New MCC CEO Looks To Engage Private Sector in Aid Efforts

Daniel W. Yohannes is already making waves. The new chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corp. has his sights set on an improved aid system: one that actively engages the private sector in leveraging current investments and delivers innovative, results-driven products and services.

Yohannes plans to set up his management team within the next 30 to 45 days, and has been in and out of consultative meetings since he took up his appointment.

"This is my second week at MCC; it's been extremely busy," he admitted. "But again, because of the preparation that the Senate had given me before I came here, it feels as though I've been here for a long time."

Speaking at an outreach event in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 10, Yohannes highlighted the need for innovation in foreign assistance.

He said: "What has worked in the past five years may not necessarily work for the next five years. So we're looking to make sure that we have products and services to meet the demands of our constituencies going forward."

To do this, the new MCC head plans to assist partner countries in restructuring their economic policies. He also believes in actively engaging the private sector to leverage investments in developing countries.

"In the long term, if you're about to bring economic sustainability or prosperity, you must engage the private sector. Public sector alone cannot do the job," the Ethiopian native argued.

Citing Cape Verde as an example, Yohannes suggested a more results-driven approach: "Even though we understand that many of the projects, like this one [Cape Verde], takes a very long time, nevertheless there is a need to show immediate results."

The former vice chairman of U.S. Bank foresees a lot of collaboration within the sector, and will be meeting with other international development stakeholders, including U.S. Agency for International Development's designated chief Rajiv Shah, who may be confirmed as early as Friday by the Senate. Through increased collaboration, he hopes to rid the system of duplication; making it more effective and efficient.

MCC has a memorandum of understanding with the British and French governments, and Yohannes looks to "utilize the friendship" in drawing up good projects.

For now, he's dealing with first orders of business. A day after being sworn in, he joined Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other MCC board members in selecting compact countries for fiscal year 2010.

In addition to approving Cape Verde for a second compact, the board gave the green light to Indonesia, Jordan, Malawi and the Philippines to continue developing their compacts.

While Niger's threshold program was suspended, two new components were added to Mongolia's compact, a road rehabilitation project and an energy and environment project. Yohannes lauded Mongolia's new focus on renewable energy, and called for "more innovative projects like this one."

Yohannes, who has prior experience in clean energy, also expressed his desire for more investments in wind, solar and hydro energy.

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