills they are learning.  Past participants returned to Egypt and are now serving in critical positions in the Ministry of Health, contributing new knowledge and experiences to improve health programs, policies and procedures.  Through this successful partnership USAID is significantly contributing towards improving health coverage of underserved populations and strengthening the technical and managerial capacity of the Egyptian health sector.

In Lebanon the Opening of the “Live Akkar” trade fair that will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  This four-day trade fair will open its doors again to visitors from Akkar, the North and all of Lebanon.  This trade fair will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  It will also stimulate local enterprises, agriculture, and tourism.  “Live Akkar” will feature around seventy enterprises from Akkar exhibiting agricultural products, local foods, handicrafts, garments, and other items.   Presentations on local production of commodities such as dairy, olive oil and mushrooms will be provided  by experts on a daily basis.  In addition, the trade fair will have cultural and family attractions including  daily performances by popular local artists, puppet shows and traditional music concerts.

In Dominican Republic a press trip to The Salto de Jimenoa, which was recently declared as National Protected Area. The Ministry of Environment and the USAID Environment Protection Program will lead a discussion with media attending the importance of this area and the benefits it provides to surrounding communities. The main highlight is protecting the environment and biodiversity of the area and the importance of hydraulic resources that the Salto de Jimenoa provides.

Pic of the Week

Haitian workers are building a USAID-funded irrigation canal. Photo by Herve Jean-Charles.

As Haiti passes six months since the earthquake, men and women are employed in the USAID-funded reconstruction of an irrigation canal that not only provides a source of water for agriculture and livestock, but also a source of income for Haitians.

Long-Term Investments to Bring Real-Life Improvements to People of Pakistan

A summary map on the activities announced or underway in Pakistan.

During Dr. Raj Shah’s whirlwind two-day visit to Pakistan with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the ongoing Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, the U.S. announced more than $500 million in new development assistance for Pakistan. 

The new projects include the completion of two hydroelectric dams in South Waziristan and Gilgit-Baltistan that will supply more than 34 megawatts of additional power to 280,000 residents in those areas, the renovation and construction of three medical facilities, economic growth programs and seven projects to improve water distribution and efficiency in the country. Much of the assistance will be delivered by USAID.

The United States shares with Pakistan a vision of a future in which all people can live safe, healthy, and productive lives. Dr. Shah spoke with press about USAID’s role in Pakistan, saying that “Our commitment is broad and deep,” and one that encompasses programs ranging from health and energy to economic growth and agriculture. 

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Dr. Raj. Shah Attends Launch of Pakistan’s Birthspacing Initiative

Dr. Raj Shah at the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant and Child Mortality. Photo by Amy Koler.

The U.S. and Pakistan have consulted closely on the shared objectives of addressing Pakistan’s National Health Policy, which outlines the priorities for the nation, which include family planning, maternal and child health, workforce development, and combating infectious diseases to meet the Millennium Development Goals. 

On Sunday, Dr. Shah attended the launch of the Pakistan Ministry of Health’s new Birthspacing Initiative to Improve Maternal, Newborn, Infant  and Child Mortality.  “Overall, (the strategy) will help ensure that pregnancies occur at the healthiest times of women’s lives.  Specifically, it will help reduce high risk pregnancies – those that occur at too late or too early an age, or too soon after a previous pregnancy – through greater use of birth spacing services,” he said.

The Obama administration recognizes that the key to improving health is to strengthen country and local ownership, especially at the community level. ” We know that strong national leadership and capacities are essential for development progress.  Health systems can only thrive where there is wise leadership investing in people, institutions and infrastructure; particularly where governments are responsive and accountable to their citizens. 

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USAID In The News – July 12th thru 16th

submitted by Amanda Parsons

Science Magazine’s Insider Blog looks at how USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah brought together the world’s leading science minds this week during a 2-day conference to focus and highlight the ways innovation, science and technology can revitalize the development agency. Shah hopes science and technology can help the agency solve “grand challenges” in global development and used the workshop to pose broad questions about how USAID could identify, select, and implement these challenges. USAID had solicited input via a Web site for possible ideas like “a model toilet of the future for the poor.” About 60 people from academia, industry, and government have begun to whittle down the list and brainstorm about how to proceed.

On Monday, Secretary Clinton and Dr. Rajiv Shah gave remarks regarding the status of Haiti six months after a devastating earthquake ravaged the small nation. The AFP reports that the duo reconfirmed their commitment to reconstruction and development after the disaster. Secretary Clinton stated, “Six months later, our resolve to stand with the people of Haiti for the long term remains undiminished. We are committed to aligning our investments with the needs of the people and the government of Haiti.” Dr. Shah emphasized the idea of stricter construction codes and working with local partners to achieve a responsible and functional outcome.

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In Mozambique, Religious Leaders Unite Together Against Malaria

PIRCOM has trained more than 21,000 religious leaders from a variety of faiths on malaria prevention and treatment.

Left unchecked, disease imperils the stability and prosperity of all; therefore, improving global health out­comes is a shared responsibility. This means reaching out to community elders, leaders, and religious groups to ensure the quality and reach of health services and messages.

Religious leaders, along with their well-established networks of volunteers and community groups, have the potential to promote and sustain positive changes in the social norms, attitudes, and behaviors of their communities, which can affect development outcomes. Thus the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) engages religious leaders to facilitate greater partnership in, as well as ownership of, a community’s development.

Over the past few years, malaria and other global health programs have increased support to grassroots health movements within faith communities. In addition to promoting health-seeking behaviors, these programs have helped bridge cultural and religious divides.  One such initiative, the Together Against Malaria (TAM) program, arose in 2006 from the common vision of national leaders from 10 faith communities in Mozambique to use their religious organizations to disseminate malaria control messages and commodities. 

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USAID radio drama informs return in Uganda

Regaining its footing after a quarter century of conflict, northern Uganda is bustling with activity. Communities are working to restore local infrastructure and citizens are going about the business of rebuilding homes and lives. However the political reality is that the political leadership wanted to expedite the return process while also provide people with crucial information to returnees so they could make informed decisions about their lives.

Radio is not only the most reliable source of information for returning communities but also serves as the medium of choice to access the information people are seeking. However radio stations also have a limited ability to deliver the kind of content needed.

To encourage people to return and help them with their rebuilding efforts, the Lamele Theatre Artists, in collaboration with USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives, spearheaded the production of a radio drama. Ajing Conga, Bila Pa Ladwar (I Will Strengthen My Knees – The Song of a Hunter) focuses on three families that have returned to northern Uganda and are grappling to rebuild their lives. The show is providing returnees with crucial information on education, health, culture, security, and governance.

Three stations aired the 72 episodes of the radio drama three times a week. Once the production finished, the Lamele Theater Artists took the show on the road and performed skits live in villages. The shows, some of which were revised, were well received by northern Ugandans who were able to identify with the challenges and issues portrayed.

USAID in the News – July 2nd to July 9th

USAID is helping bring popular children’s television program Sesame Street to Nigeria through a five year grant. The show will be a 30 minute program titled Sesame Square that will run for three years. A portion of the grant will be focused on outreach programs for the country’s 25 million preschool-age children of whom only 10 percent are enrolled in school. The intent of this grant is to aid the country in building a strong foundation of basic literacy and numeracy as well as concentrating on the prevalent social issues. Sesame Square will be hosted by Kami, a lady Muppet who is HIV-positive, and another furry blue boy Muppet who has yet to be named. A national text vote campaign is currently in place to help name the unnamed Muppet and raise program awareness.

Albanian food producers, through USAID support, presented their products at an agro-food fair in New York last week. Over the last two years, USAID’s Competitiveness of Albanian Agriculture (CAA) program had aided Albanian agro-businesses in exploring profitable international markets. The New York food fair helped the nation establish trade contacts and provided information about the current and potential role of agriculture and food industry in the Balkans to American investors.

USAID Mission Director Pamela White participated in the celebration of the signing of a $15 million Threshold Program grant with Liberia. The grant will fund a three year program coordinated by USAID that will focus on improving land rights and access as well as girls’ primary education and trade policy. The people of Liberia chose these areas themselves as part of their national development strategy.

Liberia was chosen for the program by the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board of Directors because of their progress and commitment to reform. The MCC has currently signed 22 threshold programs in 20 countries. MCC is a US Government agency that was devised to assist developing countries and is based on the idea that aid is “most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic, and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth.”

On Tuesday in Kigali, USAID announced that it will contribute $2.5 million for two years to the East African Power Pool (EAPP) project. The announcement was made at the two-day EAPP Steering Committee Conference which included USAID officials as well as stakeholders in the energy sector from the eight member countries. Candace Buzzard, Director of USAID’s Regional Growth and Integration Office, spoke at the conference to address concerns about the lack of electricity and efficient clean power. She also mentioned that the collaboration between USAID and EAPP will produce significant results exploiting clean and renewable energy resources as well as improving cross-border energy trade policies and regulations.

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