March 16, 2017

The Impact of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Private Sector Partnerships

By Sung Lee

This morning, the White House released the FY18 budget blueprint that calls for a 31% cut to the State Department and USAID. Although this budgetary outline is only the start of a long negotiation process, America’s foreign assistance programs will almost certainly have to do more with less and leverage every single tool available to maximize efficiencies and impact.

In fact, the State Department and USAID already have an impressive track record of over a decade of partnering with the private sector to catalyze and leverage additional investments to tackle global challenges in global health, agriculture, energy and water.

During its annual partnership week, the State Department’s Global Partnership Office highlighted 17 new examples of how the U.S. government works hand-in-hand with the private sector partners to advance America’s development and diplomatic priorities. The office, founded in 2008 on the recommendation of Secretary Condoleezza Rice’s Advisory Committee for Transformational Diplomacy, helps build innovative partnerships with businesses, foundations, and the public to advance America’s foreign policy priorities faster, cheaper, and more sustainably.

For example, Power Africa, a U.S. government-led initiative that harnesses the expertise of 12 federal agencies, has leveraged more than $7 from the public and private sector partners for every $1 committed by the U.S. government. In less than 4 years, Power Africa has helped bring electricity to more than 40 million people in Africa for the first time while creating new markets and opportunities for American businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, which will have more than 1.3 billion consumers by 2050.

DREAMS, another partnership highlighted during the Global Partnership week, is helping to reduce HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women, providing education and community programs to over 1 million girls and women in 10 targeted African countries. Led by PEPFAR, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, Gilead Sciences, and ViiV Healthcare, DREAMS puts the United States on a path to help achieve a 40% reduction in HIV incidences among girls and young women.

President Trump’s budget calls on the State Department and development agencies “to advance the national security interests of the United States by building a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world.” To do this with fewer resources, the U.S. will need to expand and build on nearly 2,000 public-private partnerships like Power Africa and DREAMS that America has assembled over the last decade.

The proposed deep cuts to America’s diplomacy and development programs come at a time of growing humanitarian crises that will be challenging to meet with fewer resources. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley recently announced of a new $1.5 billion initiative, the Program to End Modern Slavery, which she highlighted, “will seek to raise most of its money from partners in foreign governments and in the private sector. That is important because ending modern slavery has to be a collective effort.”

Collective efforts like these and the partnerships highlighted by the State Department will be critical to ensuring that America’s commitments are matched by partner countries and the private sector as the administration moves forward to address a wide array of global challenges in the weeks and months ahead.

Photo: USAID.