OPIC Impact Awards celebrates all the ways our partners advance development
By Judith Pryor
OPIC Vice President, Office of External Affairs
Last week, I had the honor of serving as MC at the 2016 OPIC Impact Awards honoring excellence in development. The event took place and was co-hosted by the United States Chamber of Commerce. OPIC recognized seven of our partners and their projects, which have truly made a difference in the world. To paraphrase one of the award recipients, OPIC honored a large company, a startup company, and “a couple of surfer dudes“.
It’s a good, succinct summary of the breadth of projects OPIC supports to advance development around the world. Here’s a somewhat longer version: The projects OPIC recognized included a major water desalination plant in Algeria that is helping to ensure that people living on the edge of the Sahara desert have enough water; a small startup business that has its roots in an MIT innovation lab and is now bringing a cloud-based technology to help make cargo transport more affordable and reliable in India, and, an açaí berry processing facility that has generated income for 10,000 farmers in Brazil – a business that was started by, that’s right, a couple of surfer dudes who recognized that the rainforest was too valuable to cut down.
We also honored an Arkansas small business that has helped revitalize Rwanda’s coffee industry, a business started by an Afghan-American that has established a supply chain so remote Afghan herders can earn steady income from the wool and cashmere they produce; a major wind power plant that will advance energy security in Jamaica; and a microfinance project that is helping low-income people around the world acquire decent homes.
This breadth of industries and regions represented, as well as the variety of U.S. partners we work with, speaks to the fact that there is no single way to approach global development. Businesses small and large have an important role to play, and OPIC’s nimble approach has enabled us to work with many innovative partners. You can see the full list of award winners here.
While our outstanding partners are the focus of the OPIC Impact Awards for excellence in development, we were also honored to have multiple esteemed speakers who echoed the importance of private sector-led development. After OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth L. Littlefield delivered opening remarks, Tom Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spoke about OPIC’s unique role as a catalyst for private sector investment development.
“Today, as foreign direct investment rapidly outpaces aid dollars, there’s no question that OPIC will continue to have an outsized influence on the development landscape,” said Donohue.
Other speakers and presenters at the event included Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Dana Hyde; U.S. Global Leadership Coalition President and CEO Liz Schrayer; USAID Administrator Gayle Smith and United States Senator from Delaware, Chris Coons.
“OPIC is one of the absolute best ways the United States can demonstrate leadership around the world.”
–U.S. Senator Chris Coons
That same sentiment was reflected throughout the program. Presenters and award winners described projects that were creating jobs and opportunity, expanding access to housing, introducing advanced technology, clean energy, modern infrastructure and more.
“We all know that economic stability and job creation can help support political stability. And that is one reason why development that leads to job creation is so critical in places like Afghanistan.”
–Millennium Challenge Corporation CEO Dana Hyde
“Access to finance is so important to global development because it enables individuals and families to also invest in their communities.”
--U.S. Global Leadership Coalition CEO Liz Schrayer
“It is appropriate that OPIC is hosting these Impact Awards, given the enormous impact your projects have had.”
--USAID Adminstrator, Gayle Smith
Last Thursday’s OPIC Impact Awards for excellence in development marked the third straight year we have formally honored some of our partners and the event is becoming a favorite day among OPIC staff when we have the opportunity to hear about the impact our work is having around the world. It was an honor last week to meet so many of OPIC’s partners who are committed to making a positive difference by combining intellect with passion and creativity to addressing some of the world’s biggest challenges.