Tucson, AZ Dec. 15, 1999 SolarQuest® iNet News Service
Thirty-nine energy ministers representing 46 African countries and U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson convened in Tucson, Ariz. Dec. 13-15, 1999 to discuss economic development and engineering growth between the United States and Africa.
|Minister Lamine Mohammed Fadika, Cote d`Ivoire and Chaundra Frierson, iNet News Team Member
|Photo: Erika Alexander
The Department of Energy (DOE) and city of Tucson co-sponsored the U.S.-Africa Energy Ministers Conference: A Partnership for the 21st Century, the first continent-wide meeting of African energy ministers, private sector companies and the U.S. government. The conference is part of Richardson’s Africa Energy Initiative. Plans for the conference were outlined following President Clinton’s U.S.-Africa Partnership to promote good governance, human rights, democracy, trade and investment and global integration.
“We are very happy the U.S. is focused on energy and consider energy as a tie between the U.S. and African countries,” said Lamine Mohammed Fadika, minister of mines and petroleum resources, Cote d’Ivoire. “This is an important for us. It gives the opportunity for private sector of the US to go to Africa to be involved in different business there.”
Countries such as Fadika’s are working with the private sector to build better relations, increase trade and improve the standard of living for its residents.
Cote d’Ivoire is one of the most advanced countries in Africa as far as electricity is concerned, according to Fadika. Sixty percent of the population has access to electricity, but the country is looking at ways to increase numbers.
“We want to do more,” he said. “We need partnerships.”
Fadika hopes that the relations established the U.S. and other African countries during the conference will create numerous opportunities for not only U.S. businesses but for the African people.
“Energy is going to be the main bridge to the African countries in the coming day,” he said. “Energy is our main focus for the future.”
Companies, ministers and government talked, made deals, and assessed global and business needs.
The Tennessee Valley Infrastructure Group (TVIG) based in Chattanooga, Tenn. came ready to strike a deal with the government of Cote d’Ivoire to provide some much-needed technology, but contract signing was delayed to work out more details.
Richard H. Ector, president and CEO of TVIG, said his company, which works with a consortium of 10 companies and schools to provides an utility in a box technology to medium sized municipalities, is eager to do business in Africa.
Ector’s company is looking to help increase the standard of living for some residents and create a better quality of life for the rural community.
“We’re trying to get the private sector involved in economic development in rural areas in Africa,” Ector said. “And we think we’ve come up with a program that will allows us to do that profitably for our side which is the investors and manufacturers in the US as well as the local African investors.”
TVIG has done work in India and is working to get its product to African countries in need of wastewater, telephone, water and power.
Before setting up shop in Africa, TVIG will do an economic survey to determine the needs of the community and what the country can afford. After completing the survey, the company will go over and build the system.
Though Fabika is excited about doing business with the U.S. private sector, regulatory policies have been put in place to address the protect the concerns and rights African citizens.
People of color from all aspects of the spectrum are working with companies to provide technological advances to Africa.
TVIG has an agreement with Morehouse College, a historically black college and university (HBCU), in Atlanta to work on projects in underdeveloped or rural areas.
Morehouse’s Andrew Young Center for International Studies International Power Institute, which has a DOE grant to conduct studies, is focused on rural development and bringing electricity to rural areas and using those resources for economic development.
The company is working with Morehouse on projects in both Africa and Central America.
Fadika said he sees the conference as a stepping-stone in enhancing relations, improving standards and creating better understandings between Africa and the U.S.
“I’m looking forward to having more partners at the end of the conference in the energy sector,” he said. “We need the support of the U.S. at the government level and the private level to do regional projects.”