A.Nicot – Final: Power Africa

President Obama,

Your initiative to provide power to Africa, aptly if uncreatively named “Power Africa,” has raised in my mind a few concerns concerning your approach to the evident problem of undeveloped energy infrastructure on the African continent. Firstly, I note in your “factsheet” on the project that you present on the White House website that there is a definite focus on private sector development of this problem. I acknowledge the heavy role (7 billion dollars worth of financial support) that the U.S. government and its dependent corporations will be playing in this initiative, but private corporations will be providing most of the financing (9 billion dollars worth), notably using their own technology and their own methods of financing various projects.

For example, does General Electric’s specific goal to bring 5,000 megawatts of new, affordable energy” to two countries, Tanzania and Ghana, not leave them a considerable leeway to invest in a variety of things which could ensure a future profitable market in these countries, especially if they bring and use their own technology and methods, and expert staff. Doesn’t the African Finance Corporation, a South African state-owned mining company, have specific interests of its own to “invest $250 million in the power sectors of Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria,” besides what is mentioned as a “catalyst” of investment into sub-Saharan power infrastructure?

President Obama, it doesn’t seem like the concept as you present it leaves much room for transparency of how these investments are conducted, instead laying the issue of accountability squarely at the feet of African governments, admittedly corrupt and in many ways dysfunctional. Yes, African states need to ensure that the money earned from these ventures and the power generated is used for the benefit of their peoples – this is why the state exists if it participates in energy projects such as this – but should not the contributing members of this project, private AND American government-related, also be held accountable for their role? Will we see exactly how the American government intends to spend its money? “[providing] $285 million in technical assistance, grants and risk mitigation to advance private sector energy transactions and help governments adopt and implement the policy, regulatory, and other reforms necessary to attract private sector investment in the energy and power sectors,” could really mean a lot of things considering the vague outline presented in the sentence. Also it’s focus seems on attracting the private sector. A sound strategy perhaps, but would these private investors be largely American corporations and organizations?

Nothing i international politics is given for free, and it’s obvious the American government is primarily seeking in Africa the development of markets for its own exploitation purposes. It was done in Europe from 1918 onwards, it was done in Asia (along with Europe) to force open the Orient in the 19th Century, and it was done in Latin America as well throughout the Cold War. There is not much shame in trying to carry American economic interests, be they at the detriment even of local people, but one would appreciate either an allusion to this or if you’d be so bold, a comment on how this would not be the case. Pretending a mission is purely humanitarian does not befit a government of the stature of the U.S.A.’s.

Yours respectfully etc.

Aurelien Nicot

This entry was posted in Assignments, Final. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.