- The Namibian government has been awarded a record US$ 304.5 million grant by the US development agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The grant will be paid out during five years to finance education, rural training and poverty reduction programmes.
At a signing ceremony yesterday in the office of Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula, the MCC pledged to make the US$ 304.5 million poverty reduction grant to be paid out over five years. It represents the largest grant ever received by Namibia, a country of only two million inhabitants that received a modest total of US$ 123 million in development aid from all donors in 2006.
According to the MCC, the five-year commitment by the US development aid agency "will help strengthen access to and quality of Namibia's education and training sector, increase productivity of farm enterprises in communal rural areas and promote growth in Namibia's tourism industry."
Peter Katjavivi, Director General of the Namibian National Planning Commission (NPC), was present at the signing ceremony and hailed the giant agreement reached with the MCC. "The MCC objective of reducing poverty through economic growth was worked into a manageable and sustainable programme, closely linked to existing development efforts, which we believe will stand the test of implementation," Mr Katjavivi stated.
The signing comes after years of negotiating the best ways of achieving a maximum impact of the large grant, as Namibia became eligible for MCC funding already in November 2005. Several sectors have been singled out, where external funding could have a maximum impact on poverty reduction and Namibian authorities have the necessary capacities and human resources to follow up.
It was agreed that the programme is to improve the education sector's effectiveness through broader access to vocational training, upgrading of infrastructure and equipment in educational facilities, and acquisition of textbooks for grades five through twelve.
Targetting the widespread rural poverty, the grant is to also enhance the economic performance of the agricultural sector by supporting the construction of five veterinary centres and the tagging of one million cattle in high volume, under-served livestock areas, introducing community-based rangeland management practices, and advancing the business capacity of the Namibian indigenous natural products industry.
Finally, the MCC supported programme is set to increase incomes and create employment opportunities through strategic investments in Namibia's ecotourism sector, the world famous Etosha National Park and marketing of Namibia tourism. Tourism, together with food exports, is seen as one of Namibia's greatest potentials for further growth and development.
Namibian authorities now stand under pressure to make use of the MCC grant, as all funds not spend by the end of the five-year period of implementation must be returned to the US agency. Mr Katjavivi however told Namibian reporter Beatrix Dube that government would move rapidly to make the implementation period of the project a success. "There will be no delays, no unnecessary red-tape. I am confident we can actually do this," he said.
The MCC, which only was set up in 2004, is the second largest distributor of US development aid after USAID. It focuses on compact programmes in a few countries that are found eligible, following tough criteria on democratic and economic freedom. Namibia is the 18th country worldwide and 11th in Africa and to reach MCC funding. MCC programmes already run in Madagascar, Cape Verde, Benin, Ghana, Mali, Mozambique, Lesotho, Morocco, Tanzania and Burkina Faso.
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