The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Mimi Juggles the Globe

(Page 3 of 6)

The challenge was making sure that the African people were involved at every level in their own development agenda. It often surprised me that NGOs in the Western world had more to say than local groups about projects taking place in Africa. Too often, the African voice is lost or discounted. We have to build stronger civil society in Africa that can speak adequately on behalf of their people.

Your organization, OPIC, the US Government's Development Finance Institution, manages over $16 billion in financing and insurance in support of private sector investment in emerging markets. What are the specific emerging markets that your organization targets and which sectors? How are the regions and sectors determined for investment by OPIC?

OPIC provides loans, guarantees, and risk mitigation products like political risk insurance to companies, entrepreneurs and NGOs that pioneer investment in developing nations.

We work in countries across the globe, from Afghanistan to Kenya, the Far East and Latin America, and in a variety of sectors including power, agriculture, small and medium enterprise (SME) lending, housing, infrastructure, and manufacturing. Our criteria for investment are shaped by our own internal investment policies, and most importantly, where our clients see investment opportunities. Currently, Africa is our largest portfolio region and our fastest growing.

We pride ourselves in being nimble, flexible, and ready to take risks that commercial banks will not as well as developing with our clients the kind of creative and accommodating structures that investing in frontier market requires.

At the same time, we believe in taking prudent risks. That's why our portfolio continues to be profitable, and we return funds to the U.S. Treasury every year.

I read on your blog that OPIC, the US Government's development finance institution is advancing President Barack Obama's "Presidential Policy Directive" on U.S. strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa by supporting investments that create sustainable growth and prosperity throughout the region. Can you shed light on President Obama's "Presidential Policy Directive" on US strategy toward sub-Saharan Africa? And what specifically is OPIC doing to "create sustainable growth and prosperity" in the region?

In June of 2012, President Obama unveiled a new Presidential Policy Directive on Sub-Saharan Africa, which further codified the United States' long-standing commitment to the nations and peoples of the region. The document reflected our commitment to Africa through improvement of democratic institutions; supporting peace and security, promoting opportunity and development, and driving economic growth, trade, and investment.

OPIC seeks to create opportunity across Sub-Saharan Africa by helping businesses invest in the region, creating jobs, knowledge transfer, and economic growth. In President Obama's first term, OPIC has provided USD 2.9 billion of investment in support of private sector projects in the region and we look forward to continuing that trend in the coming years. Furthermore, OPIC has committed USD 1.5 billion towards President Obama's Power Africa initiative, aimed at doubling access to electricity on the continent.

Last year, you went on a trip to Ethiopia, with OPIC CEO Elizabeth Littlefield and witnessed the challenges Ethiopian women experienced in preparing meals for their families. As an Ethiopian, how difficult is it to witness some of these basic challenges that Ethiopia and Africa currently faces? What role do African women play coming up with solutions for Africa?

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