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SOTU 2014: The Developmentista Edition

This is a joint post with Erin Collinson.

President Obama will deliver his 2014 State of the Union speech Tuesday, January 28. We polled CGD experts to find out what they’re hoping to hear when the president addresses Congress and the nation.  Check out their oratorical contributions below and read about the development-related decisions and policies they would like to emerge in support of the rhetoric.

What’s Happening with Power Africa and the Electrify Africa Act?

In June 2013, President Obama announced a major new development initiative, which aims to double access to electricity in Sub Saharan Africa. The first phase of the Power Africa Initiative focuses on adding more than 10,000 megawatts of “cleaner, more efficient generation capacity” in six partner countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania).  This should increase electricity access for at least 20 million households and commercial entities through on-grid, mini-grid, and off-grid solutions.  The US government will commit up to $7 billion over five years to this effort, while helping to mobilize more than $9 billion in private investment.  My colleague Todd Moss and I have warmly welcomed this new initiative while also flagging a few things to watch for and think about (see here, here, here, here, and here for examples).

Is Anyone Listening to What Ordinary Africans Think?

“Too often, donors’ decisions are driven more by our own political interests or our policy preferences than by our partners’ needs.”

These charged words did not come from an energetic NGO arguing for major changes to US development policy.  They were delivered by then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a high-level gathering of development officials in late 2011. 

Is Anyone Listening? US Foreign Aid (Mis)Alignment – Benjamin Leo

My guest on this week’s Global Prosperity Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow and director of the Rethinking US Development Policy program Ben Leo, here to discuss his new CGD working paper, Is Anyone Listening?  in which he examines how well US foreign assistance aligns with the priorities of people in recipient countries. Answer: not so much or, as Ben puts it more diplomatically: “the alignment is modest at best.”

When Should Donors Respond to What People Want?

When the post-2015 process kicked off, I was regularly asked what the new MDGs should include. My response almost always raised eyebrows. I’d say “whatever ordinary people want them to be” and that decision makers should ask them (not people like me). Not highly choreographed ‘consultations’ with interest groups and stakeholder representatives. No, that’s far too old school and distortionary. Instead, those coming up with new global goals should just ask ordinary people about their priorities through open-ended, representative surveys.

Six Quick and Dirty Priorities for the Next MCC Boss

Last week, President Obama announced his intent to nominate the MCC’s CEO, Daniel Yohannes, to be the next US ambassador to the OECD. That sounds like a pretty sweet gig. Who wouldn’t want to spend some time working in Paris, right? As with any passing of the guard, this will be a natural opportunity for reflection at the MCC and perhaps even a few new ideas. In fact, it’s much more than that.

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