Speech for Deputy Chief of Mission – UFC Workshop, October 26, 2017

Speech for Deputy Chief of Mission – UFC Workshop

DCM’s UFC Workshop Remarks
October 26, 2017
King Fahd Palace Hotel, Dakar

(As prepared)

Good morning, friends. There are many important people here—too many for me to name without missing some. But I am sure I have left no one out by addressing each of you simply as a friend.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Government of Senegal are making big plans, and they have asked us to help. Madame Decraene—who is definitely a friend—has invited us here to offer our perspectives on some specific proposals.

Before we get started, I ask that you think about two important ideas:

  • First, consider the phrase “Millennium Challenge Corporation.” The most important of these three words is “challenge.”
  • Second, MCC wants to work with Senegal on a new challenge. If all goes well, the second challenge will be tougher than the first. That’s how MCC works.

Is Senegal ready for a tough challenge? Don’t answer until you’ve heard the rest of my speech.

Senegal and MCC took on their first challenge together by building roads and irrigation infrastructure. That first partnership came to an end two years ago. The results are impressive. Just ask anyone in Podor or Ndioum or in Kolda or Tanaf. But the work on that first challenge is incomplete. There are still some pieces missing from the Route Nationale 6.

This time, the objective is to make electricity cheaper and more accessible.

This is much easier to say than it is to do. It is not enough for the president to announce that the price of electricity will fall. The president can reduce the price you pay for electricity, but he cannot change the cost of producing it. To make Senegal’s economy competitive—to achieve a Sénégal émergent—it is vital that the cost of supplying electricity come down.

This is where some might say, “We have discovered oil and gas. That will solve the problem.” And I would say, “It is good to discover oil and gas. But the market still decides what energy costs.” None of us, not even a president, can overrule the market.

And so the challenge remains: What can we do together—MCC and Senegal—to make the supply of electricity cheaper, more reliable, and more accessible? [Note: In the translation, please use the phrase énergie abordable et accessible à tous. That’s the phrase the GOS uses.]

At this workshop you will consider some proposals designed to meet this challenge. They are good proposals. But to meet a tough challenge, Senegal needs more than good proposals. We need the best proposals. Today’s work should take us toward the best proposals.

MCC thinks like an investor. But instead of high profits, MCC is looking for the investments that have the biggest impact on economic growth. And like any smart investor, MCC chooses projects according to strict criteria. Here are some of the questions MCC asks about project proposals:

  • Does it directly address the obstacles to growth?
  • Can you finish it within five years?
  • How does it relate to policies on the environment, social goals, and gender?
  • Are the government and people directly affected truly committed?

Here’s another thing to remember about big investors like MCC: they have to explain everything to the people who supply the money. In this case, that is the Congress of the United States and, ultimately, the American taxpayer. Experience shows that our elected representatives in the Congress have higher expectations the second time around. That’s one reason why this challenge will be tougher. The Congress will also want to know if MCC’s previous investment has been sustained. I can assure you that quite a few people in Washington want to know when the Route Nationale 6 will be finished.

That should give you a good idea of how MCC sees things. But each of us here today also brings a different perspective to this discussion. Those different perspectives are focused on a common interest in Senegal’s success. Please keep this in mind as we work together today. This is part of the tough challenge MCC and Senegal face. People with different perspectives must aim higher than usual. We must look beyond the specific interests of the organizations we each represent. This is hard work.

Fortunately, we are in Senegal. I have been here a little more than a year, and every person I have met knows the value of hard work. So let us work hard, together. For as my Senegalese colleagues tell me, niakhe dieurignou. [Note: A loose translation is, “Heaven rewards effort.” Pronunciation assistance available upon request.]