USAID Administrator Mark Green's Remarks and Discussion at the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit

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For Immediate Release

Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Office of Press Relations
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September 24, 2019
Grand Hyatt
New York City, New York

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: For many years, development agencies acted as though they were the only legitimate drivers of progress.  And when you think about it, it made some sense. Our partner countries were still emerging from communism and colonialism and they had tremendous needs.  And so we stepped forward with material assistance: food, medicine, books, buildings. Or we lent people, doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers. And we did it, in part, because if we didn't, who would?

What a difference a few years makes.  Food aid has become food security and includes initiatives like helping women farmers around the world with training and assistance to help connect them to global markets.  We continue to do education; it's a core part of our work. But, now we partner with organizations like Sesame Street to help reach children all around the world in their native language.  And we continue to do global health of course, but we've moved beyond doctors and nurses to include a private drone business which helps us bring fresh blood supplies to the most remote communities.  How we do our work has changed; where we do our work has changed, because the world all around us has changed in exciting ways. 

I'm submitting to you that there have been three quiet revolutions in recent years that have forever reshaped how we approach development.  The first one is the most obvious one: technology. Now when Sue and I were teaching in Kenya back in the late 1980s there was but one telephone in the entire village.  It was a windup phone mounted on a wooden box, looked something like this. When you wanted to make a call, you would go down to the office, pick up the receiver, turn the crank.  And you'd say something like, "Operator, give me 662 Kisumu." Then you'd go outside, sit under the tree and wait for the call to go through. 

About a dozen years later, I visited that same village.  I was walking along the path and I came across a young boy.  I asked him if he knew one of my former students, Niva, and could he go and get him for me.  And of course he pulled out his mobile and sent him a text. Not so long after that, I returned to East Africa as an ambassador.  And by the time I did, mobile phones had become one of our most important development tools. We're using it to provide access to microfinance, to track and treat diseases, to help with election monitoring.  We're even using it to boost crop production. 

Like our partnership with Ignitia AB.  Ignitia AB is the world's first tropical weather forecasting company and working with Ignitia and using simple SMS text messaging technology.  Each and every day, 700,000 farmers in Ghana receive a localized weather forecast which they can use to decide whether they're going to plant, when they're going to water, and when they're going to harvest -- not so long after that box phone with a crank. 

But there's a second quiet revolution that's taken place, which in my view is no less dramatic.  When USAID first began, about three out of every four dollars that went from America to the developing world was government money -- what we call Official Development Assistance or ODA.  These days, that number is less than 1 out of every $10. And it's not because government has backed off or backed down; it's because private resources have raced ahead. Philanthropy, remittances, but more than anything else commerce and investment. 

The IMF tells us that the 10 fastest growing economies are all in the developing world.  The World Bank tells us that half of Africa is now lower middle income or above. Of course, this is not news to American business.  American business knows that 95 percent of the world's population lives outside the United States and most of them are in the developing world.  In fact, American business has developed a very special particular term for these people. They're called customers. 

And that brings us to our third revolution; and I'll be honest, it's the one that excites me most of all because USAID is bound and determined to lead it.  As I said a little while ago, for the longest time development agencies viewed themselves as the only legitimate drivers of progress. Private enterprise was something to keep at a distance or perhaps bend to our will.  So we were willing to take contributions. We were even willing to contract for goods and services but only if you did exactly what we told you. If you danced to our tune. Everything is changing. Okay, we still do grants.  We still do contracts. But what we're really interested in is co-design, co-creation, co-financing, collaboration. Wherever we can, whenever our partner countries are ready, we want to become catalysts and facilitators of enterprise-driven development.  That's where we think the future lies. 

Now, I know just saying it does not make it true.  And so for the last couple of years, USAID has been looking inward.  We've been scrutinizing everything we do, every policy, every procedure, every structure, every program, to try to identify those practices that might hinder collaboration.  For example, just maybe we don't need a 40-page full color tree killing, bureaucratic application from you just so that we might consider your idea. Wherever we can, we're shifting to simple concept notes -- maybe even just one or two pages long. 

We're expanding the use of tools like the Broad Agency Announcement.  And using a BAA, what we can do is we can identify a challenge, identify an opportunity, broadcast it to raise its visibility, and then work with interesting interested partners to try to shape the proposals they bring forward. 

So where does this get us?  Where does collaboration actually take us?  How about to the world's first Development Impact Bond targeting newborn health?  Each and every year in India about 1 million children die from diseases that are entirely treatable.  We're partnering with the state of Rajasthan, in UBS Optimus Foundation, to try to uplift 400 health centers around Rajasthan to meet the highest quality standards.  The concept is pretty simple. UBS fronts the capital -- the money needed to power this. USAID works with other partners to provide the training ,the assistant, and the know-how to meet those standards.  When they meet those standards -- if they meet those standards -- USAID repays the initial investors. Public benefit, enterprise powered results. 

Or maybe it takes us to our partnership with Syngenta.  Working with Syngenta, we're trying to bring the highest quality seeds to African farmers, seeds that can help them build resilience against drought, resilience against infestation, and boost crop yields.  Syngenta brings to the table its technology, its product. What we bring to the table: coordination with local distributors, access to finance, working with farmers through product demonstrations, and working with the host country government in an effort to streamline the approval process for products.  Public benefit, private enterprise driven results. 

Or finally, maybe it takes us to co-creation with a data analytics firm out of California to fight Zika in Colombia.  Premise out of California designed a special app that creates mapped-out walking routes to enlist thousands of Colombians in the battle against Zika.  Using these routes, they can walk to mosquito breeding sites. It gives them instructions in how to monitor those sites and how to safely destroy those sites.  Working together, we've destroyed 80,000 mosquito breeding sites in Colombia. Saved that many lives against Zika. 

So my friends, I think the message is simple.  USAID knows that it is not the only legitimate driver of progress.  In fact, we don't want to be. Instead, what excites us are emerging technologies, private enterprise embracing emerging markets, and an agency interested in real honest to goodness collaboration.  When you put all of those together the future is enterprise driven and the sky's the limit. 

Thank you. 

MS. POWELL: Thank you to Administrator Green, a former colleague of mine and someone who I had the great privilege of working with a few times in my career.  He looks very young -- in fact, in 1995, I first met him as a Congressman from Wisconsin, and his public service to our country has continued to be so incredibly meaningful.  Many years, an influential member of House leadership and then Ambassador in Africa. But I have to say, I really believe, Mark, your greatest legacy will be the leadership that you have had at the Agency for International Development. 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you very much.

MS. POWELL: I watched as he has really worked hard, and you heard him describe how much he is transforming this sense of give outs and aid to really being effective national and economic policy -- national security and economic policy.  And I'll start my question as a client, to some extent, through our Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Women program, where we work with entrepreneurs all around the world. We have a very strong partnership with USAID, whether it's in areas where you're providing finance or even nominating women to these different programs. 

It does seem that you have really prioritized making it easy for the public sector to work with you.  And I know so many in this room are at the intersection of public and private solutions. So give us a sense of how you have built the team that is working on that and if people wanted to work with you what would be the best way. 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, first I am blessed to have a great team that leads the effort.  Most of the time I just get out of the way to be very honest. No, so we look at the world and realize how great the challenges are that are facing the development community, facing all of us, how much this matters.  And we know that the only way to create sustainable results is to turn to private enterprise. Private enterprise, which powers results and creates real lasting opportunities, particularly for young people around the world.  And so, again, as I was saying in my remarks, instead of waiting for the backend once we've designed a program and gone through all of the paperwork and then turning to the private sector and saying would you please do this for us.  And the private sector saying and where have you been. 

What we want to do is open the door and work together from square one.  We know that there are so many ways in which the interests of private enterprise which seeks to create sustainable markets, lines up very well with our mission of lifting lives, of tackling poverty, and creating stability and prosperity.  So we work together to try to design using the best capacities of each to produce those outcomes. So that's number one. Number two, go to our website because we are open for business. And on the website, we identify opportunities all of the time.  Again, reach out to us even with simple concept notes. So we, you know, you don't have to spell every single last thing out, instead what's your idea. What's the technology? There are so many exciting technologies that are out there for us. Our job is to do everything we can to put them to work. 

MS. POWELL: Well -- and I have been to the website, actually, and it really is one of the better government websites, and you can actually get on and look up the programs.  One of the -- actually areas that you have been most involved in, of course, is the new agency that the Build Act created, and you were central to that. And I remember as we were drafting the National Security Strategy -- as you know we put in how important it was, not only from a national security perspective, but frankly from a global interest perspective as we look at what our competitors are doing around the world.  Tell us a little bit -- I think people are very interested to hear about the Build Act and the new agency.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So the agency is on the verge of standing up; will stand up in October, and the goal is to look at the capacities of both the new DFC and USAID and to make sure that we merge them.  So our job is, I think, to source deals and to look at development impact. And to make sure that we are not simply working as a bank but working as a development agency which you use as some of the tools that banks have. 

So the integration of the two agencies is vital, and it's going very well and we're excited about what it brings.  And I think this is an area of a real contribution by the TrumpAdministration. There's no secret we have a president who's a businessman, who believes in private enterprise and believes in creating opportunities for American business.  I think the combination of the new DFC and USAID, which incentivizes reform for the enabling environment is perfect. It's good for American business; it's good for development outcomes; and I think it sends a very clear signal about what American leadership stands for. 

MS. POWELL: It does.  And I think as we've also heard, there are many taxpayers in our country who are asking what's the ROI on this investment.  Is this -- is our support of other countries really keeping us more secure and keeping those countries more stable. I, of course, happen to believe it's true.  But what is the answer to that?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well first off, we know all around the world parents want the same things for their kids that we want for our kids.  They want a better future. They want an opportunity. I often remind people that my first job in development was a teacher in Kenya, as I said before, the entire time that I lived in Kenya not one student ever asked me for a handout.  They might ask me for books. They might ask me for extra lessons. They didn't want anything given to them. They wanted the opportunity to better themselves and to paint that brighter future. And that has to be everything that we stand for.  You know there's a lot of talk about the great power competition. I actually don't like that terminology because I think that the two models are going in very different directions. What we offer is self-reliance. What we try to offer is a chance for every man, woman, and child around the world to have a taste of what we call the American dream but is really the universal dream.  And that's the chance to get a good paying job, to better oneself, to provide for one's family. That has to be, ultimately, what our assistance stands for. 

MS. POWELL: That's so true and, of course, you knew if you asked me to moderate this panel that I would have to ask you about your women's empowerment program.  And we see this very similarly, but 50 percent of those countries are not only the individuals, the women, the mothers, the sisters, but they are the greatest human capital in those countries that remains untapped.  And we certainly saw that at Goldman Sachs through 10,000 Women.  I used to say that the empowerment and protection of women and girls is a justice issue.  That's true. It's a human rights issue. That's true. But it really is just smart economics that if we want to continue to create jobs and GDP growth around the world, we have to tap that talent.  Share maybe just one or two of the programs that you're most proud of that help women around the world.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well first off, you're precisely right.  This is not complicated. No country can get to self-reliance if it isn't paying attention to half its population.  But secondly, we know that enhancing livelihoods and opportunities for women stabilizes communities and creates reinvestment in those communities in ways that will lift everyone's fortunes.  We also know that ensuring that women who have a seat at the table when it comes to conflict zones are better at reconciliation and you're much more likely to see a lasting peace. 

Someone pointed out to me something recently that I thought was profound.  One of the reasons that you have to involve women in peacebuilding is they're often the ones who are much more likely to see the effect of trauma on children.  They will see it before others do. So if we're really worried about those conditions that can lead to extremism that can lead to despair, that can lead to crime and problems, we have to involve women.  They're, in so many ways, the closest observers. And I think that's right. So we're not only working on W-GDP -- and Senior Advisor Ivanka Trump, I think, is doing a tremendous job on this front. But women, peace, and reconciliation is also a key initiative.  Great bipartisan support and a high priority for us. 

MS. POWELL: You mentioned bipartisan support; it was always particularly nice to go to Capitol Hill with Mark because everybody seemed to want to see you.  I have to say, just back to the legacy that you leave, you really do have support because Members on both sides of the aisle care deeply about these issues.  And I don't think we would have seen the Build Act passed without your pushing for it. Do you see that support continuing? 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well first off, I often say they support me because I'm the devil they know when it comes to work in development.  Now, what we try to do is to steer the agency and the development community into this very safe place. This is the place in American policy and politics where every administration contributes something.  And I look at it -- and you and I are both veterans of the Bush administration, Bush 43 -- PEPFAR, the AIDS initiative, MCC, President's Malaria Initiative have changed the course of human history. It's phenomenal.  Every American conservative, liberal should be very, very proud. 

President Obama's Feed the Future initiative is phenomenal.  It's one of the great tools that we have at USAID for economic development for taking on problems of hunger.  That's a great contribution. And I think what you're going to see from the Trump Administration, although it's early, I think you're going to see W-GDP.  I hope you're going to see what we're trying to do in reforms. I'm sure there's more coming. So this is an area in which Republicans and Democrats should come together, celebrate what we agree upon, and continue to build American leadership around the world.

MS. POWELL: That should give us all a lot of hope.  I know we only have time for a couple of questions, but you are both leading the Agency in the direction of sustainability and efficacy and more interaction with the private sector, but when disasters strike, USAID is on the front line.  And I know we sit here today thinking of so many Bahamian families who are suffering so much. You've already been there once. I think you're going next week. How is it going there with that terrible tragedy and how can people help?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well first off, as Americans we should be really proud of the outpouring of generosity, compassion that is helping so many Bahamians -- sure American taxpayers through USAID and others but also through NGOs -- faith-based, secular, it's a remarkable thing to see.

In terms of The Bahamas itself, it was a particularly cruel storm.  So there are many parts of The Bahamas that were largely unscathed, and as I flew over it was business as usual.  But in a defined channel where it hit it was devastated and the destruction was complete and utter. And these storms are particularly cruel upon the poor.  So those in Abaco who were living in shanties, it was devastating to them, and it's going to take a very long time for them to be able to rebuild their lives.  So we certainly have a lot of work ahead. But again, the outpouring of support from all over, I think, it gives us real hope. 

The Prime Minister of the Bahamas is doing a great job.  Our job is to help him and his team lead things forward. But work to do.  But I'm very optimistic.

MS. POWELL: And your website has a number of organizations that people can support if they're interested.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Yes.  So if you go to it shows some of the organizations that we vetted, that we work with, and we would encourage everyone -- just because it isn't in the headlines it doesn't make the needs go away; they're just as great as ever. 

MS. POWELL: That's right.  So last question and you mentioned this earlier, and I do think it's an incredibly hopeful story and that is the progress that has been made in Africa.  I know President and Mrs. Laura Bush will be here tomorrow. I just saw Anita McBride in the audience, who did such a wonderful job and building out especially the African First Ladies Initiative.  As you said, millions and millions of lives saved because of PEPFAR and we couldn't be more proud of that. Tell us how you feel it is in Africa and, you know, you're seeing the lower middle class becoming the middle class.  It's really a transformational story. 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: I'll tell you a quick story.  Not so long ago, I was with a development official, not from the Trump Administration, who came to me and said, "We have a problem."  And I said, "Well, what's that?" He said, "Well, in terms of our programs, half of Africa is non middle income; they don't qualify." (laughter)

Really?  I'm hoping they all become middle income; that's the whole point of what we do.  So in Africa there's always bad news that seems to capture the headlines, but everywhere you look in Africa you see young entrepreneurs, young men, young women, doing remarkable things.  I think the future is very bright. Africa has to succeed in terms of what it means to the rest of the world. But yeah, I'm very, very optimistic and as I said, I've gone from the wind-up telephone to former students calling me on my mobile and that would have been impossible not so long ago. 

MS. POWELL: It's great.  Well, Administrator Mark Green, thank you for your service and for the millions of lives you're helping. 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thanks, everyone.  

Last updated: September 22, 2021

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