Africa / Asia / Caribbean / Impact Assessment / Latin America / Research / USA

Signs of an American shift from development aid to development investment

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Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010, a side event at the COP16 climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico (photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

Huffpost Business this week investigates ‘an intriguing dynamic developing in our nation’s capital among the three major influences that could end up changing the future of American aid to developing countries.

‘One is Congresswoman Kay Granger from Ft. Worth, TX. Another is Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). And then there is the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that has assumed the role of arbiter of the quality of the U.S. government’s leadership in global agricultural development. Each of them has the power to exert enormous influence over the gristmill through which government funding is pulverized into short and long term support.

‘Congresswoman Granger set the table recently at a luncheon when she praised Bill Gates and his foundation as a model for serving the world’s poorest. “[W]hen foreign aid is carefully guided and targeted at a specific issue, it can and must be effective. Bill Gates has shown us that investments overseas can produce a strong return.”

‘. . . If it becomes widely recognized that it is in the self-interest of the United States government to underwrite productive investments in emerging economies it is likely that others in Congress will look to her for leadership in creating a template that builds “political will” strong enough to fuel robust funding for results-driven programming like the administration’s marquee agricultural initiative called Feed The Future.

‘Shah, a rising star in Washington, DC, is a once-in-a-generation visionary who is driving innovation at the Agency for International Development, which has the manpower, the know-how and a professional staff that is tough and smart. What they’ve needed is a show runner and now they’ve got one. But, the funding is drying up, so every dollar is being revisited. . . .

‘In May 2011 the Chicago Council published its report card on the first two years of the Obama administration’s effectiveness in addressing 21 key issues identified by the Council that it considers essential for rebuilding U.S. support of agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. It gave the federal government an overall grade of B- for securing food availability in those two regions.

‘The report had a decidedly positive tone, despite criticism that the scope of work was too narrow, that USAID has not tapped into the enormous intellectual property represented by land-grant universities that have excellent agricultural colleges, and made the point that there should be greater involvement by the private sector. Other shortcomings were attributed in large measure to a lack of adequate funding. But, it marked progress for the first time in decades.

‘. . . This tri-partite movement is being driven from the top of each organization at the same time that the philosophy behind it is being embedded in grassroots organizations throughout the political system. It’s hard to see how it is going to be ignored.

‘. . . Government agencies need innovative managers who can solve practical problems quickly, and who can build systems from the ground up. They need people who know how to answer phones and return phone messages, who understand how the private sector thinks and can get a job done. They need to embrace the ingenuity of American enterprise, not alienate it. . . .’

Read the whole article at Huffpost Business: The future of funding: Development aid as an investment, 14 June 2011.

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