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A vision of growth in West Africa

CapsdebichesWAblog11May2016

ContourGlobal’s Cap des Biches power plant in Senegal. Credit: U.S. Embassy Dakar

By: Subha Nagarajan, OPIC Managing Director of West and Central Africa

Over the past two years, African countries have enacted many reforms to improve the business climate. And as the site of so many of the world’s low-income countries, Africa is a region with growing focus for the OPIC.  In fact, projects in Sub-Saharan Africa now account for nearly a quarter of our global portfolio, up from thirteen percent a decade ago. In 2015, we committed approximately a $1 billion to projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, the largest representation of any region.

Earlier this year I opened OPIC’s new regional office in Abidjan to support business development in the region. OPIC also has a regional office in Johannesburg.

With this momentum, the agency last month hosted a group of business leaders for a tour of West Africa to highlight the need for private investment and the opportunities for investors. The trip was the first of several investor trips now planned for the region.

Our team set out to visit Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, two nations that have ambitious plans to advance their economies and invest in development to improve the quality of life and expand opportunity.

During the tour, we hosted roundtable meetings with investors across all sectors to hear their insight into the regional investment climate. Meeting with senior government officials, we listened their long-term plans for incentivizing and attracting private capital and expertise to finance their economic growth. We also gathered with heads of state to discuss their national development strategies, growth strategies and emphasize the commitment of the U.S. Government to support their development.

Côte d’Ivoire has been a success story in recent years with strong growth and an economy that is now the fourth largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, Côte d’Ivoire now tops Nielsen’s Africa Prospects Indicators (APi) report, based on favorable economic growth and stable inflation climate in the country. In Abidjan, the country’s economic capital, the delegation met with President Alassane Ouattara, the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers for an open conversation on public private partnerships and the country’s investment outlook. On the margins of the Africa CEO Forum hosted in Abidjan, we were privileged to also meet with African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina as well as coordinate targeted talks with investor focus groups on energy and business climate.

In Senegal, a country that has recently taken measures to strengthen transparency in governance and the management of public resources, we met with international and private sector financial institutions where we explored financial sector perspective on economic and investment trends in Senegal and francophone West Africa. This was followed by a meeting with the Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne to learn about Senegal’s economic vision under the Plan Senegal Emergent, an initiative that aims to increase the productivity of Senegal’s economy in the public and private sectors, as well as brief presentations on initiatives and opportunities for private sector investment by Cabinet Ministers.

We visited some of the projects OPIC has supported in West Africa, including ContourGlobal’s Cap des Biches power generation facility. The project is OPIC’s first financing of grid-connected power project in Senegal, and one of several power generation projects OPIC is supporting to advance President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to add 60 million new electricity connections and 30,000 new megawatts in Sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, OPIC surpassed its initial $1.5 billion pledge to private sector-led power projects under the initiative.

The convergence that we see of reform-minded governments, on the one hand, and responsible businesses interested in investing in development, on the other, is very exciting. It is cause for optimism. The investors were extremely pleased with the opportunity to interact with one another, have frank conversations with top officials in each country and get to know the OPIC team. By bringing together the resources and innovative technology of the private sector with the the dynamism, untapped potential and growth of West Africa, we can do more than envisage a brighter future. We can work together to build it.

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