West Africa: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Leads Energy Business Development Mission to West Africa

press release

Photo: Flagstaff House Communications Bureau
Ghanaian President John Mahama interacting with Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Washington, DC — With more than 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lacking access to electricity, the power development challenge is enormous. More than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, including more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas. According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa needs more than $300 billion in investments to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 - far beyond the capacity of any traditional development program.

Tomorrow, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will leave for West Africa to lead 20 American companies on an Energy Business Development Mission with stops in Ghana and Nigeria. This mission will promote U.S.

exports to Africa by helping American firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector in West Africa. It will also help the African region develop and manage energy resources and systems, build out power generation and transmission, and distribution.

Africa is home to seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and helping U.S. business expand their presence in these African markets is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Obama Administration. There is tremendous potential for U.S. companies to sell their goods and services in countries like Ghana and Nigeria, which have energy needs that our firms have the goods, services, and expertise to address. Expanding trade and investment is a critical tool for economic growth and job creation in the U.S., and trade missions like this one are one way to help grow U.S. exports.

This trade mission is part of President Obama's Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) on Sub-Saharan Africa which he approved on June 14, 2012. More commonly known as the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, the Strategy recognizes that Africa holds the promise to be “the world's next major economic success story,” and this is the first time that promoting U.S. trade and investment has been a cornerstone of a PPD on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Representatives of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) will also participate in the trade mission to provide information and counseling regarding their suite of programs and services in sub-Saharan Africa. This collaborative interagency approach highlights the Doing Business in Africa (DBIA) campaign, which aims to harness federal trade promotion and financing capabilities to help the U.S. private sector identify and seize upon trade and investment opportunities in the region.

To further efforts in supporting the U.S.-African bilateral economic and commercial relationship, the Commerce Department's Minority Business Development Agency's (MBDA) Miami Business Center hosted the Power Africa B2B Summit three weeks ago to promote the public-private partnership model envisioned by President Obama's Power Africa Initiative. President Obama announced Power Africa last year as an initiative to double the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 600 million people currently lack access to electricity. The United States is investing more than $7 billion in this effort.

After the trade mission concludes, Secretary Pritzker will travel to Ethiopia with U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass to promote the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Ethiopia played host to the 2013 AGOA Forum, which helped focus the Ethiopian government's efforts on AGOA as an important tool for fueling sustainable economic growth.

The Department of Commerce is committed to helping U.S. businesses increase their global fluency, and the upcoming trade mission is a major opportunity to connect U.S. company products, services, and expertise to support Africa's economic growth potential.

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