Israel to invest one billion dollars in developing solar energy in West Africa

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 June 2017

Last Friday, 2nd of June 2017, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) signed an unprecedented Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will see Israel investing one billion dollars across 15 countries in the West African sub-region to meet the electricity needs of those countries over the next four years.

This was announced at a news conference in Liberia by Remy Reinstein – the Country Director of Energiya Global, Israel’s leading solar developer.

For the people of West Africa, this investment could be the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, as hundreds of millions of people and industries in the sub-region struggle with the poor availability of electricity.

Electricity shortage is affecting the productivity of almost all 15 countries in West Africa. It is stifling economic growth, job creation and the safe delivery of health and other public services.  

Education standards are adversely affected, as children and students make do with intermittent supply of electricity or the use of kerosene lamps.       

Welcoming the signing of the MOU, the CEO of Energiya Global – Yosef I. Abramowitz said:  “In honour of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s two terms in office, and Liberia’s friendship with the State of Israel, Energiya Global and our international partners will finance and build a commercial-scale solar field at the Roberts International Airport, which will supply 25% of the country’s generation capacity.”

Although president Koroma of Sierra Leone was in Israel five months ago, seeking investments for the country’s energy, fishing, agriculture and other sectors, it is clear from this statement by Yosef I. Abramowitz, that president Koroma had failed to convince the Israeli’s of Sierra Leone’s special relationship with Israel and Sierra Leone’s investment potential and safe investment climate.

With Sierra Leone’s ruling APC  party’s umbilical cord tightly knitted with China’s communist party and Chinese investors, it is difficult to see how Israeli companies can safely commit huge investments in Sierra Leone.

But the CEO of Energiya Global is keeping an open mind. Speaking at the press conference, he said: “We are prepared to finance and build the first National Demonstration Solar Projects in all ECOWAS-affiliated countries in order to promote political stability and social and economic development, as well as to advance knowledge transfer.”

Energiya Global and its associated companies developed the first commercial scale solar field in sub-Sahara Africa in Rwanda, which is supplying 6% of the country’s power, and the group broke ground on a similar power plant in Burundi, which will supply 15% of the country’s power by the end of the year.

The solar group has fields at various stages of development in ten African countries and expects to announce its full programme at the Israel-Africa Summit in Togo at the end of October.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will address the 15 West African heads of state of ECOWAS, as well as the head of the African Union.

“Israel is coming back to Africa,” the Prime Minister will announce, and will outline the technological innovations in agriculture, water, green energy and more that can support economic development in West Africa.

As China continues to gain increasing control of many African economies and exert its influence over their internal and foreign politics, Israel’s $1 billion dollar investment in developing solar energy in West Africa could bring a ray of hope for change.

The $20 million investment comes as Israel and ECOWAS also sign an historic MOU today Sunday, to promote investments, technology and cooperation in West Africa, which could see the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“With 600 million Africans without electricity, the State of Israel can literally help African heads of state bring power to the African people,” says Member of Knesset Avraham Neguise, chairman of the Israel-Africa Caucus of the Israeli Parliament, who accompanied the Prime Minister.

“Our humanitarian and diplomatic goals are supported by the private sector as well, which can work quickly and efficiently to improve the lives of millions of people. I want to thank my friend Yosef Abramowitz for his investments in solar in Africa. We look forward to working with ECOWAS to deploy $1 billion over the next four years, starting with this first investment of $20 million in Liberia by Energiya Global.”

A working session between ECOWAS, representatives of the State of Israel and Abramowitz will take place tomorrow Monday morning in Monrovia, to plan for the deployment of the green energy investments in fulfilment of the MOU signed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the President of ECOWAS.

U.S. Power Africa Coordinator, Andrew Herscowitz underlined the importance of Energiya Global’s work by saying, “As a founding Power Africa partner, Energiya Global continues to demonstrate its industry leadership with this important investment in Liberia. Increasing access and power generation is the foundation for economic prosperity and human development. We look forward to Energiya Global’s transformative impact on the lives of the Liberian people.”

“We are proud to be involved in the creation of cutting-edge, clean energy for Liberia,” says Remy Reinstein, Energiya Global’s country director.

“We are honoured to have the seal of approval from President Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, whose initiatives have made the sustainable development of Liberia possible.”

President Koroma of Sierra Leone will be reflecting on where he went so badly wrong with his visit to Israel, after failing to convince the Israelis of Sierra Leone’s special relationship with Israel, as well as Sierra Leone’s investment climate that is currently dominated by China.  

Questions are being asked about the millions of dollars received by the Koroma government from the Arab Development Fund in Dubai, for the development of a solar park in the capital Freetown, three years ago.

Not a single cent can be accounted for, nor a single solar panel planted at the park to generate the proposed 6 Megawatts of electricity, which could have met the needs of thousands of homes in Freetown.

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