Clean energy in Mauritius as well as opportunities offered in the sub-Saharan African region for renewable energy projects were the theme of a workshop held yesterday by the US Embassy under the aegis of US-based development financial institutions.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is currently reviewing its first clean energy project and is actively seeking new ones, where the United States of America can partner Mauritius to do business in Africa.

Accordingly, a workshop on the OPIC/EX-IM Bank/ TDA Financing Programs was organised yesterday by the US Embassy at the Labourdonnais Hotel in Port-Louis.

Shari Villarosa, US Ambassador to Mauritius, stated in her opening remarks that 75 Mauritian companies have invested in 26 countries primarily in Africa and South East Asia in various sectors such as sugar, textile, health care, agro-industry, ICT, and finance renewable energy.

“Investments are going to Africa and Asia which host probably the fastest growing economies in the world,” she said.

According to Shari Villarosa, the United States is a huge developed market which offers tremendous opportunities for Mauritius to diversify its economy. “While the island economy itself has asound power distribution network, Mauritius has a lot of know-how to contribute in unearthing opportunities for US-Mauritius collaboration in other countries,” she added.

Next, Peter Ballinger, OPIC Regional Director, said that the sub-Saharan African region is seeing a lot more growth than 20 years ago and most of the OPIC projects use Mauritius as the gateway to Africa.

As the US government’s premier development finance institution, OPIC mobilises US private capital to help solve critical development challenges and in doing so, advances US foreign policy.

OPIC manages a USD 2.5 billion African portfolio and offers innovative financial solutions to support private investors’ debt financing, insurance and support for private equity funds.

Clean energy is the largest sector in the sub-Saharan Africa and OPIC has committed USD 2.9 billion to support private sector investment in the region under the Obama Administration.

In addition, in July 2013, President Obama launched Power Africa, an innovative initiative to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. The US will commit more than $7 billion in financial support over the next five years to this effort.

Meanwhile, the Trade Development Agency (TDA) assists in the export of US goods and services for priority development projects in emerging economies. The organizationfocuses on infrastructure, technology transfer, human capacity building, and market oriented reforms which help to attract development finance.

In Mauritius, however, the only project done so far by the TDA is a feasibility study.

Ballinger also highlighted the US – Africa Clean Energy Development and Finance Center (ACEF) which aims to provide a coordinated, holistic approach by the various agencies within the US government to clean energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa.

It also aims to facilitate technology transfer from the US and promote economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.

To date, ACEF has committed $3 million in 10 projects in Namibia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and Morocco.

On the other hand, the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) is an independent agency of the US government which supports US exports while prudently managing risks in order to create and sustain US jobs.

Previously, the Ex-Im Bank supported a potable water facility in Nigeria and has also supported the oil and gas industry in the West African frontier nation, currently ranked Africa’s largest economy.

Finally, in June 3-4, 2014, the governments of US and Ethiopia would co-host a US – Africa Energy Ministerial in which the Mauritius business community is expected to participate.

According to US Ambassador Shari Villarosa, while the island economy itself has a sound power distribution network, Mauritius has a lot of know-how to contribute in unearthing opportunities for US-Mauritius collaboration in other African countries.

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