The key lesson from the Ghana Compact is that programs must be more fully designed at compact signing, balancing aspirational objectives, MCC investment considerations, and the mandated implementation timeline. The Agriculture Project in Ghana included six distinct activities that together were intended to transform the sector. The six activities were implemented in 30 non-contiguous districts, making supervision challenging and diffusing any potential impact. The investment would have been more effective with greater focus on fewer integrated activities and with greater geographic proximity in order to affect greater change. This approach could have provided greater learning opportunities for scaling up in untreated districts or for replicating successful elements in other compacts.
In addition, a wide range of challenges during implementation, such as design delays and budget shortfalls meant less could be funded by MCC and required the Government of Ghana to take up the completion of some components after the end of the compact. In more recent compacts, MCC is designing compacts more fully, focusing compact investments in a way that leverages other donor and government initiatives, and increasing its emphasis on effective management for complex projects.
Drawing from experiences in Ghana and several other early compacts with irrigated agriculture projects, MCC published a Principles into Practice paper detailing lessons in implementing irrigated agriculture projects a few months after the Ghana Compact closed.
One lesson applicable to the entire compact is the need to be adaptable as unanticipated cost escalations and delays may often require scope changes during implementation. In Ghana, and other early compacts, much of the detailed project preparation work essential for finalizing budgets and timelines, including feasibility and design studies and environmental and social impact assessments, was completed after compact signing. As programs progressed to detailed design and contract bidding and external factors like exchange rate fluctuations took effect, costs became more clearly defined, and some original objectives had to be scaled back. In such cases, as in Ghana, MCC worked with implementing partners to revise projects to meet as many original objectives as possible with tighter budgets. While some re-scoping is inevitable, MCC now conducts more rigorous design, cost estimation and budgeting prior to finalizing a compact, and where possible, ensures that projects are easily scalable so that adjustments can be made more seamlessly when needed. 1 This, however, has led to increased time needed to develop compact proposals.