Energy Will Be A Hot Topic At The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

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Written by D.A. Barber

This is the third of a four-part series exploring U.S. President Barack Obama’s upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Aug. 4-6 in Washington, D.C.  Part three shows how energy is a big issue at the summit. Part two looks at side events associated with the summit; Part one illustrates the issues and events surrounding the summit; and Part four asks whether the summit is a risky undertaking for the White House.

The U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Aug. 4-6 in Washington will focus on trade and investment by giving 45 heads of state and more than 100 Ministers an opportunity to mix it up with CEOs from the top U.S. corporations.

And one thing is clear: energy – a topic that has been on the minds of African leaders since President Obama announced his Power Africa initiate a year ago – will be an issue on the table at many meetings. After all, only about a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa has access to electricity and 10 percent per year capacity growth is needed to meet electricity demand, according to the World Bank.

In fact, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit has African energy ministers lining up to be on various panels that are both part of the summit, as well as those conducted outside the official event.

Many of those ministers are from the Power Africa countries — the “clean energy” target countries of Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and Nigeria — and Uganda and Mozambique, which have separate deals for “responsible” oil and gas development through the State Department’s Governance and Capacity Initiative.

“The planned agenda was designed from the start to engage African energy ministers as well as private investors, both of which groups are crucial in the growth of the African power sector,” said Charles Stadtlander, a spokesman at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, in an AFKInsider interview.

Before the official summit opens, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy will co-host the “African Leaders’ Visit: Energy” trip to Houston July 30-Aug. 1 for oil and gas ministers from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique — countries that have recent offshore natural gas discoveries.

As of this writing, the confirmed delegates include Esperança Bias, Mozambique’s Minister of Natural Resources.

“And she will be bringing with her two CEOs of the natural gas public resource sector,” said Thomas Hardy, director of public affairs at the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, AFKInsider.

Also confirmed is Sospeter Muhongo, Tanzania’s Minister of Energy and Minerals, and Richard Sezibera, Secretary General of the East Africa Community which includes Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.

Simultaneously on July 30, the Corporate Council on Africa’s Power Africa Working Group – the designated private sector facilitator for the U.S. Power Africa initiative – will present “Navigating the Power Sector in Ethiopia” in Houston. Confirmed are Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Ethiopia’s Minister of Water and Energy and Azeb Asnake, the CEO of Ethiopian Electric Power.

“The Ethiopians are sending a very large delegation to Houston and that’s beyond the normal numbers that [U.S. Trade and Development Agency] does,” Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa told AFKInsider.

Later in Washington on Aug 1, the Corporate Council will offer“Navigating the Power Sector in Ghana & Liberia,”that includes Emmanuel Armah-Kofi Buah, Ghana’s Minister of Energy and Petroleum, and Patrick Sendolo, Liberia’s Minister of Lands, Mines & Energy, as well as three executives from the Millennium Challenge Corporation, who will discuss the opportunities in their upcoming compacts.

Meanwhile, Ghana President John Dramani Mahama will be attending the White House Summit with energy on his mind: The country, which continues to face formidable energy generation challenges, is waiting on a decision concerning their second Millennium Challenge Corporation grant worth almost $500 million for projects in the energy sector, according to the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

The Corporate Council will also bring its member companies and others together with the African leaders in Washington on Monday, August 4 for an all-day Business Forum that includes a Power Africa luncheon and panel.

As Corporate Council on Africa’s Steven Hayes mentioned in Part Two of this series:“We established the Power Africa lunch and the U.S. government approached us and said ‘can we share in this and make this our official U.S. government event as well,’ and we said ‘sure.’”

“So we worked it out and the U.S. government keynote speaker is going to be Elizabeth Littlefield of Overseas Private Investment Corporation, who are probably doing more on Power Africa in terms of financing than anybody,” Hayes told AFKInsider, noting that the lunch panel originally was going to be “Power Africa: One Year After.”

“But we felt it’s far too early to give any type of assessment – positive or negative,” says Hayes.

Instead, the panel will touch on what has worked and what needs to be done with Power Africa.

“And so the U.S. government agreed to make that their primary agenda. So I think it’s going to be an exciting program,” Hayes told AFKInsider.

Meanwhile, Tuesday, Aug. 5, brings the main event for the U.S.-African Leaders Summit: the all-day U.S.-Africa Business Forum where it is expected that some 300 U.S. officials, CEOs and African representatives will mingle and talk shop.

A U.S. State Department official told AFKInsider that Power Africa will be covered” during that Business Forum.

The Power Africa Road Tour

Leading up to the August summit, the U.S. government has been aggressively promoting energy development for months through trips to Africa by the who’s who of Power Africa’s lead government funding agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, U.S. Export-Import Bank, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Department of Commerce and the U.S. African Development Foundation.

During those road trips, the funding agencies let it be known there are more grants – and American energy companies – readily available for even countries not part of Power Africa.

“We are committed to supporting power projects across Sub-Saharan Africa,” Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s Charles Stadtlander told AFKInsider. “We currently have power projects or approvals for financing in Togo, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania. Our upcoming pipeline of deals adds even more countries to that list.”