Niono-Goma Coura Road Inauguration
February 7, 2009
Remarks by Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic
It is an honor for me to join his Excellency, President Amadou Toumani Toure, at today’s celebration of Malian-American cooperation and partnership. The Niono-Goma Coura road will serve as a modern life line to the local communities and a key link to the North of Mali. It is a practical incarnation of my government’s belief in the Malian government and its people.
The United States and Mali have long enjoyed a strong and mutually beneficial partnership based on shared values and goals. Over the past ten years, the United States government has provided more than $850 million dollars of development assistance in a wide variety of areas, to include health, education, economic development, decentralization, security cooperation, and cultural and educational exchanges.
In the same period more than 800 American citizens deeply committed to international service and to promoting mutual understanding have served in Mali as Peace Corps Volunteers, contributing in the areas of health, tourism, agriculture, and small business development. All of this has been possible thanks to the hospitality, collaboration, and hard work of the Malian people and we are grateful for the strength of the friendship that exists between us.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and its Malian counterpart, the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), are guided by the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom and investments in people. The road that we are inaugurating today, as well as the five other components of the Alatona project, is the result of the successful application of this principle in Mali.
Each of the components of our Millennium Challenge Corporation compact in Mali is designed to reinforce the compact’s four goals. Those goals are to reduce poverty through economic growth, prove that good government policies matter in the development of any society, ensure that partner countries such as Mali have ownership over their own programs, and focus on results as tangible proof of success.
Our partnership in Alatona is groundbreaking. Not only have we set out to build large infrastructure projects, but we are also engaging together on innovative reforms such as farmer empowerment, land tenure, financial services, and agricultural advice.
This project is big, very big. But more important than the numbers of hectares to be developed is the solid foundation that is being built, through physical and management improvements, that will enable the Office du Niger area to expand and develop in a sustainable way over the next 30 years. We view this – the establishment of an economic asset that will generate growth and poverty reduction in the short and medium term -- as the key accomplishment of the project.
Many of you present today know that the work undertaken to bring us to this point has not been easy. That is all the more reason for us all to be proud that we have accomplished what we set out together to do – namely to create new economic opportunities for the people of the Office du Niger and beyond.
This modern 81 kilometer road will make it much easier to move agricultural products and provide a more efficient way for goods to arrive to markets around the country, including in the North of Mali. Consultations with all the stakeholders involved -- from the media to civil society, from traditional leaders to women’s groups, from the highest levels of government to the hard working people of the region – have ensured that everyone’s views have been considered. Everyone here today, and all those who live and work in the project area, should see this enormous exciting project as THEIR OWN.
Today is indeed a day for celebration. It is also the first day of the rest of the hard work that lies ahead for us all. Know that you have a strong partner in the United States. The presence here of M. Darius Mans, the Vice President in the Department of Compact Implementation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), who travelled all the way from Washington, DC to be with us today, shows the importance we attach to this project and its success.
My government and the American people are steadfast in their commitment to the development of this country. The $461 million MCC compact and the $85 million in annual funding, administered through USAID, that Mali receives is further proof of that. So is our robust security partnership, based on the shared understanding that security and peace are fundamental precursors for any kind of development.
Be assured that we will continue to work together with you, Excellency President Toure, and with all of the Malian people as we travel together down the road of prosperity and peace.
May this road of partnership and progress that we travel together extend now to Goma Coura, throughout the Office du Niger and the rest of Mali. Thank you.