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USAID’s Investment in Africa

As President Obama embarks on his trip to Africa, USAID is proud to take this opportunity to highlight the important work we are doing to partner with Africans in new and innovative ways to build a peaceful and prosperous future. For the first time in over a generation, sub-Saharan Africa is seeing steady progress toward ending extreme poverty, fueled by robust economic growth and better governance and service delivery in many countries. These gains have been supported by USAID’s investments in improved agriculture, health care, and democratic institutions, and our increased focus on women and a new generation of African thinkers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, each of which are delivering transformational results. In concert with partners throughout Africa, we are working toward ending poverty and providing millions a foothold in the global economy—and helping to realize the promise of the world’s most youthful region.

Women in Senegal. Photo credit: USAID

The President will visit Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania–some of USAID’s most important development partners–but his messages are relevant for the entire continent. USAID with thousands of grassroots organizations, communities and local businesses in 42 African countries to achieve these shared goals. Some examples of these partnerships are featured in this collection of stories about our work in Africa.

Throughout the President’s trip, our teams on the ground will provide regular social media updates. Be sure to follow Administrator Shah on Twitter (@rajshah) as he accompanies the President and join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica! Follow us also on Facebook and our Impact Blog for real-time stories from our missions in Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you throughout this trip and beyond.

The Power of Energy in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country and a former Soviet nation, is rich in natural resources and pursuing an ambitious agenda in response to global climate change. With a growing economy and booming oil and gas sectors, Kazakhstan is committed to improving its energy efficiency. Kazakhstan 2030, the country’s long-term strategy for development, aims to reduce its energy intensity 25 percent by 2020.

Kazakhstan’s most energy-intensive companies attend hands-on energy management workshops on energy efficiency. Photo credit: ICF International

President Obama’s Global Climate Change Initiative provides a unique opportunity for USAID to engage with Kazakhstan directly and assist its people in reaching their goals. Through the Central Asia Energy Efficiency Support Program, USAID is helping industries in Kazakhstan comply with energy laws and implement the ISO-50001 standard: a series of requirements created by the International Organization for Standardization for an energy management system. The ISO-50001 standard provides ways to increase energy efficiency, reduce costs and improve energy performance. USAID gathered Kazakhstan’s largest energy-intensive enterprises, government officials and educational institutions in Astana on June 20, 2013, to exchange ideas on best practices of energy audits and energy resources management.

Galina Markilova, the head of the Standards Department for KazPhosphate, a large phosphate mining and processing company, reflected on the event. “This was a very productive conference, based on the specific needs of our industries. We learned a lot and will be able to better implement our energy management system with what we learned today.” Program experts conducted an energy management audit of KazPhosphate in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy/Oak Ridge National Laboratory and identified more than $1 million in potential annual energy cost savings that could be achieved. Payback periods for all measures identified were less than three years.

Despite the grave and complex nature of climate change, it is inspiring to see global plans coming to life in practical ways across Kazakhstan. The city of Aksu, located in northern Kazakhstan and home to a coal power plant with some of the highest carbon dioxide emissions in the country, is in the initial phase of adopting a clean energy plan. USAID is working closely with the local government to provide training on energy management and auditing for municipal buildings, including schools and hospitals. In a consultation with the Energy and Communal Services in the Pavlodar region, Department Chief Mr. Nurlan Mashrapov shared how these green energy changes are going to impact local lives. “We want our kids to grow up in a city with clean air and green industry. We’re grateful for the help from USAID to teach us how to implement energy efficiency in our public buildings.”

In a further effort to support sustainable and innovative approaches to carbon reduction, Kazakhstan’s Vice Minister of Environmental Protection, Marlen Iskakov, and representatives of the U.S. Government, including Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Fairfax, and USAID Regional Mission Director Anne Aarnes, formalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 25, 2013. The MOU signified an agreement to work together on an Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategy, a long-term development plan to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. This was a groundbreaking milestone in Kazakhstan’s commitment to climate resiliency and a significant event as our countries collaborate to ensure a sustainable response to climate change.

Bringing the Private Sector into Disaster Risk Reduction

In this century alone, disasters killed approximately 1.2 million people and affected 2.9 billion people, almost half the world’s population. Furthermore, disaster risks continue to grow every day due to population growth, poverty, weak governance, rapid and unplanned urbanization—especially in hazard-prone areas, climate change, and a general lack of awareness on disaster risks and losses.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)’s third Global Assessment Report (GAR13) was launched this month in the U.S., revealing how transformation of the global economy over the past few decades has led to an increase in disaster risks globally. The report, ‘From Shared Risk to Shared Value: The Business Case for Disaster Risk Reduction,’ highlights disaster losses in the past and also explores potential future disaster losses in business-as-usual scenarios.

Direct economic losses from disasters during this century—including the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami —are estimated at $2.5 trillion. Photo credit: Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock/U.S. Air Force

USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) seeks to save lives and alleviate suffering caused by disasters overseas—and significant progress has been made so far. However, challenges remain in mitigating the economic impacts of disasters and building resilience in communities and countries, a goal USAID/OFDA works toward and the reason why the Office lends support to the GAR13’s research and findings.

Recent major disasters, including the 2011 earthquake in Japan, the 2011 floods in Thailand, and last year’s Hurricane Sandy in the U.S., showcased how truly devastating disasters can be to businesses. Direct economic losses from this century are estimated at $2.5 trillion, a figure that is largely underestimated.

However, indirect losses are even worse. For example, if a factory is destroyed by an earthquake and forced to close for a few months, not only is its output stalled but its workers also lose precious time while out of much needed work. If a flash flood demolishes a bridge, both small and large businesses are affected. A small local farm may become isolated, for example, preventing it from delivering its goods. This in turn will disrupt the supply chain for larger corporations. Even businesses in safe locations can be affected by disasters that impact their counterparts and suppliers in other parts of the world.

It is clear that the benefits of disaster risk reduction efforts extend to businesses as well as affected individuals, and that incorporating the private sector into the process of reducing disaster risks in hazard-prone communities is necessary in today’s world. Disasters don’t recognize boundaries, and USAID/OFDA will continue to search for opportunities to engage the international community—including the private sector, public sector, our partners, and the people we seek to help—as we strive to save lives, alleviate suffering, and mitigate the economic and social impacts of future disasters.

Photo of the Week: U.S. & India Announce Innovation, Science, and Technology Awards

 

Yesterday, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah announced the Millennium Alliance (MA) winners in India. MA is a partnership between USAID, FICCI, and India’s Technology Development Board, Department of Science and Technology to support new innovations that strengthen early grade reading as well as increase access to clean and affordable energy, safe drinking water, quality health care, and a nutritious food supply to those most in need. Out of over 1,400 applications in the first round, nine awardees were announced on June 24 in New Delhi, India.

In this photo is one of the winners receiving the award certificate from Honorable Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Mr. S. Jaipal Reddy and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. Photo is from U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India.

We the Geeks: Innovation for Global Good

This originally appeared on The White House Blog.

Geeks have had a lasting positive impact on the lives of millions of people in the developing world—from the innovations and insights that fueled the Green Revolution, to the historic scientific achievements that have marked the “Beginning of the End of AIDS.” Today, geeks are playing a central role in building technologies, making discoveries, building businesses, and engineering solutions that benefit people and communities around the world.

As President Obama and the First Lady travel to Africa next week, the White House will host a “We The Geeks” Google+ Hangout this Thursday, June 27 at 1:00 pm EST to discuss innovation for global good with some of the creative minds making it happen. These individuals are harnessing their science, engineering, and entrepreneurial skills to answer the President’s call to eradicate extreme poverty in the next two decades. The Hangout will be moderated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation, Tom Kalil. Speakers include:

  • Nikhil Jaisinghani and Brian Shaad, Co-founders, Mera Gao Power (MGP);
  • Vineet Bewtra, Director of Investments, Omidyar Network;
  • Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor, U.S. Agency for International Developmentand
  • Alix Zwane, Executive Director, Evidence Action.

Hangout participants will hear from leaders within and outside government, who are working together to spur game-changing innovations in global development. USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, for example, is seeding, testing, and scaling the next generation of powerful innovations in development from geeks the world over.

Read the rest of this post.

Supporting Syrian Refugees in Turkey

This originally appeared on Dipnote

I am in Nizip 2, a refugee camp in southeastern Turkey. Rows of pre-fabricated containers house 4,000 Syrian refugees who fled the destruction of civil war. Nearby is Nizip 1, where 10,000 refugees live in tents. Both are tucked into a small piece of land on the banks of the Euphrates River.

It smells like fresh rain; I can hear a muezzin’s calls to prayer. Groups of children look at me curiously, shuffling by and as I reach out my hand, the little fingers of a smiling, dusty girl find mine. Her hand is replaced by another little hand, then another. For the next ten minutes, dozens of little boys and girls, unkempt and smiling, come to me. “Marhaba (welcome),” they say.

Syrian Refugees at a Camp in Kilis, Turkey. Photo credit: AP

This was my first week as Humanitarian Advisor to the U.S. Mission to Turkey, and I am struck all at once by the depth of the humanitarian crisis and honored to be welcomed so warmly by Turks and Syrians alike. There are 17 refugee camps in Turkey, soon to grow to 24. If I were to map the refugees’ paths with pushpins and strings, all of Syria and half of Turkey would be an intricate web.  Turkey has already welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees, who have settled from Hatay province, just across Syria’s northern border, to Istanbul in the far northeast, the bridge to Europe.

Many of the most vulnerable have been sent to container camps like Nizip 2, as these dwellings provide solid protection from the elements. Some of the women’s husbands are fighting in the Free Syrian Army. They return from war to visit their spouses and children; sometimes they have been injured in battle. The container homes were built by the Government of Turkey, setting a high standard as an exemplary humanitarian actor. Camps like Nizip provide schools, playgrounds, fields and recreational facilities for kids; vocational training rooms, computer and television rooms for youths. The Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) fabricates and distributes fire-resistant tents; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provides kitchen burners and sets containing utensils. The World Food Program, through the TRC, provides electronic cards with money that refugees can use to purchase essential food at the camp market. UNICEF provides educational support. The United States is the largest funder of many of these international efforts.

My task is to monitor the humanitarian situation, identify protection needs, and coordinate international assistance programs. I visit refugees in camps and urban areas, and liaise with the U.S. government, international and non-governmental organizations, and Government of Turkey officials to coordinate assistance. Here on temporary assignment from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration in the Department of State, I am one piece of a vast international effort that brings together the hospitality of the Turks, the generosity of UN member states, and the refugees themselves, who courageously face an uncertain future.

The children whose hands squeeze mine have no way of understanding the complex effort that supports them here, but I think they appreciate our presence. It is a sign that, despite what they have been through, they are not forgotten. I hope they are able to leave the camp, return to their homes, and become normal kids again. In the meantime, they will be taken care of here, thanks to unwavering support by the Government of Turkey and the international community.

About the Author: Heather Fabrikant serves as a Humanitarian Advisor at the U.S. Mission in Turkey.

Video of the Week: Feed the Future in Tanzania

Feed The Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative focused on specific countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In Tanzania, U.S. Government (USG) assistance will support MKUKUTA, the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction. This represents a critical effort as the country is not presently on target meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for reducing the percentage of people below the food poverty line and halving the number of people below the income poverty line. USAID is working closely with other USG organizations through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach, bringing its technical expertise and capacity to lead this initiative.

Learn more about Feed the Future.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDAfrica on Twitter to learn more about our work in Africa and use #USAIDAfrica to join the conversation.

USAID in the News

Betsy Engebretson published a piece on Georgetown’s Public Policy Reviewblog about the USAID’s new Water and Development Strategy and how it can strengthen global water, sanitation, and hygiene efforts.

Children in Sindh, Pakistan, play at a water pump. Photo credit: Georgetown Public Policy Review

The Huffington Post published a blog on Father’s Day with Administrator Shah and Tony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Child Survival Call to Action. Nicole Schiegg also published a blog in the Huffington Post on child survival.

Ronald Brownstein published an article in the National Journal about USAID’s new orientation that is making a bigger difference with less money. Administrator Raj Shah is quoted saying, “We have tried to put in place a new model as so many more actors have gotten involved.  There’s a new constellation of engagement on these issues that make possible great outcomes.”

USAID/Montenegro premiered a video documentary series during the mission’s closeout event on June 12. The event brought together 250 partners and government officials plus the U.S. Ambassador to celebrate the conclusion of 12 years of USAID assistance in governance, economic growth and support for people with disabilities.

On the Front Lines in Africa

Nowhere is development such an important part of U.S. engagement as it is in Africa. In anticipation of the President’s trip next week, we thought we’d share some of our favorite FrontLines stories about our work in Africa. President Obama’s strategies on global development and Africa have laid the foundation for a new approach that focus on sustainable development and a new operational model for assistance. We look forward to the opportunities that this visit will bring.

Our Favorites include:

Food Security

Child Survival

Innovation

Women and Development

Conflict Mitigation and Prevention

  • Ethiopia: Peace Brokers: USAID-sponsored reconciliation efforts usher in historic truce accord in Ethiopia’s pastoral south.

Democracy, Human Rights, and Government

Humanitarian Assistance

Resilience

  • Niger: Niger’s Tree of Life: In the face of recurring food insecurity and acute malnutrition, USAID is promoting the cultivation of hardy, vitamin-packed moringa as one way to build resilience in communities in the drought-prone Sahel.

Follow @USAID and @rajshah on Twitter for updates on the trip and to learn more about our work in Africa. Join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica.

From The Field: Getting Creative in Supporting Local Governance

Amid the political reform movements that swept through the Middle East and North Africa in the past three years, the government in Morocco responded with a new constitution promoting enhanced citizen participation.

Building a democratic, constitutional state – founded on the principles of participation, pluralism and good governance – is critical for lasting peace and stability, and this new constitution takes steps in that direction. Last month I attended an open forum between citizens and local government officials that aimed to bring those principles to life.

What are creative ways a government and its citizens improve communication with each other? The ideas from the youth leaders, newly elected female municipal officials, and municipality staff, and their enthusiasm to engage with USAID, particularly impressed me.

Former USAID/Morocco Mission Director, John Groarke (left), speaks with members of the youth council and local press. Photo credit: USAID

Hasnae Zahiri, an energetic young woman recently elected president of a rural municipality, told me that USAID’s support for the creation of an Equity & Equal Opportunity Commission helped pave the way for women’s political participation in her district. Of the thirteen members of the committee, four are women from rural areas.

Likewise, Anouar Ahmed Cherif, a member of a local youth council formed with USAID support, told me: “Before the council, our relationship to the commune [municipality] was merely administrative. Now, we have six members who attend the commune meetings and propose ideas and projects.” As a result of his council’s recommendation, a proposal is circulating to transform a nearby forested area into a public park.

To improve government transparency and reduce the risk of corruption and fraud, USAID is helping to establish internal auditing systems within local municipalities. USAID training resulted in the launch of an investigation into an increase in unauthorized construction projects in the city of Safi. Thanks to the program’s success in providing oversight, the municipality is planning to help neighboring communes establish the same system.

These few examples illustrate the important role USAID is playing in helping government institutions at various levels become more inclusive and effective. The work is hard, and results take time to achieve. But the civil society groups, young democracy activists, and empowered political movements shaping the country’s future inspire me as USAID continues helping them in their endeavors.

John Groarke is the former Mission Director of USAID/Morocco. He has served in the Agency for the past eighteen years. 

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