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U.S., Private Sector Commit Billions to African Electric Power

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Africa’s electric-power infrastructure is set to receive an enormous boost over the next four years, thanks to new government and public-sector commitments of nearly $14 billion announced at a recent summit of African and U.S. officials in Washington, D.C.

The summit, held Aug. 4-6, drew some 50 African heads of state, ministers and business executives, who met with President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, congressional leaders and other officials to discuss partnerships with government and nongovernmental organizations.

A key development was Obama's Aug. 5 pledge of $300 million in U.S. assistance per year through 2018 to expand a year-old "Power Africa" program, a five-year, $7 billion program launched in 2013 that aims to add more than 10,000 MW of new electricity-generation capacity. Those additions would provide electricity for 20 million new households and businesses.

The president’s announcement ups the ante considerably for Power Africa, to reach a new aggregate goal of 30,000 MW of new capacity and increase electricity access by at least 60 million households and businesses.

Obama also announced $6 billion in new private-sector commitments to Power Africa, bringing total private contributions to the program so far to more than $20 billion.

The World Bank also announced at the summit that it would commit $5 billion in new technical and financial support for energy projects in six African countries—Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania—that are part of the Power Africa initiative.

Among the Power Africa projects now in planning, financing or design are continued negotiations on Ethiopia's Corbetti Geothermal, the first phase of a potential 1,000-MW geothermal generation project; nearly 500 MW in Kenya wind projects; and a 10-MW mini-hydro and 5-MW solar project in Tanzania. Efforts also have been under way to privatize Nigeria's power sector.

Besides the focus on electricity generation, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. announced that it would pledge $3 billion in financing to support U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa over the next two fiscal years.

Ex-Im Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg said at the summit that the bank had authorized $1.7 billion in financing to support U.S. exports to Africa over the previous 10 months.

“Ex-Im Bank is firmly committed to equipping U.S. exporters to realize the vast economic opportunities emerging throughout sub-Saharan Africa, which is home to seven out of 10 of the world’s fastest-growing markets,” Hochberg said.


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