On November 18, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted Alice Albright, chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), for a conversation with Africa Center Senior Director Amb. Rama Yade and senior fellow Abdoul Salam Bello about the upcoming US-Africa Leaders Summit. Republic of Benin Minister of Economy and Finance Romuald Wadagni provided opening remarks.
Wadagni opened the conversation by addressing the MCC’s projects in Benin and its impacts on the country’s economic growth. Wadagni outlined three ways in which the MCC is boosting economic performance: by “breaking ground for significant investment in key sectors,” namely the energy infrastructure sector; “improving governance in those sectors”; and helping the people of Benin “gain expertise.” Wadagni was hopeful for the future of the MCC’s involvement in Benin.
Albright began by discussing her impressions coming out of COP27 in Egypt. “There’s clearly a significant sense of urgency coming out of COP,” she said, “about the many different aspects of the climate crisis.” She noted the importance of the climate finance sector for the MCC’s projects. She discussed how “money is going to the top part of the list, from the private sector to the multilateral development banks… it’s the bottom part of the list that’s not getting the money it needs to.” MCC’s recent endeavor Climate Finance+, in cooperation with the US Agency for International Development, will work to bolster private-sector investment in countries that are being bypassed by the traditional climate-finance architecture.
After Albright’s notes on climate finance, Bello asked Albright about the MCC’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility strategy. “We have looked at diversity, equity, and inclusion both internally within our agency and externally,” explained Albright. “Externally, we know that if we leave marginalized communities out… countries are not going to have the chances to progress in the ways that they need to.” Albright also said that the MCC is committed to routinely reassessing how diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are integrated into their work both at home and abroad.
The conversation then turned towards a discussion of US-Africa trade relations as Yade noted how “US-Africa trade relations are at a crossroads with the expiration of [the African Growth and Opportunity Act]” currently set for 2025. With that looming, Albright said the MCC is committed to bolstering regional trade. She discussed the MCC’s authorization in 2018 to initiate regional compacts between African countries. According to Albright, many difficulties exist in initiating these agreements, noting how “any country involved in a regional compact must itself be eligible to work for MCC and the projects must also meet all our economic criteria.”
“It’s very difficult to achieve all that,” she added. According to Albright, the MCC is excited to work on its first regional trade pact between Benin and Niger. Albright then explained why taking a regional approach is important in tackling the world’s three most pressing current issues: food security, pandemic preparedness, and energy. “All three of them in one way or another could benefit from a regional approach instead of a country-by-country approach,” she noted. Albright said she was hopeful about the African Growth and Opportunity Act’s potential to complement this work.
Finally, Bello asked about the MCC’s work partnering with organizations to support a just climate transition. “Our work in the climate area tends to focus on the resilience side of the equation,” said Albright. MCC’s work focuses on supporting countries to overcome pressing climate-related issues. Albright highlighted the MCC’s work helping to access underground water resources in Niger. However, she also discussed how the interconnectedness of these issues impacts the nature of the MCC’s work: “Our agenda would not be to help work on climate change itself, but to work on those aspects of a country that are being impacted by climate change.” She primarily outlined agriculture, transportation, energy efficiency, and drought resilience as common themes of their work.
The conversation concluded with a discussion of Albright’s visits to Sub-Saharan African countries and the “common themes” of financial pressures and climate-related issues that continue. She said the MCC is committed to promoting country-based ownership for its programs on the continent. Overall, Albright, on behalf of the MCC, voiced a strong dedication to alleviating the issues most of concern to its African partners.
Caitlin Mittrick is a young global professional at the Atlantic Council Africa Center and a graduate student at the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.
For its inaugural #AroundThe2022Summit conversation, the Africa Center is thrilled to host Alice Albright, the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), for a discussion held between the ongoing 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) taking place on the African continent in Egypt and the upcoming US-Africa Leaders Summit being held in December.
The conversation will be opened by Romuald Wadagni, Minister of Economy and Finance for the Republic of Benin.
This discussion will look at the future of US-Africa relations, touching upon the MCC’s priorities going forward. Topics covered in the conversation include international uncertainty due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, how the MCC views the international development landscape, including the Bretton Woods regulatory reform proposed by Secretary Yellen, and how investment serves as a cornerstone of future American involvement in Africa.
Since its establishment in 2004, MCC has provided more than $15 billion in grant financing to low and lower-middle income countries across six continents. Those investments are expected to benefit nearly 215 million people. The MCC’s singular mission is to reduce poverty through economic growth as promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth is a key part of the US government’s efforts to build a stronger, more resilient global community, promote good governance and democratic values, and create new markets and opportunities for the private sector. More than 70% of MCC’s portfolio is in Africa, translating to approximately $3.1 billion in active grant programs.
Join the Africa Center online for this conversation on Friday, November 18, 2022, at 2:00p.m. ET.
Chief Executive Officer
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC)
Minister of Economy and Finance
The Republic of Benin
Amb. Rama Yade
Africa Center, Atlantic Council
Abdoul Salam Bello
Africa Center, Atlantic Council
*Please stay tuned for the Keynote speaker.
The Africa Center works to promote dynamic geopolitical partnerships with African states and to redirect US and European policy priorities toward strengthening security and bolstering economic growth and prosperity on the continent.