Mr Tony Elumelu, Chairman, Heirs Holdings, has called on the United States Congress to pass the ‘Electrify Africa Act’ stating that its passage into law would make a world of difference in Africa.
“When you leave this place, call your Representatives and the Leadership of the House and ask them to pass the bill,” Mr Elumelu urged members of a packed audience in Washington D.C.
The bill, which would preserve and expand President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative by codifying access to electricity as a U.S. foreign policy priority for Africa, has already been passed by the U.S. Senate and is expected to be voted by the U.S. House of Representatives next week.
Speaking at the “Power Africa Summit” in Washington D.C, Mr Elumelu, who is also the Founder Tony Elumelu Foundation, commended President Obama for working through the Power Africa Initiative to mobilize the private sector to invest $43 billion in the African power sector.
Mr Elumelu said Africa must win the energy challenge if it seeks to become an industrial power in the 21st century, noting that “power outages on the continent must spark power outrages. The kind of outrage that ignites the activist in us”.
Elumelu’s Heirs Holdings, a propriety investment company, through Transcorp Power Limited has committed $2.5 billion to deliver 2,000 megawatts of electricity under the Power Africa Initiative.
Transcorp Power is currently generating about 19 per cent of Nigeria’s power needs with a target to increase capacity to 25 per cent in the near future.
“Power cuts across and has impacted on healthcare delivery, job creation, education, food security communications and all other sectors of the economy. It is unacceptable that 600 million Africans lack access to energy in the 21st century”, Mr Elumelu said.
The call in Washington DC, follows the joint letter to the U.S. Congress from Elumelu and Mr Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group, on behalf of the African Energy Leaders Group (AELG), which they co-founded with other leaders in January 2015.
The letter, similarly urged members of the U.S. House of Representatives to act swiftly to pass this critical piece of legislation to scale up U.S. efforts to help provide Africans with access to electricity.
In continuation of his advocacy for Africa, Elumelu also testified before the U.S. International Trade Commission on ‘The Future of the U.S.-Africa Trade and Investment Relationship’ the same day.
Chaired by Ambassador Michael Froman, the US Trade Representative, the Hearing was part of efforts by the U.S. government to put appropriate building blocks in place for the next phase in its economic relationship with Africa.
As a recognized African business and thought leader, Mr Elumelu was invited to share ideas on how to enhance the U.S.-Africa trade and investment relationships beyond the preferential access to the U.S. market for Africa’s products under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Speaking at the Hearing, Mr Elumelu said Africa did not need another trade agreement or preferential programme and called for a new paradigm in the trade and investment relationship with Africa.
He said: “It is time to move beyond the unequal exchange of cheap raw materials for expensive finished goods that disadvantages Africa, to one that ensures technology transfer and sustainable economic development, huge economic returns for investors and creates new jobs for both sides.”
He proposed three approaches to achieving this; applying the principles of Africapitalism; focus on identifying and enabling specific value chains; and promoting entrepreneurship.
“Africapitalism can help shape the new trade paradigm because it requires governments, donors and the private sector to work together in a “Shared Purpose” to ensure the creation of national plans and supporting policies around specific sectors and related targets, so the private sector can step in with capital and expertise geared to achieve those targets, be they tons of grain produced, megawatts of electricity generated or industrial parks created”, he stated.
Mr Elumelu’s engagements in the U.S. comes after the recent visit by a delegation of members of Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA), along with representatives of several U.S. government trade and investment-focused agencies.
Elumelu hosted the delegation in Lagos, provided them an opportunity to interact and hear directly from young aspiring entrepreneurs drawn from the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP); an audacious initiative that provides seed capital, training, mentorship and a networking platform for 10,000 African entrepreneurs over a 10 year period.
Endowed with $100million by the African Philanthropist, the programme, which commenced last year with 1000 beneficiaries, is currently in its second year with another 1000 beneficiaries from Africa, scheduled to participate and benefit from the novel entrepreneurship development program in 2016. GNA