OPIC to aid power generation

SHARE   |   Sunday, 05 July 2015   |   By Othusitse Tlhobogang
US Ambassador, Miller US Ambassador, Miller

Local businesses have been urged to take advantage of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to help improve the nation’s power problems by starting solar energy projects. Speaking at a workshop held by OPIC recently, United States of America’s Ambassador to Botswana Earl Miller said it will be exciting to see Botswana move towards the inclusion of an independent power producer operations and solar projects. 
Miller said Botswana has a tremendous energy potential, adding that harnessing the renewable and coal resources will further the country’s economic diversification. The ambassador said the American Embassy has been working to support the private sector and government in this regard. 
“To support the government of Botswana in this regard, the US Embassy has worked with Initiative for Global Development (IGD), a Power Africa member, to streamline and standardise bankable power purchase agreements. I am happy to announce that following consultations earlier this month, IGD formally extended this offer of assistance to the Government of Botswana on June 16,” said the ambassador.  
OPIC is an American organisation aimed at financing viable businesses in emerging or developing markets. OPIC Vice president Jim Polan told the workshop participants that the mission of their organisation is to mobilise financial assistance to help solve critical development challenges in developing markets.
Polan explained that OPIC is not interested in buying any shares or controlling the businesses but only to finance them and make them work. “We do not look at maximising profits but at the long-term sustainability of the businesses or projects,” he said. According to him, they already supported investments in developing markets with over $200 Billion.
He also pointed that OPIC has committed to provide $1.5 billion to develop energy projects in Africa over the next five years, in support of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.  The initiative is aimed at doubling the number of people on the continent who have access to electricity. It is said that the Power Africa initiative will help African countries develop more of their extensive energy resources, including oil and gas, geothermal, hydro, wind, solar and biomass while also building out power generation and transmission infrastructure.
Polan said OPIC is one of the leading world solar power financiers and this could be of advantage to Botswana companies. He urged the companies to make use of the OPIC to get their businesses financed.  The workshop came at a good time when Botswana is struggling to produce enough electricity and solar energy has been identified as one of the resources that could be utilised.
However, the projects that are supported by OPIC are not only limited to renewable resources and energy but include sectors such as food, health, tourism, infrastructure, microfinance, financial services and technology and communications.
During the workshop participants were taught how they can benefit from the OPIC and all the steps necessary for the process. It was arranged by the American Business Council (ABC). The association’s main objective is to work in partnership with the Embassy of United States in Botswana to promote economic growth and strengthen US and Botswana’s commercial ties. The organisation has been in existence for 20 years.

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