Cape Verde is a country made up of ten volcanic islands 300 miles off the northwest coast of Africa. It has few natural resources and only about half of the islands are suitable for farming, but it has lovely mountains, warm waters and beautiful beaches that attract tourists. In fact, the travel and tourism industry makes up some 25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and, in one way or another, employs more than one-third of the country’s population.
“The success of the sector is critical for job creation and the country’s long-term economic growth,” writes the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Program Officer for Cape Verde, Benjamin Edwards, in a recent blog post.
But Cape Verde has a problem—lack of water. Many Cape Verdeans have no access to public water and sanitation. In fact, the water and sanitation infrastructure on some islands is straining to accommodate a rising population and increasing tourist traffic.
That is why the Millennium Challenge Corporation stepped up to help in 2005, and again in 2012. The MCC, as it is known, is a bilateral, independent U.S. foreign aid agency that provides well-performing countries with large-scale grants to fund country-led solutions for reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth. MCC stresses accountability, good governance and transparency, as well as country-led solutions and their implementation.
In 2005, and then again in 2012, the MCC signed five-year compacts with the Government of Cape Verde worth $110 million and $66 million respectively. Much of the funding concerned water management.
The 2012 compact, among other things, helped fund infrastructure and capital improvements in the water and sanitation sector. This year, even as the second compact nears its end, the government of Cape Verde is bringing on-line the Santa Maria Wastewater Treatment Plant on the arid island of Sal. The MCC-funded rehabilitation of the plant expands water and sanitation services to low-income residents.
“Building on the impact of its 2005 investment,” writes Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Benjamin Edwards, “MCC is supporting the Government of Cape Verde in strengthening its institutions to improve water and sanitation services for its citizens, unleash the tourism industry’s full potential, and help people lift themselves out of poverty.”