How MCC’s work in Tanzania supports a better economic future for the US

This blog post by MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes originally appeared on the White House blog earlier this week.

George's Pineapple Farm

Earlier this year, President Obama made clear in his State of the Union address that his focus is on winning the future -– getting our economy going after the worst recession since the Great Depression, while laying the foundation for long-term economic growth and job creation.

Some might wonder how an international development agency like the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) fits into this vision. America has always been a generous nation, and our moral leadership is reflected in MCC’s goal of reducing poverty through economic growth in developing countries. But MCC’s investments not only benefit poor people overseas, they are critically important to our future prosperity here at home.

That fact is illustrated in Tanzania where MCC investments are both helping to reduce poverty and providing opportunities for American companies. In 2008, MCC signed a $698 million compact with Tanzania. Two American companies, Symbion Power and Pike Electric, were awarded — after an open, competitive bidding process — contracts to build more than 20 power sub-stations and install approximately 1,000 miles of power lines in Tanzania, which will provide electricity to over 330 communities previously without power.

This weekend Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and I are visiting with these American entrepreneurs, who have used MCC-funded contracts as an opportunity to enter a new market and make their own investment in Tanzania.

While still one of the poorest countries in the world, with a gross national income of approximately $500 per capita, Tanzania is among a group of relatively well-governed African nations that are moving in the right direction. Real GDP growth has been 6 percent or higher in Tanzania in every year over the last decade – even in the midst of the global financial crisis.

In short, Tanzania is a next-generation emerging market that is a smart place to invest for American companies with an eye on the long term.

That is exactly the thinking of Symbion Power, which has just purchased a 112-megawatt power plant in Tanzania that it plans to modify and expand. Secretary Clinton and I are touring the plant with Symbion Power CEO Paul Hinks, and we are excited about this new venture and its potential to improve electrical service in Tanzania and provide an American company with a stronger foothold in Africa.

In this increasingly globalized economy, we need innovative companies like Symbion and Pike to aggressively pursue opportunities in fast-growing African markets. Their investments will help reduce poverty in Tanzania, but will also support jobs and economic growth in the United States. And the ties they forge will encourage Tanzania to look to America as a trading partner.

That is why MCC is excited to be partnering with companies like Symbion and Pike. As the progress we are making here shows, smart investment in the developing world and close partnership with the private sector can allow us to improve the lives of those who live in poverty even as we build a stronger America for our children and grandchildren.

Daniel W. Yohannes is the Chief Executive Officer of the Millenium Challenge Corporation.