Remarks by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah at the Sida Signing Ceremony

Friday, March 26, 2010
Sida Signing Ceremony

Thank you, it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to be here and it is really wonderful to spend time today honoring the Development Credit Authority. I had the chance to walk through the EGAT Bureau and meet with teams there, and John you weren’t there, but I did get a chance to meet with the DCA team, and it was very exciting for me because I’ve spent a lot of time, and I’ll speak to this, seeing the DCA work in action, and I want to make an important point about that. But John, I want to thank you and the DCA team for having me here.

I also want to extend a special thank you to our guests from Sida, most notably Dr. Anders Nordström, it is a really great pleasure of mine. I am a medical doctor in development, so I have followed Dr. Nordström’s career fairly closely, and you have of course left a tremendous mark on the global health landscape in so many different roles and capacities, and so I look forward to working very closely with you in this area, but also in that one.

I wanted to say a word about the DCA and our efforts to expand credit and access to capital to entrepreneurs, small and medium enterprises, larger businesses in countries where we work and where we prioritize our poverty reduction mission.

And here is the point I wanted to make about the past 7 or 8 years for me, and seeing the DCA in action. When I was at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, because we were a private organization tied to an iconic symbol of entrepreneurial success, we got a tremendous amount of credit for anything we did that spurred private sector development. It was always on the front page of the New York Times because we were being innovative and creative and bringing Bill Gates’ incredible intelligence and experience to this task.

And I used to travel around Kenya and almost all the case studies there (in the video) that are African I’ve had the chance to visit or participate in, Echo Bank and Oiko Credit and some of these other programs. And when you peel the surface, a lot of times we were adding to a project that was already underway, but that had been instigated by the access to the Development Credit Authority, and USAID has never been accused of ever being extraordinarily entrepreneurial or private sector-oriented and we deserve a lot more credit, and your team deserves a lot more credit, for really paving the way. You have enabled not just the US Agency for International Development and the mission directors who participate to make real inroads into access to capital and a private sector view on development, but you’ve made that possible for private organizations and foundations, you’ve made it possible for other international development agencies, and you’ve pursued that work in a spirit of real learning that I hope is something that we can talk about more and learn from more—the fact that this is a program that gets better year after year at sourcing deals, at expanding the funnel of deals that come through, at doing things in a way that is ever more sustainable and bringing in more partners to create the kind of robust credit authority mechanism that you need so that someday we can step away and leave vibrant, self-sustaining credit markets. So that’s very exciting.

And it’s also very exciting because, as you know, this President and this administration are firmly committed to the concept of individual entrepreneurship and the real spread of private enterprise around the world. It is not without note that one of the president’s top international priorities in development is entrepreneurship, the White House will host at the end of April an entrepreneurship summit that will be attended by the President and, unique in recent times, it will have emphasis on domestic entrepreneurship as a vehicle for significant jobs growth in an environment where we need it and it is the absolute focus of the administration. But it will also talk about lessons learned from entrepreneurship and job creation from all around the world and will highlight and call to attention this Development Credit Authority, so I am just very proud of what this team is doing and the fact that we get to be participants in your leadership

I also think this partnership with Sida is incredibly important and sets the tone for the types of partnerships I hope will be the hallmark of our leadership here.

First, it really does bring together partners that have a shared base of experience and innovation in this sector. Swedish Sida has been out there doing this work, sourcing deals, working with private sector organizations, and has developed a rich knowledge base that will allow us to learn from each other as we go forward. They bring unique tools to this context so that their capabilities will align with ours.

One of the tools I hope over time we can develop, and I know this will take some time, is that in addition to have the credit authority vehicles to expand access to credit, I hope we can develop real equity investment vehicles, because often it is the equity investment that’s the missing piece in many of these countries, especially for small and medium enterprises that don’t have access to even a little bit of equity that is necessary to then leverage much larger debt flows. So as we work together it’d be interesting to think about whether we can fill that gap somehow.

Sida also brings a unique and long-standing focus on sustainability. I’ve seen that in the way Sida works in the health field and in other spaces. It’s an approach that is about deep partnership with local organizations, real long-term investments in building local capacity, and a real commitment to having their own organizations build expertise in the places where they work. Those are all hallmarks and values we hope to live up to here at USAID.

And finally, both organizations share a real deep commitment to a vibrant, private sector-led approach to economic development. And as such, we have a unique opportunity, especially as we get into the fall and talking about the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and talking about how you can develop a private sector development strategy that can be the basis for an inclusive economic growth to sustain progress against the MDGs and go beyond that to really talk about a fair and just growth agenda in the countries where we work. This is the work and this is the partnership that will ultimately be the basis and the examples of that type of future.

In order to help us at AID be better partners with organizations like Sida, other development agencies in Europe and around the world, and most importantly with country governments, there are a handful of operational changes that I hope we are able to put in place through the course of this year. And I would like to mention them just for a moment because I think this is an agency where everyone of us is so deeply committed to being good partners with local organizations, with NGOs, with country governments, and with other development partners, but we haven’t always had the tools and the capabilities to live up to that aspiration and in order to facilitate that, I’d like to just frame a few things that I think will happen this year that I am very excited about, but I know will be hard work and that we’ll have to do together.

First, in late April, we will announce a new policy planning and strategic planning and strategic budgeting capability that I think will be important for this agency to be able to do multi-year country strategies and engage with partners in a multi-year strategic framework. That, I think, is going to be very important and very exciting.

Second, sometime by the end of June, we hope to launch a series of procurement reforms that I hope allow us, at the mission level, at the program officer level, and here in Washington, to use a broad range of tools and a broad range of ways of partnering with others to engage our work, and to do that in a way that drives more investment in local capacity, that really shortens the distance between creative ideas and effective execution, and that gives us more flexibility to be effective at our overall mission.

Third, sometime this summer, I’ve been saying by the end of August to keep our feet to the fire, I would like us to launch a new approach to talent management and our own human resources. This is an agency over the last 15 years that is down to half of its overall staff size and we are super excited about rebuilding that and especially hiring significant numbers of new mid-career technical professionals and leaders who can supplement our existing Development Leadership Initiative cohort of foreign service officers. So that will be something that I also hope will allow us to be better partners as we go forward.

And finally, this fall, and I am very enthusiastic about this, is I think we will launch a new effort around transparency and accountability that will leverage new tools, leverage new technologies. Let’s make sure that if we’re building schools somewhere that we’re giving the mothers who send their kids there the ability to take a photo and send it in and share their comments or use an SMS text message to tell us whether the teachers are showing up, whether teaching instruction is effective

We as a development enterprise, across all our partners, can do a much better job of listening to the people we ultimately serve as end beneficiaries, and technology now exists to make that happen. If we can build the platforms to get there, and do it with creative and innovative partners with Sida and others, and do it in the context of the DCA and our other more innovative programs we can really change the way people think about development, its transparency, its effectiveness, its leverage effect, and ultimately its effect to create a safer, more secure, and a more just world. I want to thank you for inviting us to participate in this and thank you for your leadership and I’m excited to now introduce Dr. Nordström. Thank you.

Washington, DC