Windhoek: Multibillion-dollar investments by the U.S. government through the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) Namibia should be able to translate into greater trade between Namibia and the USA, with the full participation of the private sector. That was the message of senior advisor to the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Cassandra Butts, in an exclusive interview with New Era.
“Trade is something that President Barack Obama has put an emphasis on, so we want to see more engagement on that front, and we think what we have done at Millennium Challenge Corporation, with MCA Namibia, can lay the groundwork for that,” said Butts.
The U.S. wants to see greater trade with Namibia and hopes that this would be part of the continuing healthy bilateral relations between the two countries after the end of the MCA grant in late 2014, she said. Through the MCC the U.S. government channels assistance to low-income and lower middle-income countries in support of policies and programmes that advance the prospects of such countries in achieving lasting economic growth and poverty reduction.
Butts visited Namibia for the first time last week to look at MCC funded programmes, which she described as having achieved “good progress” at the end of the visit.
Namibia signed up for a US$304,5 million (about N$2,53 billion at the current exchange rate) grant for a period of five years. The country has already entered the halfway mark, with two years and couple of months left before the grant expires. However, since Namibia’s income levels are categorised as upper-middle income, it would no longer be able to benefit from the programme when MCA funding comes to an end.
Butts expressed the hope that the work done now through MCA Namibia “would leave a foundation that will assist Namibia in attracting other bilateral assistance, either through the U.S. government or through other countries, or other multilateral institutions.”
Education, tourism, and agriculture are the three sectors that receive funding from the MCC funds, through MCA Namibia with funding for the construction of infrastructure; the provision of equipment, textbooks and training, as well as policy reform. The aim is to increase the contribution of these sectors to the economic growth of Namibia, as well as to leverage private sector investment.
“The investments we make, projects we chose in partnering with countries, are based on constraints to economic growth that the countries face. We are focusing on assisting countries in creating sustained economic growth.
“And part of that assistance is attracting the private sector so that there is greater engagement on the part of the private sector so that economic growth is sustained. We want to see greater trade between our countries and hope that we will remain a part of the continuing healthy bilateral relationship,” said Butts, who was formerly U.S. deputy White House counsel.
She described the MCA Namibia team as impressive and committed to the implementation of the MCA grant, which she dubbed a “complex and important investment”.
“I cannot say enough about the people I have met and level of engagement that I have received and how impressed I have been by the commitment to work in partnership and to complete our work in five years in order to reduce poverty and create economic growth through that work,” she said.