27 April 2014, Washington — A high-level meeting on energy needs in Africa, held April 22 in Miami, was the latest U.S. government effort to connect American companies with opportunities to provide energy services on the continent.
The Miami MBDA Business Center, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), hosted the Power Africa B2B Summit to promote the public-private partnership model envisioned by President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative, according to an April 22 Commerce Department blog post.
President Obama announced his Power Africa initiative in 2013, with the goal of doubling the number of people with access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, where 600 million people lack access to electricity. The United States is investing more than $7 billion in the initiative.
The Miami meeting brought together prominent government and business leaders — including Nigeria’s power minister, Mohammed Wakil, CEOs of Africa’s major power companies, and representatives from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development — with MBDA to share opportunities for accessing the energy sector in African markets.
“The Power Africa B2B Summit is just one step that the Commerce Department is taking to promote trade and investment in Africa,” the blog post said, noting that in May, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will embark on a trade mission to Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
The trade mission, Pritzker’s third since taking office in 2013, will promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping U.S. companies launch or increase their business in the African energy sector. It will also help the African region develop and manage energy resources and systems and build out power generation, transmission and distribution.
President Obama unveiled his Power Africa initiative on June 30, 2013, in an address to a crowd of 1,100 at the University of Cape Town, part of a weeklong trip to South Africa, Senegal and Tanzania. He said that in partnership with African nations, the United States would develop new sources of energy, and he outlined America’s vision of a partnership with Africa that unleashes achievable growth.
“We’ll reach more households not just in cities, but in villages and on farms,” he said. “We’ll expand access for those who live currently off the power grid.”
The White House said Power Africa would bring a broad range of U.S. government tools to support energy sector investment in Africa, including providing policy and regulatory best practices, pre-feasibility support and capacity building, long-term financing, insurance, guarantees, credit enhancements and technical assistance.
With its fast-growing middle class and vast human, agricultural and mineral resources, Africa is attracting investors and businesses from around the world, the Commerce Department blog post said. It added that sub-Saharan Africa, home to seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, outpaces global average growth.
Africa’s great potential is the reason that, in 2012, President Obama launched the Presidential Policy Directive on Sub-Saharan Africa, now known as the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, the blog post said. The strategy recognizes that Africa holds the promise to be “the world’s next major economic success story,” it said, and the U.S. government is working to help businesses be part of that success story by promoting U.S. trade and investment through its Doing Business in Africa campaign.