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Washington Post reports:

In an interview, U.S Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah said the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition - the private-sector-oriented program Obama launched at Camp David in 2012 - was attracting new investment "because this way is working."

"We have been able to do some extraordinary things to dramatically reduce hunger through the commercialization of the agriculture sector," Shah added.

The initiative attracted $3.5 billion when it launched, with the majority of the money coming from large international companies. The new commitments bring it close to $15 billion. Two-thirds of the firms participating are African, and these companies account for roughly half of the program's pledges.

Tuesday's financial commitments include an array of initiatives, including plans by Coca-Cola to secure more reliable sources of mango puree in Kenya and Malawi and promote orange and pineapple concentrate production in Nigeria; $5 million from the Global Shea Alliance to provide storage facilities for women in communities that collect and process shea butter for Western food and cosmetic brands; and $1.2 million from Agriaccess Ghana Ltd. in support of training for local sorghum farmers.

Carl LeVan, an African-politics professor at American University and author of the new book "Dictators and Democracy in African Development," wrote in an e-mail that the administration's approach to food aid has benefits, as well as potential risks.

"Partnering with the private sector will increase the volume of aid, and it has the potential to improve the impact and efficiency of assistance, especially where corporations like Coca-Cola already have infrastructure and experience in Africa," LeVan wrote. But he added that "private interests do not always line up with foreign policy objectives," such as when multinational firms did business with South Africa under apartheid, or when they purchase land in Africa even if it means displacing villagers.

Shah said he is aware of the skepticism some Africans have of corporate investors, noting that each year the U.S. government publishes a report on the deals it helps secure under its food assistance programs. "We have to work hard to build trust and transparency with civil society and small farmers," he said.

The administration has a separate initiative called Feed the Future, which launched in 2010 and receives about $1.1 billion a year in federal money. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) announced Monday that she is working on bipartisan legislation to make the program permanent. It has provided assistance to 7 million small farmers in Africa, Shah said, and ensured that more than 12 million children there are "adequately nourished."

In many instances, the United States has leveraged its aid dollars to push for new agricultural policies. In Ethi­o­pia, the government liberalized its regulations to allow private players - including DuPont, a participant in the administration's New Alliance program - to develop and distribute seeds to farmers.

Tanzania opted not to impose a ban on agricultural exports after working with U.S. officials. And Ni­ger­ian President Goodluck Jonathan said in a statement that his government "ended corruption of four decades in the fertilizer sector" by developing an "electronic wallet system" that allows farmers to get subsidized seeds and fertilizers though coupons they receive on their cellphones.

Vice President Biden emphasized the importance of cracking down on corruption while speaking to African activists and nonprofit organizations Monday at the summit, calling it a "cancer."

"Widespread corruption is an affront to the dignity of your people and a direct threat to each of your nations," Biden said. "It stifles economic growth and scares away investment and siphons off resources that should be used to lift people out of poverty."

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