By Judith Pryor
Vice President, Office of External Affairs, Overseas Private Investment Corporation
It’s hard to believe that the inaugural OPIC Impact Awards ceremony, which was held Tuesday, March 11, has already come and gone. I couldn’t think of a better way to showcase all that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation embodies than by honoring the outstanding work of several of our partners, whose projects have supported economic growth and development in emerging economies around the world.
We enjoyed a great turnout at the event and saw a powerful opening speech from OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield, with U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President of International Affairs John Murphy delivering the keynote. Presenters were leaders from the White House, Congress and Washington’s community of thought leaders, including Counselor to the President John Podesta; Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Caroline Atkinson; Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management Beth Cobert; President of the Center for Global Development Nancy Birdsall; Congressman Gregory Meeks; U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah; Congressman Mark Meadows; and OPIC’s own Executive Vice President Mimi Alemayehou.
But really, I want to talk about the true stars of the night. One of the things OPIC is best at is picking our partners. We have a stellar client list and the results they have produced are undeniable. The award winners, eight across six categories, included:
- Renewable Resources – SunEdison LLC
- Critical Infrastructure – ContourGlobal
- Access to Finance – Global Partnerships; Inter-Mac International; and Medical Credit Fund
- Development Impact – International Rescue Committee
- Private Equity – Helios Investment Partners LLP
- American Small Business – Ellicott Dredges
These clients and the projects they brought to developing nations all over the world have had a profound impact on peoples’ lives that is tangible, enduring and inspiring. Each of the winners had remarkable stories to tell.
One of the many compelling speeches of the night came from Rick Beckett, CEO of Global Partnerships, an OPIC loan recipient and one of the three clients awarded the Impact Award for Access to Finance award. Global Partnerships facilitates small microfinance loans in poor rural communities in Latin America and augments that financial support with other services such as business and health education classes as part of its broad strategy to give poor people the tools to improve their lives.
Rick spoke eloquently about “the spirit and the resiliency and the diligence of people living in poverty.”
“Let me speak to the people who aren’t in the room tonight,” he said. “To the micro-entrepreneur in Haiti who works 12 hours a day in her baking and catering business so that she can provide for her children and faithfully repays her tiny loan, the loan that makes that business possible. Or the small lot farmer in Peru who, for the first time, has access to training on how to improve his crop quality and given that and access to fair trade contracts, can increase the family income, send his children to school – it’s the school he was not able to attend himself. Or the woman who is a member of the cooperate in Honduras – she and her husband start a micro pharmacy to add it to their small store to bring affordable access to essential medicines to a rural community that hasn’t had them ever. So I dedicate this award to them tonight.”
In just a few sentences, Rick was able to showcase several of the world’s greatest development challenges, which OPIC works to address, alongside partners like the clients we recognized at the awards. These partners have big visions, experience in challenging markets, and a commitment to seeing their work through to outcomes that are successful from both a business and a development standpoint.
I am so proud to be part of an organization that is such an effective and efficient force in global development, and to have had the opportunity to recognize those companies and projects that make the important work that we do at OPIC possible. Congratulations to the winners and here’s to many more successful projects to come!
If you were unable to attend the awards you can watch the entire event on our website.