Washington, D.C.—Leaders from American power companies joined the Millennium Challenge Corporation yesterday for a discussion on Capitol Hill about opportunities for power investments in Africa.
The event was the first in MCC’s Gateway to Opportunity Summer Series, created as a forum for U.S. companies to identify business opportunities in MCC partner countries. Future events will focus on American private sector investment in agriculture and water in MCC countries.
Ambassador Mark Green, CEO of the Initiative for Global Development and member of MCC’s Board of Directors, moderated the panel discussion, which focused on shared experiences of investment in MCC countries in Africa and how, in some cases, MCC helped leverage U.S. companies’ investments in the power sectors.
Green said that every African country faces a power deficit and that a lack of reliable power dramatically restricts the potential for economic growth and provision of health care and education.
“The most important reason to me for why the U.S. should be involved in providing assistance to expand access to energy is that we can do this—we know how to do this.” Green said. “The United States’ business sector, the business community, knows how to generate and distribute power.”
Eric Pike, CEO of Pike Electric Corporation, discussed the North Carolina-based power company’s infrastructure investments in Tanzania. Pike Electric competitively won a contract to install about 900 kilometers of power lines near Dodoma as part of the Tanzania Compact. The project was the company’s first investments abroad.
“Truly one of the most amazing projects that we have ever completed had to be this portion of the Tanzania Compact,” Pike said. “The MCC framework and format allows U.S. companies to have a fair and even playing field in the international market, to bid competitively for work.”
Patrick Hennelly, CEO of Weldy/Lamont Associates, Inc., emphasized the investment opportunities for U.S. companies in Africa. He also discussed Weldy/Lamont’s $350 million in investments to install electrical distribution and transmission equipment in Ghana.
Panelists also discussed how investing in Africa helped grow their companies and open up a new market for their products and services. Malaria No More CEO Martin Edlund described how his organization partners with the private sector to reduce the incidence of malaria and significantly increase worker productivity. MCC Chief of Staff Steven Kaufmann focused on how MCC is working to create an enabling environment for private investment through policy reform.
“It really is the private sector that has got to bring the capital and the expertise to bear to alleviate the power deficit,” Kaufmann said. “When MCC is looking at intervening in countries, we are helping those countries attack the policy environments that are preventing private sector investment, that are preventing growth of an electrical power industry in their countries—and that’s creating space for the private sector to come and invest with us.”