Making the Millennium Challenge Account Work for Africa
President Bush has been rightly lauded for his visionary initiative to establish a Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) that would increase U.S. resources directed toward the most promising development investments. The administration's proposal to use a set of publicly available, quantitative indicators to direct assistance to those countries with sound policy environments is a good step towards addressing a longstanding political bias in U.S. foreign aid allocations. But the particulars of the chosen methodology yield results that in large part exclude the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa from eligibility - a troubling outcome, since sub-Saharan Africa has the highest concentration of extreme poverty of any region in the world. Fortunately, it turns out there is a simple way to maintain the MCA's emphasis on a transparent, publicly accessible, and rigorous methodology rather than political discretion while also expanding eligibility for Africa. Why not grade the performance of African governments against their peers in the region rather than on a global basis? By simply applying the administration's own methodology on a regionally specific basis, the number of sub-Saharan African countries that qualify for the MCA with per capita incomes below $1,435 would triple and the population coverage would double.