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Seven Steps to Supercharge OPIC, America’s Unsung Development Hero

This is a joint post with Ben Leo, former CGD research fellow and now Policy Director at ONE.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation is the best US development agency you’ve probably never heard of. Known as OPIC, it’s often mistakenly confused with the oil cartel. But if you care about promoting economic opportunity around the world, then OPIC should be on your radar. And with a few changes, the Government could make OPIC a whole lot more impactful.

Launched in 1971, OPIC leverages public money to create market opportunities and crowd-in private capital by providing insurance, loans, and seed capital for new private equity funds. Over four decades, OPIC has helped to generate nearly $200 billion in new investment, enabling US investors to enter new markets and building a private sector in support of US policy objectives. The bonus of OPIC is not only that it works, but that it comes at no cost to US taxpayers. In fact, for 34 years in a row, OPIC has generated profits and contributed funds into the US Treasury (the FY2012 budget expects a $188 million contribution).

Send Salads to Ethiopia, and Solar Panels to Senegal

This post originally appeared on Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs' Policy Innovations blog.

Imagine the United States sending low-calorie food aid to Ethiopia in response to the global obesity epidemic. Absurd, right? Even if global waistline trends are worrisome, Ethiopians didn't create the problem. Such a policy would be futile since it would have no noticeable impact on the global aggregate.