“Events since the election have only reinforced that pessimism. We have heard lots of rhetoric on democracy, national reconciliation, and economic reform. We can point to a few token gestures of change. But below the surface, very little, if any, meaningful structural change has occurred.”
Power Africa has the potential to be transformative for millions of poor people and be the single biggest legacy in Africa for President Barack Obama. Observers now have roughly three years to reflect on the initiative: on what’s progressing well, what’s not, and where future risks may lie. While it is still too early to provide a complete analysis of outcomes, this report card provides a timely assessment at the close of this administration and an input to the next one. While the judgments of Power Africa are largely positive, the coming months will be crucial to keeping the effort on a positive trajectory.
Attention presidential transition teams: the Rethinking US Development Policy team at the Center for Global Development strongly urges you to include these three big ideas in your first year budget submission to Congress and pursue these three smart reforms during your first year.
On July 7, CGD chief operating officer and senior fellow Todd Moss testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a hearing titled “An Assessment of US Economic Assistance.” Moss’s remarks emphasized the role development finance in promoting market solutions to pover
The future of development policy is in development finance. Developing countries need aid less and less as their incomes rise and economies grow. What they need now is private investment and finance. US development policy, however, has failed to bring its development finance tools in line with this reality. Related US efforts have not been deployed in an efficient or strategic manner because authorities are outdated, staff resources are insufficient, and tools are dispersed across multiple agencies.
Other players are doing more. Well-established European development finance institutions (DFIs) are providing integrated services for businesses, and these services cover debt and equity financing, risk mitigation, and technical assistance. Moreover, emerging-market actors — including China, India, Brazil, and Malaysia — have dramatically increased financing activities in developing regions such as Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
As late as 1930, only 1 in 10 rural Americans had access to electricity. In subsequent years, rapidly increasing power generation and growing the electrical grid across the country became major pillars of the American battle against domestic poverty and a foundation for decades of economic growth and wealth creation. Today, energy access is universal in the United States. Reliable and affordable electricity is considered a basic necessity of life, an indispensable input to almost every aspect of modern living.
That same transformation is possible today in large parts of the developing world, where lack of access to modern energy harms quality of life and constrains economic growth. A concerted policy effort by the United States could help unleash tremendous human and market potential around the world. Pushing to promote electricity generation and access could significantly contribute to doing good in developing countries — and doing well for the United States.
Bringing US Development Finance into the 21st Century: Proposal for a Self-Sustaining, Full-Service USDFC
The imperative for US development finance has increased significantly due to a number of factors over the last decade. There is growing demand for private investment and finance from businesses, citizens, and governments in developing countries. Given the scale of challenges and opportunities, especially in promoting infrastructure investments and expanding productive sectors, there is an increasingly recognized need to promote private sector-based solutions.
Maximizing Access to Energy: Estimates of Access and Generation for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s Portfolio
We conservatively estimate that more than 60 million additional people in poor nations could gain access to electricity if the Overseas Private Investment Corporation were allowed to invest in natural gas projects, not just renewables.
A strengthened OPIC—more efficiently deploying existing tools at no additional budget cost—would (1) increase US commercial access in emerging economies, (2) reflect economic, social, and political priorities in developing countries, (3) promote flagship US initiatives during austere budget conditions, and (4) support stability in fragile or frontline states.
Senior fellow Todd Moss considers the future of foreign aid in light of Dambiso Moyo’s book, Dead Aid, which argues that Western aid to Africa has brought more harm than help. The relevant question today, he argues, is not whether aid is good or bad, but rather how aid can be made to work better for both donors and the people of Africa.
Conventional wisdom about US foreign policy toward Africa contains two popular assumptions. First, Democrats are widely considered the party most inclined to care about Africa and the most willing to spend resources on assistance to the continent. Second, the end of the Cold War was widely thought to have led to a gradual disengagement of the US from Africa and reduced American attention toward the continent. This paper analyzes OECD data on US foreign assistance flows from 1961-2000 and finds that neither of these assumptions is true.