A thought: Given expiration in July 2014 of MCC’s $480 million, and given important money newly allocated to Sahel, there should be a USAID-MCC stock-taking, examining effectiveness of U.S. spending in Burkina. I’ll go out on a limb, and say that my gut feeling, without having examined the programs and program documentation in detail, is that the United States gets limited value (broadly speaking) for its investments in aid in Burkina. A big chunk of the land tenure money may be frittered away on per diems for training, with little real impact. The road projects are fine, but road traffic in Burkina’s outlying areas is very low, so the cost-benefit calculus is dubious. Schools are AOK in my book. But given the dearth of books in most rural areas, you’d think some more investment in soft-power would be warranted (distribute REN-LAC’s Kouka and Mady Kafando’s bandes dessinées to every kid entering sixième would be a great idea).
More importantly, I wonder whether this the aid has fostered much “engagement” favorable to U.S. national interest. For sure it builds a patron-client network (that explicitly only lasts five year?). But Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia build mosques because that way every Friday a large crowd gathers, listens to an imam, and becomes a “potentially mobilizable” group of people. At the end of the day, as President Obama surely knows, mobilizing people (the job of the activist) is where deep political power lies. And U.S. investments in foreign aid do not seem to have an eye on that important political reality. Of course, the whole premise might be to make economic activity so much more productive that people will be “de-mobilized” the way that religion was the “opium” in Karl Marx’s day… I guess this is also the whole “anti-politics” intended/unintended consequence of foreign aid.
I see from MCC website that only $200m of the $480m allocated has been spent, and there are only six months left. I am available for weekend consulting.