The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 August 2014
The World Bank Group yesterday committed $5 billion in new technical and financial support for energy projects in six African countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania.
These are the countries that were chosen to partner with President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.
Making the announcement on the second day of the 1st US-Africa Summit, World Bank Group President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, said the new financial commitment was urgently needed to generate more electricity for the people of Africa, 600 million of whom have no access to electricity, despite the fact that Africa possesses some of the world’s largest hydropower, geothermal, wind and solar potential, as well as significant oil and natural gas reserves.
“We think that the U.S. Power Africa initiative will play an extremely important role in achieving the goal of providing electricity for Africa. So today I’m very pleased to announce that the World Bank Group, following President Obama’s lead, will partner with Power Africa by committing $5 billion in direct financing, investment guarantees, and advisory services for project preparation in Power Africa’s six initial partner countries, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The U.S. Government and the World Bank Group are working now on specific tasks and milestones which could help to achieve one quarter of Power Africa’s goal of generating 10,000 megawatts of new power in Sub Saharan Africa,” Kim said.
Africa’s power crisis forces families and communities to spend significant amounts of their income on costly and unhealthy forms of energy, such as diesel generators or wood for indoor cooking fires.
Africa has vast hydropower potential but uses just 8 percent of this untapped water force. In comparison, Western Europe uses 85 percent of its available hydropower potential, which has contributed to their economic development and industrialization.
“Like Europe and the rest of the world, Africa deserves the same opportunity to exploit this green source of power to improve the lives and economic prospects of its people,” said the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop.
“Beyond building up power generators, they must be connected to the market, which calls for regional cooperation to build the transmission network. We are working with African leaders and their development partners to create power pools in Africa’s East, West, Central, and Southern sub-regions. Those countries with abundant geothermal, gas, hydro, solar, and wind resources can feed their excess power supply into a common pool, while neighboring states with less energy and generation capacity can benefit from this integrated approach to delivering electricity to their people.“
Seeking to strengthen America’s financial foothold in Africa, President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in commitments Tuesday aimed at shifting U.S. ties with Africa beyond humanitarian aid and toward more equal economic partnerships.
The bulk of the commitments came from private-sector companies, including Coca-Cola and General Electric, underscoring Africa’s growing appeal to businesses.
The continent is home to six of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a rapidly expanding middle class with increased spending power.
Yet Obama noted that U.S. trade with the entire African continent is about the same as its trade ties with Brazil and that just about one percent of U.S. exports go to sub-Saharan Africa.
“We’ve got to do better, much better,” he said during closing remarks at a daylong session that brought together U.S. and African politicians and business leaders. “I want Africans buying more American products and I want Americans buying more African products.”
The U.S. is hardly alone in seeing economic potential in Africa, with China, Europe and India moving aggressively to tap into Africa’s growing markets.
China in particular is hungry for oil, coal and other resources and is eager to develop the roads, bridges and ports needed to pull them out of Africa.
“We also realize we have some catching up to do,” said Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and billionaire businessman who opened the summit Tuesday. “We are letting Europe and China go faster than the U.S.”
Obama has sought to cast the U.S. as a better partner for African nations than China, arguing that his administration has a long-term interest in the continent’s success and is not simply seeking to extract resources for its own purposes.
“The United States is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success,” he said. “We don’t look to Africa simply for its natural resources. We recognize Africa for its greatest resource, which is its people, their talents and their potential.”
The business forum is part of an unprecedented three-day summit underway in Washington, with nearly 50 African heads of state in attendance. Obama was hosting the leaders at a White House dinner Tuesday night.
About 100 U.S. companies were represented at Tuesday’s conference. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry also addressed the attendees, as did former President Bill Clinton, who declared that the U.S. has “only barely scratched the surface” of Africa’s economic potential.
In conjunction with the meeting, U.S. companies announced $14 billion in investments for Africa. Among them: a $5 billion investment from Coca-Cola to fund manufacturing lines and production equipment; $2 billion investment from GE by 2018; $200 million in investments across Africa by Marriott, and a $66 million commitment by IBM to provide technology services to Ghana’s Fidelity Bank.
The White House also touted another $12 billion in new commitments for Obama’s Power Africa initiative from the private sector, World Bank and the government of Sweden.
Obama announced the Power Africa initiative last summer, setting a goal of expanding electricity access to at least 20 million new households and commercial entities.
The president said that with the new financial commitments, he was boosting that goal to 60 million homes and businesses.
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