World Bank to inject $5 billion into Power Africa Initiative

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HARRY MISIKO
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The Word Bank has announced a $5 billion (Sh435 billion) support package for the US-led Power Africa Initiative in six countries, including Kenya.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim on Tuesday told US-Africa Business Forum of the ongoing US-Africa Leaders Summit that the support would be in the form of direct financing, investment guarantees and advisory services for project preparation.

'€We think that the US-Africa power initiative will play an extremely important role in achieving the goal of providing electricity for Africa,'€ he said, adding that the over five per cent economic growth that the continent has recorded in recent years '€œhas been done without power'€.

The project launched by President Barack Obama on June 30 seeks to help plug Africa'€s 100-gigawatt power gap that has seen 85 per cent of its rural population living in the dark.

The US has already committed $7 billion (Sh609 billion) to the initiative that seeks to step up and double electricity generation and transmission in sub-Saharan Africa.

Other African partner countries in the first phase of the project that aims at injecting more than 10,000 megawatts of electricity in their national grids are Tanzania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria.

Over 650 million people out of Africa'€s 900-million population lack access to electricity and the aim of the initiative is to build on Africa'€s enormous power potential '€” including new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas, geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy.

Targeted results of the initiative include reduction of power cost that stands at over $75c per kilowatt hour to attract industrial investors to the continent and create jobs for its ballooning youthful population.

Dr Jim was bullish about Africa'€s ability to solve its economic, social and political problems and urged the world to support its efforts, citing Africa'€™s success in the fight against HIV and Aids scourge that threatened to wipe out is population in early 2000s.

More than 10 million people infected with the virus in Africa are currently on medication courtesy of US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and other interventions.

'€We should never ever doubt the potential of Africa not only to solve its problems but to grow in a way that will boost the entire world,'€ he told the summit organised by the US Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, DC.

'€œIt was a developing continent between 2008 and 2013 but it accounted for more than half the global growth. We at the World Bank believe in Africa.'€

'HERE, NOW'

Bloomberg LP founder and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged US investors to invest in Africa, saying '€œit is no longer emerging, it is here, now.'€

'€œAfrica is today the biggest market opportunity in the global economy. Africa is expected to reach a five per cent overall growth rate in 2015, it boasts six of the world'€™s 10 fastest goring economies, it registered more than 400,000 new companies last year alone and its consumer class is the fastest growing in the world,'€ he said.

Mr Bloomberg, a leading philanthropist and investor in Africa, was optimistic about continent'€s growth potential in the next decade.

He urged US to flex its muscle in its competition for investment opportunities with China and Europe.

'€œImagine an African labour force that will surpass India'€™s and triple Europe'€™s; imagine an Africa where extreme poverty as we know it is virtually eliminated; where consumer class with rising incomes has greater purchasing power; where broadband access stretches from Cairo to Cape Town,'€ he said.

US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker said the time to do business with Africa is now.

'€œInvesting in Africa would create jobs in North Carolina and expand power supply in Ghana'€¦ investing in Africa would support workers in California and strengthen the health of patients in Nigeria,'€ she said.

The US, Ms Pritzker said, would double its commercial offices by opening branches in Angola, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Mozambique and expanding those in Kenya, Libya, Ghana and Morocco.

Washington is also returning its Foreign Commercial Service to the African Development Bank for the first time in three years, and launching 10 new trade missions to Africa and 10 reverse trade missions to the US by 2020.

The forum sought to intensify efforts to strengthen trade and financial ties between the United States and Africa and seek to create partnerships that will promote trade, accelerate job growth, and encourage investment.

It focused on US private sector engagement in Africa in the areas of finance and capital investment, infrastructure, power and energy, agriculture, consumer goods, and information and communication technology.

 

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