surf tourism and povertySurf tourism is booming across the globe. Once the sport of wandering beach bums, it now generates $10 billion a year and will make its Olympic debut at the 2021 Summer Games in Japan. Despite the surf industry’s success, a few key issues have occurred between surf tourism and poverty.

Surf Tourism and Poverty

With popularity comes overcrowding, and beaches can only hold so many surfers without creating unsafe conditions. As a result, many first-world surfers are opting to spend the extra money to travel where population density is lower. Yet, behind these exotic destinations, locals are losing their homes and living in poverty.

Countries like Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea and El Salvador are particularly experiencing the negative effects of surf tourism. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Through collaboration between governments, surf businesses, travelers and residents, surf tourism and poverty can be dealt with responsibly and bring much-needed economic stimulus to impoverished surf meccas.

Radical Changes

Nicaragua, one of Central America’s most impoverished countries, is an up and coming surfing destination. The nation sits between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, giving surfers an abundance of waves to choose from. However, social injustice and extreme poverty threatens Nicaragua’s budding surf tourism industry. In the past two years, a student-led uprising has been protesting against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s regime. Since then, the nation’s economy contracted by 10 percent, and foreign direct investment has fallen by 50 percent. Compared to 2017, the country’s tourism earnings have dropped 45 percent in 2020. Before the political turmoil, Nicaragua was predicted to become the next Costa Rica, but now the country is struggling to keep its head above water.

Hope lies in local Nicaraguan businesses persevering through the tough economic times. Local surfer Germán Sánchez opened a guest house in his hometown of Asseradores to cater to backpackers and surfers looking to score at a world-class beach break. The Boom Hostel is one of the few Nicaraguan-owned bed-and-breakfasts and is becoming a prime pit stop for travelers to surf, eat and lodge. This hostel provides access to amazing waves while supporting the local economy and community.

Surfing Sustainably

In Papua New Guinea, the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea (SAPNG) has created the first-ever national surf management plan. One of the main goals of SAPNG’s plan is to “further social and economic development at the grassroots level” through the associated surf clubs of the SAPNG.

The Vanimo Surf Lodge is one of the affiliated village clubs responsible for upholding the plan’s tenets. Vanimo charges visitors 20 kinas ($8.50 USD) per day to surf the village’s reefs and beach breaks. The funds go to local landowners and stakeholders in the community. According to SAPNG, indigenous groups own the beaches and reefs and are responsible for maintaining them. The Vanimo Surf Lodge has been successful in raising funds for the community. With help from local leaders and Walu-International, it raised $17,000 to deliver working toilets to the village’s 1,500 residents. Unfortunately, land disputes, local reluctance and national corruption have prevented the public restrooms from being completed.

Waves of Empowerment

California State Governor Gavin Newsom recently visited El Salvador to market surfing tourism as a way to boost the developing nation’s economy. Newsom and other industry leaders met with president-elect Nayib Bukele to discuss El Salvador’s potential for becoming a beach vacation hub, similar to California. 

The U.S federal government has invested into El Salvador’s infrastructure through the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC contributed $3 million last year to a $10.8 million project to develop a coastal area of the El Zonte region. California hopes to continue this trend of foreign aid by encouraging surf tourism development in the country.

After Newsom’s visit, President Nayib Bukele announced an initiative called “Surf City” to invest in beaches to attract more foreign interest to El Salvador. California’s tourism arm, Visit California, is considering working with El Salvador to help the country generate its economy with more tourist dollars. El Salvador is a wave-rich country ready to begin managing surf tourism and poverty. California’s guidance could help change the country’s reputation of a violent and poverty-stricken nation to a world-class surfing experience.

The Road Ahead

There are challenges in management and implementation for surf tourism. Many impoverished communities are abused by outsiders coming in to exploit their natural resources. Fortunately, surf tourism has the chance to be different. The fact that surfing can attract tourist dollars to better local economies is a great benefit for impoverished nations. Surf industry leaders building trust with local residents are laying the groundwork for a socially responsible model of surf tourism. Surfing and the business that follows it can give at-risk communities a stronger sense of identity and empowerment.

Henry Schrandt

Photo: Pixabay

AGOA and MCA Modernization ActOn Jan. 17, 2018, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3445, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. The legislation adds on to the original African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, which was passed into law on May 18, 2000, by the 106th Congress.

As an extension of AGOA, the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act encourages plans to promote trade and cooperation while also providing aid to countries that are AGOA eligible. The region of focus of the legislation is sub-Saharan Africa, with the goal being to build private sector growth. Under the bill, the President will be directed to create a website with information about AGOA along with encouraging embassies in chosen countries to promote export opportunities to the United States.

In addition, the​ ​bill​ ​would​ ​give​ ​the​ ​Millennial Challenge Corporation (MCC)​ ​the​ ​authority​ ​to​ ​develop​ ​a​ ​second​ ​concurrent​ ​compact​ ​with countries,​ ​provided​ ​the​ ​compact​ ​focuses​ ​on​ ​regional​ ​economic​ ​development.​ The​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​enter​ ​into​ ​a​ ​second​ ​compact​ ​will​ ​be​ ​limited​ ​to​ ​countries​ ​that​ ​demonstrate​ ​progress toward​ ​meeting​ ​the​ ​objectives​ ​of​ ​the​ ​first​ ​compact​ ​and​ ​capacity​ ​to​ ​handle​ ​an​ ​additional​ ​compact.

The MCC was created in 2004 by the Bush administration, with the aim to reduce poverty through economic growth. The MCC has committed more than $10 billion in 58 projects in 25 countries. Around 70 percent of this investment has gone into infrastructure projects like highways and ports and an increasing percentage is being invested in energy.

On the House floor prior to the vote, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA-39) said that the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act “seeks to facilitate trade and private sector-led growth in poor but relatively well-governed countries, particularly in Africa, so they can grow their own way out of poverty.”

“Through AGOA, goods produced in eligible African countries enter the U.S. on a duty-free basis. To be eligible, countries must be committed to the rule of law, eliminating barriers to U.S. trade and investment, combating corruption and supporting counterterrorism activities. So AGOA advances U.S. interests on many levels.”

Trade being a driver of economic development and increased civilian participation in politics is one of the main arguments for passing the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act. Economists and experts agree that the legislation does not just benefit sub-Saharan Africa, but also the United States, as it helps create jobs and benefits consumers and companies through free-market principles.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA-37) was enthusiastic about the passage of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act by a unanimous vote. Bass is a ranking member of the House Africa Subcommittee. She is an avid supporter of the legislation and said the policy would foster economic development, as well as strengthen the United States as an international leader and boost the domestic job market and economy.

The bill was introduced to the House by Rep. Royce. At the time the bill was initially introduced, Rep. Royce along with fellow representatives Bass, Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), stated that steering developing countries toward trade and away from aid helps African countries and women. Africa’s consumer spending nearing $1 trillion was what prompted the four to push for the passing of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act.

The AGOA and MCA Modernization Act still needs to be approved by the Senate. The bill has been introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) as S.832. Sen. Coons stated that it is vital that Congress does all it can do to promote economic growth in developing countries and expand American business access to foreign markets. He is excited that the act will encourage trade with sub-Saharan Africa.

The recent passing of the AGOA and MCA Modernization Act in the House may give the legislation the momentum it needs to soon be accepted in the Senate. Visit The Borgen Project Action Center to contact your representative about this critical legislation.

– Blake Chambers

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Current Situation of Water Quality In Burkina Faso
Named “land of honest men” Burkina Faso is a landlocked country located in West Africa. With an approximate population of 17.4 million, Burkina Faso has been a center for concern regarding human rights. Many critiques of Burkina Faso’s human rights violations revolve around failing to provide quality water to its inhabitants.

Water quality in Burkina Faso has suffered over the years in part due to its status as one of the poorest countries on the planet.

A statement from WaterAid reports that sanitation and water quality are insufficient in meeting the needs of the people. Approximately 14 million people in Burkina Faso do not have access to improved sanitation.

Roughly 3 million individuals do not have access to improved sources of water. Additionally, 2,800 children die annually from preventable diarrheal diseases as a result of poor sanitation and water.

Access to basic sanitation is a major concern for the people of Burkina Faso. Only an estimated 20 percent of Burkina Faso’s population has access to a toilet.

On top of insufficient sanitation and water resources, water is in limited supply due to environmental issues. Nationwide droughts within Burkina Faso make the availability of water very scarce. This forces many people in rural areas to migrate to urban locations despite poor quality water and sanitation.

Since gold is a major source of income for the country of Burkina Faso, pollution has also reduced Burkina Faso water quality. Mining operations cause large amounts of arsenic to seep into the surrounding environment. This, in turn, causes arsenic to contaminate the local water making water sources completely useless.

However, despite the dismal situation of Burkina Faso water quality, many humanitarian organizations, as well as the government of Burkina Faso, are making significant improvements to the countries overall water quality.

According to WaterAid, they have provided 19,000 people with safe water and 98,000 people with improved sanitation. UNICEF, the WHO and the NGO Global 2000, have helped improve the water quality in Burkina Faso. In 2005, these organizations were able to reduce guinea worm infection cases from 11,784 to only 30 in a course of 13 years. Guinea worm is a waterborne disease that results from contaminated water and poor sanitation.

Moreover, the government of Burkina Faso is making slow, but noticeable improvements to the overall water quality of its country. Since 2000, the government has made a significant amount of reforms in regard to tackling water-related issues.

One of these reforms involves setting up a water basin committee whose goal is to protect and improve water basins for equitable use. Of Burkina Faso’s five major water basins, two of the basins, the Mohoun and Comoé, have established water basin committees.

The formation of these committees came from the MCA-Burkina Faso which is an organization that has helped to form a Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) economic compact. The MCC compact is a plan for providing equitable and maintainable water usage nationwide and has been part of the government of Burkina Faso Integrated Water Resource Action Plan.

Through humanitarian aid and government intervention, water quality in Burkina Faso is slowly improving on a national scale.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Millennium Challenge Corporation Impacts STEM Education in Georgia
A $140 million compact signed by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the government of Georgia in July 2013 improves STEM education in Georgia. The compact, including a partnership with San Diego University (SDSU), is increasing the number of professionals in the STEM fields as well as empowering women and reducing poverty.

Georgia suffers from a lack of professionals in the STEM fields: science, technology, engineering and math. Few women delve into these fields, and gender inequality can hinder economic growth and poverty eradication.

The MCC compact will improve STEM education and raise the earning potential for Georgians. The SDSU partnership with Georgian universities gives Georgians access to earning accredited STEM degrees. Twenty percent of the first class of students in the program are women. The more that percentage rises, the more poverty rates can drop and gender gaps can close.

STEM programs are important for developing countries like Georgia because they give individuals the skills that they need to make critical decisions about problems in our world, such as lowering environmental impact while improving standards of living.

As the former Director General of the European Organization for Nuclear Research stated, STEM education will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and to help people make decisions that affect global development.

The MMC compact to improve STEM education in Georgia is only one of many compacts that are giving nations worldwide more access to development opportunities. If Congress passes the Millennium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration Act (M-CORE Act), nations would be permitted to enter into a second Millennium Challenge Compact and reap the benefits of the additional development efforts.

In order for nations to get a second compact, one or more of the compacts must meet specific economic qualifications, and the nation must show progress with its current compact. Supporting the M-CORE Act is supporting poverty reduction and increased economic opportunity for developing nations.

If Congress passes the M-CORE Act, the MCC can implement more opportunities like STEM education in Georgia and increase development efforts worldwide.

Addie Pazzynski

Photo: Flickr

The Millennium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration Act (M-CORE Act), introduced by Rep. Karen Bass in May 2015, would allow the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to engage in multiple projects in an eligible country at any given time.

The MCC was established in January 2004 thanks to bipartisan efforts in passing the 2003 Millennium Challenge Act.

However, the law currently prohibits the MCC from entering into more than one concurrent assistance agreement – or compact – in any country at any given time.

  1. The M-CORE Act will allow the MCC to develop multiple compacts with a country at any given time.
  2. Multiple compacts in a country, particularly in Africa, will promote regional economic integration and cross-border collaborations.
  3. An eligible country that already has a Millennium Challenge Compact in effect can enter into another compact if one or both compacts are or will be for regional economic integration, increased regional trade or cross-border collaborations.
  4. This act establishes new assistance criteria for a low-income or a lower middle-income candidate country to enter into a Millennium Challenge Compact with the U.S.
  5. Candidate countries must meet the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (IBRD) threshold.
  6. If the per capita income of a low-income candidate country changes during the fiscal year to that of a lower middle-income country, then the country will need to meet the per capita income requirement for that fiscal year and the two subsequent fiscal years.
  7. Eligible countries that already have a Millennium Challenge Compact in effect can enter into another compact if the country is making considerable and demonstrable progress in implementing the terms of the existing compact.
  8. The MCC’s board must notify Congress 15 days prior to providing assistance to an eligible country, commencing negotiations with an eligible country, signing a compact and terminating a compact or agreement.
  9. In addition to the notification requirement, the MCC is required to provide detailed information on economic rates of return.
  10. The MCC’s board is required to disclose information on their website and provide notice of the information’s availability in the Federal Register.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation has signed 29 compacts with 25 different countries since its inception — and the M-CORE Act has the potential to increase their impact.

According to a March 2015 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report, concurrent regional compacts could provide higher rates of return on investments, benefiting from economies of scale and supporting trade between nations.

Summer Jackson

Sources: The United States House of Representatives, Congress, FAS
Photo: Google Images

Millennium Challenge Corporation
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is seeking approval from Congress to expand its operations over the coming years via the Millennium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration (M-CORE) Act.

In a recent testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, MCC CEO Dana Hyde argued that the organization would be more effective if given the authority to make regional investments, in addition to the single-country investments it is currently authorized to make.

“By making coordinated regional investments across multiple eligible countries, MCC can help countries work together to build and grow regional markets…and help generate new business and market opportunities for U.S. and other companies,” Hyde said.

The MCC has a singular mandate: reduce poverty through economic growth. The organization does this by initiating joint public-private investment projects in countries working toward democratic governance, open markets and human development.

Since its creation in 2004 by President Bush, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has committed $10 billion in over 58 projects in 25 countries. Around 70 percent of this investment has gone into infrastructure projects like highways and ports and an increasing percentage is being invested in energy.

The organization is currently only allowed to initiate projects within single countries, which, according to Hyde and other experts, is an impractical development strategy.

According to Hyde, countries cannot develop economically if they are unable to trade with their neighbors. Regional projects like cross-border highways and railways could make a bigger impact – especially among groups of small states.

“It’s easy to think about how regional engagement might be beneficial in the context of electricity,” said Center for Global Development President Dr. Nancy Birdsall. “The logic of a shared grid across borders is clear. To work, countries involved need to commit to a strong regulatory and financial structure outside the auspices of a single government for power trading and pricing.

However, initiating projects across multiple countries also poses a number of challenges. One such challenge occurs because neighboring countries are often not at the same level of development. For example, if the MCC wanted to begin a project across two countries, one may meet the required indicators for open governance and human development while the other might not.

The organization currently bridges this gap by undertaking threshold programs designed to assist near-eligible countries to become ready for investment.

Now, it wants the additional authority to conduct threshold programs at the same time it begins investment projects – meaning countries can begin projects before they are fully eligible to do so.

It may seem counter to MCC’s mandate, but Hyde argued that it is a necessary.

In her testimony, Hyde said the Millennium Challenge Corporation has a proven record of implementing successful country projects and is well equipped to take on the challenges of regional investments without straying from its mandate.

Ron Minard

Sources: American Progress, 1, 2, MCC
Photo: Wikipedia

Millenium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration Act

Ranking Member of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy, Senator Flake (R-AZ), and members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Coons (D-Del) and Senator Isakson (R-GA), have introduced the Millennium Compacts for Regional Economic Integration Act.

This piece of legislation could potentially allow the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to partner with countries in order to address regional development challenges and encourage trans-border economic growth in the developing world, especially in Africa. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent U.S. foreign aid agency established by Congress in 2004. This agency aims to combat global poverty through economic growth. The MCC partners with developing countries committed to good governance, economic freedom and investing in their citizens.

Countries have reformed in order to partner with the MCC. For example, Ghana changed its power grid in order to partner with the MCC. In addition, Lesotho allowed women to open bank accounts in order to receive MCC assistance. Given this, it is assumed that countries could improve conditions in their country in order to develop regional economic partnerships. This would yield two benefits simultaneously.

In a world of globalization, many economies are interconnected. Global economies have experienced significant and sustained growth partly because of regional infrastructure and integrated trade agreements. Through greater regional economic collaboration, countries can improve infrastructure deficiencies, unemployment and poverty reduction efforts.

The MCC’s work could be enhanced if it had the authority to encourage regional economic growth. In Central America, road infrastructure could be significantly improved if the roads connected across borders. In Africa, countries could create regional power agreements and connect countries through transportation infrastructure.

Knowing this, the Millennium Challenge Corporation could foster regional economic growth between developing countries. Today, it is important to consider globalization when assisting developing countries. Globalization could help developing countries grow faster than ever.

In conclusion, this bipartisan piece of legislation aims to improve economic interconnectedness between neighboring developing countries. The MCC could foster these relationships between countries. Globalization could exponentially help developing countries grow, given that it increases trade, infrastructure access and energy access.

Ella Cady

Sources: Senate, Open Congress, The Constituent
Photo: MCC

Indonesia's Fight Against Stunted GrowthThe Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent, innovative foreign aid agency that is actively fighting global poverty. One of its projects, the Indonesia Compact, seeks to better the lives of those living below the poverty line in Indonesia, in particular the lives of the children.

Over the past decade, Indonesia’s economy has grown steadily and over 50 percent of the population is now living above the poverty line. However, the wealth gap has further widened. With most of the population living in rural areas and relying on agriculture as a main source of income, it is hard for Indonesians below the poverty line to have access to nutritious food and clean water. This has caused problems such as stunted growth in children.

According to the Millennium Challenge Corporation, “a lack in critical vitamins and minerals during early childhood puts children at higher risk for chronic disease [and] delayed cognitive development” which causes a reduction in academic success and future earnings. Because of the lack of vitamins and minerals, about one-third of all Indonesian children under the age of 5 experience stunted growth—that’s seven million infants and children.

The Indonesia Compact is a five-year, $600 million agreement. The goal is to increase household income in the project areas by increasing productivity, reducing energy costs and increasing provisions of goods and services.

Part of the Compact is the $135 million Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project. This effort is two-sided: raise awareness about feeding practices and supply access to proper nutrition and health care services.

Through this project, the people of Indonesia are being educated on how the lack of essential nutrients, such as vitamin A, iron and zinc, can impact health and affect growth. The government of Indonesia is helping by training local governments on health and sanitation services as well as nutrition, in order to have a highly aware population.

The theory is that a healthier young generation will bring economic growth to the country. The next generation will be healthy and knowledgeable, which leads to a stronger working-class and eventually an improved economy. The Indonesia Compact still has a long way to go before any change can be seen, but Indonesia is headed in the right direction.

– Hannah Resnick

Sources: Millenium Challenge Corporation, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Flickr

Millennium Challenge Corporation
1. It’s a breath of fresh air

Ever since the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) creation in 2004, it has been drastically different from other United States foreign aid programs. According to the Congressional Research Reserve, it places emphasis on “free market economic and democratic principles and policies, where governments are committed to implementing reform measures in order to achieve such goals.” Basically, it favors long-term economic development over short-term aid and calls upon poverty-stricken countries to design and apply remedial projects. This is in stark contrast to U.S. foreign aid policies pre-MCC.

2. Fastidious selection process

Although withholding aid from a deserving country sounds ignoble, it’s a necessary step for the MCC to ensure its efficacy. Before awarding grants, the MCC scrutinizes potentially eligible countries, checking for stable government, transparency and a general “sound track record.” An impoverished but corrupt country cannot receive aid.

3. Enabling (never prescribing)

The MCC does not decide what “aid” looks like. Rather, it funds problem-solving initiatives led by the impoverished countries themselves. This empowers the people who best understand the critical issues, meanwhile inspiring local innovators and inventors. If prescriptions are tawdry and shortsighted, MCC is authentic and enabling.

4. Enabling (never controlling)

Selected countries not only design the economic growth initiatives, but they implement them as well. The MCC works closely with these countries to support and refine tactics, but it is the responsibility of the selectee to drive the bus. While impoverished countries steer and navigate, MCC fuels.

5. Partner accountability 

One technique the MCC uses to motivate its partner countries is a five-year deadline. By the fifth year of funding, the problem-solving projects will have been completed and their successes will have been gauged. This keeps selected countries accountable.

6. Self-accountability 

The MCC works hard to remain as accountable and as transparent as they expect their partners to be. It tracks its achievements and evaluates its impact scrupulously. Successes can then be duplicated, and shortcomings can be fixed.

7. Big achievements

The Millennium Challenge Corporation gives two types of awards: Compacts (five-year grants) and Threshold Programs (smaller grants.) Since its creation in 2004, MCC has, in total, awarded $8.4 billion to initiate and support poverty-reduction projects. Over 38 impoverished countries, from Albania to Zambia, have received grants.

8. It’s only growing

In March of this year, the fiscal year 2015 State Foreign Operations budget request, was released. According to this issue it will provide the MCC with $1 billion. This is 11 percent more funding than it received over the 2014 fiscal year.

— Adam Kaminski

Sources: FAS, MCC, USA

This past week, the United States Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has refused to grant a second aid package to the government of Mozambique. These aid packages, also known as compacts, are given in the hope that the funds will allow the countries to build more infrastructure and combat national issues. The first compact of $506.9 million previously given to Mozambique was directed toward water supply, sanitation, road and agricultural improvements; however, many of these projects were delayed.

Because the conditions for a second aid package required that all projects funded by the first compact be completed, Mozambique was not eligible for more aid. The U.S. MCC did, however, contribute more funding to the current projects in Mozambique.

The first compact has supported Mozambique’s Farmer Income Support Project, Land Tenure Services Project, Rehabilitation of Roads Project, and Water and Sanitation project. The Farmer Income Support project aims to remove trees, provide support to increase crop yields and help farmers develop alternative sources of income. The Land Tenure project will address issues with land distribution laws and provide land-related services. The Rehabilitation of Roads project will attempt to improve markets by rehabilitating parts of the National Route 1, and the Water and Sanitation project will improve access to clean water supplies, especially in rural areas.

The government of Mozambique was taken aback by the rejection from the MCC; however, the country is also becoming less dependent upon foreign aid. In the past, foreign aid has been the center of the budget of the nation but in the future, Mozambique expects domestic resources to pay for 66.5 percent of the budget.

This increase in budget will allow an increase in education, health care, agriculture and rural development, the judicial system, security and more. The increase will also create new jobs, which will create a cycle of economic improvement.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: All Africa, All Africa
Photo: The OGM