CGD Policy Blogs
America’s development finance agency is constantly being pulled in three directions. The primary mandate of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is to promote development by catalyzing private capital from US firms in emerging and frontier markets. OPIC is also supposed to support US foreign policy by making commercial investments aligned with diplomatic, security, or democracy objectives. Lastly, OPIC must operate on a commercial basis so projects are both sustainable over the long-term and cost nothing to US taxpayers.
Even among policymakers, there is plenty of misunderstanding around how the US government’s premier agency charged with advancing a private sector-based development agenda, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), actually operates. When we searched for a database with key OPIC project-level information, we couldn’t find one. So we spent months manually entering all of the publicly available information on OPIC projects into a single location, the OPIC Scraped Portfolio dataset.
Yesterday the UK government formally launched its much-awaited Energy Africa campaign, which aims to accelerate electricity access for rural Africans. In a surprise move, DfID’s new plans include only support for small-scale solar power solutions. Typically these systems provide just enough power for a LED light bulb or two and a cellphone charger (see here and here for a few DfID favorites).
Mobile phone surveys are fast, flexible, and cheap. But, can they be used to engage citizens on how billions of dollars in donor and government resources are spent?
What does the 2016 election mean for America’s future position in the world? It’s likely too early to tell at this stage of the campaign cycle. Many of the early Republican contenders — such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker — have been relatively quiet on foreign policy issues or have focused almost exclusively on Iran, Israel, and Russia. That’s to be expected at this point. Yet, other candidates — like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham — are already outlining a more comprehensive vision for advancing American interests.
Last week, President Obama’s Global Development Council (GDC) released a second report calling for bold, as well as incremental, reforms to “make US development efforts more catalytic and innovative.” This is a high-powered group of outside thinkers and doers, and their recommendations are excellent.
Update: This blog was updated on 3/11/2015 from the original version.
The days of pushing priorities, pet projects, or expat consultants on countries are coming to a close. Connected and increasingly empowered individuals are demanding a greater say in setting priorities, designing and implementing programs, and assessing whether projects have achieved their desired results. For those agencies that recognize this trend, the question is how to meaningfully and cost effectively engage citizens in real time.