- The United States has admitted Mali in its list of countries that may benefit from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). A sum of US$ 461 million was approved for Mali to battle poverty by investing in infrastructure after it has signed an agreement with the MCC board. Only democratic nations respecting human rights and economic transparency may receive MCC funds.
The five-year development agreement dubbed compact aims to reduce poverty in Mali through economic growth by increasing agricultural production and fostering small and medium size enterprises. It will also enable Mali to expand its access to markets and trade, a news release from MCC stated.
According to the MCC board, the investment will support the development of key infrastructure and policy reforms to address Mali's constraints on growth by capitalising on Niger River for irrigated agriculture and the Bamako-Senou International Airport, a gateway for regional and international trade.
With an average per capita income of US$ 380, Mali ranks among the poorest countries in the world. Mali has been dependent on low-value agricultural products, livestock and fish, which are vulnerable to erratic weather patterns. The country's difficult economic situation has been aggravated by its small and constrained industrial base and its land-locked nature.
"Infrastructure deficiencies are often among the major barriers to poverty reduction and economic growth in Africa," noted MCC chief officer, Ambassador John Danilovich.
Mr Danilovich said the Mali-MCC compact addresses not only specific infrastructure constraints but also is to ensure the promising agriculture sector for Mali. "We congratulate the Malians on their tremendous efforts to create this compact and welcome working with them toward achieving its significant goals," he added.
The largest component of the compact is the US$ 234.6 million Alatona irrigation project, which is expected to increase crop and food production, improve land tenure security, modernise irrigated production systems and mitigate the uncertainty from subsistence rain-fed agriculture.
The project, according to the MCC, seeks to develop 16,000 hectares of newly irrigated lands and represents an almost 20 percent increase in "drought-proof" agriculture in the Office du Niger area, which contains one of the oldest and largest irrigation schemes in sub-Saharan Africa, begun by the French in 1932.
"The Alatona irrigation project will introduce innovative agricultural, land tenure, credit and water management practices, as well as policy and organisational reforms aimed at realising the Office du Niger's potential to serve as an engine of rural growth for Mali," the release said.
An additional US$ 89.6 million has been allocated for Bamako airport improvement project that is to remove constraints to air traffic growth and increase efficiency in both passenger and freight handling through improved infrastructure. US$ 94.6 million were earmarked for an industrial park project at Bamako airport. This is to establish "an anchor" for a growing industrial sector, particularly in agro-processing.
The compact also includes support for programme management, oversight and monitoring and evaluation, totalling US$ 42.3 million.
The MCC board believed that the funds would improve the standard of living in Mali, where thousands of poor people were expected to have greater access to education, health services, markets and potable water. At least 85,000 new jobs were expected to be created because of increased manufacturing and trade.
MCC was established by President George Bush on 23 January 2004. MCC assistance is given to countries that pass a test of democracy, good governance, human rights, among other standards defined by the Washington administration.
In 2004, the US Congress provided nearly US$ 1 billion in initial funding for fiscal year 2004 but President Bush requested US$ US3 billion for 2007. He has pledged to increase annual funding to US$ 5 billion.
MCC has previously signed compacts with Benin, Cape Verde, Ghana and Madagascar in Africa, in addition to Armenia and Georgia in Europe, Honduras and Nicaragua in Latin America and Vanuatu in the Pacific. Several undemocratic nations have been rejected by the MCC.
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